Spring Hill College welcomes record-breaking freshman class

Tue, 01/30/2007 (All day)

Aug 08, 2006

By Lindsay O'Quin
Assistant Director of Communications

MOBILE — When Spring Hill College students return to class on Aug. 21, they will be joined by 353 freshmen, the largest freshman class in the history of the college.

This year marks Spring Hill’s eighth consecutive year of record enrollment of traditional undergraduates at 1,125 students, a 10 percent increase from last year. The second largest freshman class consisted of 314 students, who entered Spring Hill in 2004.

“It is gratifying to see that the renewed and rebuilt Spring Hill College is being discovered by growing number of students and thus becoming a college of choice,” said the Rev. Gregory F. Lucey, S.J., president of Spring Hill College. “It is equally gratifying to see the increased percentage of students who experienced success at Spring Hill and chose to return.”

Steve Pochard, dean of admissions and financial aid, said he is pleased that many of Spring Hill’s new students are from Mobile and Baldwin County, citing an 86 percent increase in freshmen from the local area since last year. This year 146 freshmen from Mobile and Baldwin County chose to attend Spring Hill.

“Students are choosing Spring Hill because of our academic reputation, the quality of our teaching faculty, the numerous campus beautification projects, and competitive scholarship programs for local area students,” Pochard said.

The new Gulf Coast Scholars program, for example, are restricted scholarships available only to students living in counties bordering the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida (Escambia and Santa Rosa counties). For the fall of 2007, the scholarship will be valued at $18,000 annually with a four-year value of $72,000 and will require a high-school G.P.A. of 3.5 and an ACT composite score of 26.

This year’s freshman class has proven to be academically outstanding with an average high-school G.P.A. of 3.55, while 30 percent of incoming freshmen rank in the top 10 percent of their graduating class, including eight valedictorians.

Among those valedictorians is Ali “AJ” Castleberry of Semmes, Ala., who graduated at the top of her class from Mary G. Montgomery High School.

Castleberry, who wanted to attend college fairly close to home, said Spring Hill wasn’t originally on her radar. She had applied to a few local and regional colleges, but she didn’t know in what she wanted to major or what she wanted to be. It wasn’t until Patrick Sprague, associate director of admissions, visited her high school that Spring Hill became a possibility as her future college.

“There was something about Patrick that made me feel like Spring Hill really wanted me,” Castleberry said. “He sent me an information packet, and it became really clear to me that Spring Hill is definitely where I’m supposed to be for the next four years.”

Castleberry was invited in February to participate in Scholarship Day, where she was awarded a Trustee Honors Scholarship. She then attended Freshman Preview over the summer to become acquainted with Spring Hill’s campus and other incoming freshmen.

Jeremy Jordan, a graduate of St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, received a Trustee Metropolitan Scholarship. For Jordan, whose high school is right next door to the college, the decision to attend Spring Hill was easy. His father once taught as an adjunct professor, and two of his uncles graduated from Spring Hill.

“I grew up a mile from Spring Hill, and I rode my bike down Avenue of the Oaks,” Jordan said. “Spring Hill, once you’re there, it’s like its own little city. It’s self-contained.”

Over the past few years Spring Hill’s campus has been transformed with the restoration of St. Joseph Chapel, the construction of the state-of-the-art Marnie and John Burke Memorial Library, the renovation of Byrne Memorial Hall, and the construction of New Hall, a residence hall that opened in fall 2005. Construction is under way for a second residence hall in the Viragh Complex, which is scheduled for completion in 2007. Nan Altmayer Place, which houses the offices of the president and Admissions, was completed in earlier this year.

Castleberry said she is eager to be a part of campus life, and she won’t be alone in her new experience. About 80 percent of Spring Hill’s students – including 85 percent of freshmen – live on campus.

“I wanted to be close to my family, who will only be 20 minutes away, but I’ll be on my own. I’m really excited about living on campus and meeting people from different countries,” she said.

“One of the things we continue to be proud of is diversity – geographic, ethnic and religious diversity,” Pochard said. The freshman class is made up of students from 23 states, 19 percent are minority students, and about half of the class reports belonging to a denomination other than Catholic, he said.

Looking forward to attending a “small school in a Christian atmosphere,” Castleberry said she is most excited about the service and mission opportunities Spring Hill offers each semester. She is already planning to join the trip with Campus Ministry to Bayou La Batre, Ala., for Hurricane Katrina cleanup.

Jordan said he plans to major in business management and minor in marketing and French. He has been taking tae kwon do classes for six years and has been teaching classes for the past four years. With his degree from Spring Hill, he plans to open his own tae kwon do studio.

“I’ve always heard the teachers at Spring Hill are really helpful, and I’m looking forward to learning a lot,” Jordan said.

Twainna Basse, who graduated from Foley High School as salutatorian, was selected as one of four Spring Hill Scholars, the most prestigious scholarship. As a pre-vet major, she said she was most impressed with Spring Hill’s strong science department and small class sizes.

Basse’s high-school English teacher suggested that she consider Spring Hill for her college plans. She visited the campus several times and consulted with Jonathan Strickland, admissions counselor, who was very helpful in answering her questions.

“Everyone was really nice every time I visited the campus,” Basse said. “Everyone left such a good impression on me.”

For more information on Spring Hill College, call the Admissions Office at (251) 380-3030 or visit www.shc.edu/admission.