This week, the Triangle’s universities have begun welcoming the last crop of freshmen born in the 20th century – a collection of scholars for whom the United States has always been at war, iPods have always been for sale and Joe DiMaggio has always been dead.
Most of the wide-eyed teenagers lugging footlockers up dormitory stairs Saturday were born in 1999, meaning they have never seen a U.S. president impeached, fretted over Y2K or celebrated a birthday at Discovery Zone.
Students at N.C. Central University began arriving on campus on Thursday. UNC-Chapel Hill’s freshmen arrive next weekend, while Duke University waits until Aug. 22.
Students at N.C. State University began flooding back to campus Friday with the SUVs full of cardboard boxes arriving in earnest Saturday morning. In all, this year’s Wolfpack freshmen number 4,781 – a 12 percent uptick over last year. Red and white balloons greeted the first-years Saturday, along with this quote from Will Durant, often attributed to Aristotle, hung on a banner: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
“I’m excited,” said Hannah Weyher, an incoming freshman from Charlottesville, Va., “but I’m a little nervous.”
One freshman quipped on Twitter Friday that his entire class appeared to be buying supplies at Target. So as the horde crowds back into the streets, be mindful of its mindset. The typical freshman:
1) has always known professional hockey in Raleigh.
2) never knew Jim Hunt as governor.
3) did not experience Hurricane Fran or Floyd.
4) never saw Michael Jordan play or Dean Smith coach.
5) has been alive for 60 percent of Duke University’s championships under Mike Krzyzewski.
6) never knew Durham to smell like tobacco.
7) never saw American Tobacco warehouses standing empty.
8) will never order a pitcher at Bub O’Malley’s.
9) was 2 years old when The Connells last recorded an album.
10) considers “Bull Durham” to be an old movie.
As the class of 2021 settles down at its collective grindstone, consider that next year’s crowd will all sport double-zero birthdays on their ID cards — children of a new century.