Behind the Scenes with the Class of 2019

First-year students get to know each other during class photo Wednesday


The Class of 2019 line up for their class photo Wednesday night on East Campus. Photo: Duke Photography

Who is the Class of 2019?

Thanks to President Richard Brodhead, we know, alphabetically, the class begins with Hadeel Abdelhy, a freshman from Cairo, Egypt, and ends with Matthew Zychowsky, an engineering student from New Jersey. 

We also know from dean of undergraduate admissions Christoph Guttentag that despite Duke's tremendous global reach, there is still one part of America that isn't part of the Class of 2019. "You represent 79 countries and 48 states. The only states not represented this year are North and South Dakota," Guttentag told the students during undergraduate conovocation. "So, please: Especially those of you from the surrounding states: Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and also Saskatchewan and Manitoba.  Maybe in the coming year you and some of your parents could make day trips and casually mention how great Duke is. I'd appreciate it."

The class members began to learn about each other Wednesday with the undergraduate convocation in Cameron Indoor Stadium and the traditional class photo Wednesday night on East Campus. Some 1,750 students gathered for what Chris Hildreth, director of Duke Photography, said was "not just a photograph, but an event." The video below takes a look at behind the scenes at the photo shoot.

In his convocation talk, Guttentag listed several of the more unusual and extraordinary accomplishments of the Class of 2019.  The class includes:

  • a silver medalist at the USA Powerlifting American Open;
  • a 3rd generation almond farmer from California and a 9th generation farmer from Maryland;
  • one of the country’s top Irish step dancers who also designed, developed, and sells her own brand of socks specifically for Irish dancers;
  • a young woman quoted and featured in a critical amicus brief in one of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality;
  • a creater of a curtain of 1000 origami cranes for the Global Fund for Children;
  • an archer who placed 21st in the world in the under-18 international bowhunting competiton;
  • an owner of a snow-cone truck business;
  • a rhythm guitarist and alternative rock-band leader from Alaska, whose global affairs team also placed 6th in the nation;
  • the sole student representative on the Miami-Dade school board, the fourth largest school district in the nation;
  • a filmmaker who has won multiple international prizes including the best student film in the ITSA film festival;
  • a young woman named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Ethiopia;
  • a young man who spent two summers as a deck hand on a salmon fishing boat in Bristol Bay, Alaska;
  • a young woman who is the world’s youngest airbnb host;
  • and a young woman who has already climbed three of the seven continental summits and three of the seven continental volcanic summits.

"Accomplishments like these are always impressive, and maybe a little intimidating, so let me add a little perspective," Guttentag told the students. "When we looked at your applications, we didn’t just look for what you achieved; we asked ourselves how you responded to the opportunities and challenges you faced. And when you had choices to make, we particularly noticed those of you who were willing to take something of a risk. ... We noticed when you chose to push yourselves outside of your comfort zone. And because this is a place that responds to that kind of choice, we knew you belonged here."