The hatchback of the Rutfields’ silver Acura RDX was flung open to reveal boxes and bags stacked so high there was no chance the rearview mirror was of any use during the family’s drive from their home in Grafton, Mass., to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Howard Rutfield hauled a plastic tub from the back of the SUV while his wife, Barbara, cradled a laptop computer. Their son, Zach, an incoming freshman majoring in computer science, hovered nearby. He admitted he was a little nervous about his move into the dorm, but said he was confident he hadn’t forgotten any of the essentials.
“We’ll be making one trip to Walmart,” his mother contradicted, as the family headed, arms full, toward the brick dorm building.
Across RPI’s Freshman Commons area Tuesday, similar scenes played out alongside minivans packed tightly with sleeping bags, mini-fridges, reading lamps and suitcases, as the 1,300-plus members of the class of 2016 moved into their dorm rooms.
Excitement was in the air, but it was tinged with anxiety — and there was no shortage of melancholy as parents prepared to part ways with their college-bound teens.
On the second floor of Cary Hall, Paul Meyer of Staten Island had his side of a dorm room pretty much in order. He had brought along all of the suggested supplies, plus his guitar and skateboard. His mom, Lorraine, was surprised it all fit into the small space he’ll share with his roommate.
Two twin-size beds reclined foot-to-foot across the back wall of the room, with their headboards touching opposite walls. On Meyer’s side of the room was also a desk, a built-in five-drawer dresser and a small closet with a towel bar screwed to the door. His bed was made and there were blue towels hung neatly on the towel rack.
His mother lingered, looking like she was unable to muster up the will to say goodbye.
“I’m going to go, and cry all the way home, I’m sure. No, I’m kidding,” she amended, sounding unconvinced.
“It’s a good feeling though,” she mused, regarding bringing a child to college. “It’s time. They’re ready to leave, we’re ready to have them leave, so I think it fits.”
The mood was considerably lighter outside the Porter family’s gold Toyota Sienna, which occupied a prime parking spot right next to Cary Hall. RPI sorority sisters swarmed near the back door, gathering up bulging Bed, Bath and Beyond bags belonging to incoming freshman Paul Porter, an undeclared engineering major from Farmingdale, Long Island.
His parents, Jim and Sue, were RPI sweethearts who graduated together in 1983.
“This is home to us, so we don’t have that, ‘Oh, my little one is going someplace strange [feeling],’ ” Jim Porter said.
The load they were unpacking to haul up to Paul’s dorm room was considerably smaller than the ones he and his wife came to RPI with, he noted.
“Think of how big a stereo was back in the 1980s, and the big stacks of books that we had,” he observed.
As he spoke, Jim Porter removed a bright red hand truck from the neatly packed minivan and deftly slipped it under his son’s mini-fridge. When ribbed about being impressively prepared for moving day, he replied with a good natured grin, “We’re engineers, what can I say?”
The incoming freshmen, who hail from 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and from countries across the globe, will have almost a week to adjust to their new surroundings before classes start Aug. 27. During that time, the college will sponsor welcoming events and team-building activities to help ease the transition to college life.