The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Jay Gatrell’s first of many First Nights as President

Jay Gatrell, the new president at EIU speaks to the crowd at the First Night spirit rally Sunday. (Ashanti Thomas)

The loud music echoing across the campus from Eastern’s Panther Marching Band started off this year’s First Night Spirit Rally. As they made their way to O’Brien Field the school’s spirit was felt all around the stadium. 

First Night was the final event held on Welcome Weekend which was full of activities, live performances and prizes to get the students to interact with one another, share their panther pride and leave them with energy to take into their first day of classes 

University President Jay Gatrell was very energetic as it was his first “First Night Spirit Rally” as Eastern’s president.  

“As provost, I basically watched the event and didn’t have an active role, although I threw a few T-shirts a couple of times,” Gatrell said. “This year it was great to be there in a new role and meet students.”  

Although it was his first spirit rally, Gatrell has been attending the events every year since he started in 2017.  

“I always enjoy the Panther Marching Band. I also enjoy the excitement of the Greek letter organizations from NPHC, IFC, PHC, and the Multicultural Council and the student-athletes,” Gatrell said. “It’s just a fun evening.”  

Student Affairs Vice President Anne Flaherty was in attendance displaying her school spirit through her blue and white attire and necklace made of blue string lights. 

“It’s my favorite time of the year,” Flaherty said. “I love having students back I love the energy and I love the excitement and the potential for the year ahead.”  

She also mentioned first-day photos which will put students in a cheerful mood on their way to and from classes. 

“Tomorrow will be fun, first day of class photos,” Flaherty said. “We want students to come out in the library quad. The EIU letters will be out, and you can wear your first day of class clothes and get your picture taken from 10 to 3.”   

Omar Solomon hosted 2023 First Night for Eastern Illinois University and also introduced Jay Gatrell first year as president for Eastern Illinois University Sunday Night (Tyriq Johnson)

For almost 10 years there has been one man in charge of controlling the First Night crowd and that’s Mr. EIU aka admissions counselor Omar Soloman. Whether it is creating a new chant or getting the audience pumped to greet their next speaker, Soloman steals the show with energy like no other. 

“I live through the students; the students empower us to do our jobs better, so I feed off their energy so it’s kinda easy,” Solomon said. “When the students give me that energy, I have to give it right back tenfold.”  

As for First Night, “The overall event as itself, it’s always a great tradition because no one knows what to expect and by the end of the show everyone’s excited, they meet new friends so the overall event itself is what makes First Night special,” Solomon said 

Students in the crowd excitedly jump up to try and catch necklaces, t-shirts, and foam footballs that are being given away at First Night spirit rally. (Ashanti Thomas)

Claire Meek, a freshman journalism major was one of many smiling faces in the audience who shared her thoughts for this upcoming semester 

“I’m looking forward to meeting people and just getting like more involved in the school, I’m kinda nervous I just hope I like find my classes,” Meek said. 

Senior exercise science major Carlos Cortez Jr. was full of excitement and enthusiasm the whole night as he was happy to finally be back on campus.  

“I found my group and kinda my home away from home in Alph Psi Lambda so it’s a great feeling that I have them behind my back, I got myself and everyone who’s supported me throughout,” said Cortez. 

His favorite activity from the night was strolling with his fraternity and the other Greek organizations on campus. 

“I love strolling it’s been a minute you know,” Cortez said. “[I] took the summer off you know but I’m back but it’s definitely fun especially strolling with the other groups and organizations it’s always fun,” he said 

As First Night came to a close, the students were left with one overall theme: enjoy your time here, talk to a stranger, shake a hand, make a friend and keep your spirits high because school starts bright and early tomorrow morning.  


Alexis Moore-Jones can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].


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About the Contributors
Alexis Moore-Jones
Alexis Moore-Jones, Feature Reporter
Alexis Moore-Jones is a senior broadcast journalism major. This is her first year at The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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