Joyce P. Jacobsen was officially installed as president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Friday, with an outdoor inauguration ceremony.
Jacobsen is the first woman to head either of the two colleges that merged in 1906 to become the coeducational institution. She’s the 29th president of Hobart and the 18th president of William Smith.
In her inaugural speech, Jacobsen used her economics training to debunk the idea that colleges are in trouble, saying: “… the bedrock of the college education has been, and continues to be, the liberal arts and sciences.”
“U.S. higher education has had, and continues to have, a remarkably successful run as a business sector. The survival rate of colleges and universities, and the growth of the sector, stands in strong contrast to the average business history… overall the sector has grown substantially in terms of both number of institutions, average size of institution, number of students served, and market penetration.”
Today’s tough times in higher education are nothing compared to the straits colleges found themselves in before and after the Civil War, Jacobsen said. Hobart at one point was down to eight graduates and so few staff that the college president had to do most of the teaching.
Jacobsen said it was an opportunity of a lifetime to head the colleges, which she described as “Spunky, scrappy colleges that have survived numerous existential threats over their years and nonetheless just keep on keeping on, hustling and marketing and serving the community in which they are embedded. Aspirational colleges that contribute to keeping the light of learning alive, that keep on trying to get better, but that don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, or the good enough become the enemy of the great.”
The University of Rochester is not only in Rochester, Sarah C. Mangelsdorf said at her inauguration as president Friday afternoon. It’s of Rochester. And it must be for Rochester, too.
“The central role of the university is the creation, preservation, and advancement of knowledge and of culture,” Mangelsdorf said in her inaugural address, but it cannot be an ivory tower even as it strives to remain among the top research institutions in the country.
Citing key community benefactors like suffragist Susan B. Anthony and Eastman Kodak Co. founder and philanthropist George Eastman, as well as everyday business people such as the owner of Eddie’s Chop House, she noted the university’s debt and responsibility to its surrounding community. The popular but long-gone restaurant was noted as a contributor in UR’s 1924 campaign to build the River Campus, on the same line as was Eastman, Mangelsdorf discovered.
“If we are being true to the values that George Eastman espoused, we must continue to be mindful of our role in the city of Rochester and the region,” she said. “Without a vibrant Rochester, the University cannot thrive. Issues facing our community, and many other communities–poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to education and healthcare–are our shared responsibility.
“We must be a committed community partner, working together to achieve success. We must build on our shared past and work together on our shared future,” she continued.
The 11th president of the university and the first woman to serve in that role also promised a dedication to research, global connections and institutional inclusion.
“As president I will be particularly attentive to these issues of equity and inclusion and I will do everything I can do to make sure that every student, faculty, and staff member at the University of Rochester feels welcomed and included,” she said.
Mangelsdorf’s inauguration was attended by thousands from the academic and surrounding community gathered at the Eastman Theatre. Others watched via live stream.
The ceremony included moments of academic grandeur, with a parade of delegates from dozens of other institutions, including at least 10 college presidents or chancellors. The velvet-topped academic representatives sported the colorful regalia of their institutions, from the deep crimson of Harvard to shades of light blue, forest green, orange and goldenrod of other colleges. And of course, there were many robes like those that Mangelsdorf wore featuring Rochester’s gold and dark blue.
Performances by four musical groups celebrated the ceremony, including a new composition by Eastman graduate Jeff Beal performed by the Ying Quartet, the resident string quartet of UR’s Eastman School of Music. The piece, “The Pathway,” began slow and somber with individual instruments coming in one at a time, but ended with all four playing uptempo and in joyous harmony.
Mangelsdorf was not the only one at the ceremony to earn a standing ovation.
Wade S. Norwood, a UR graduate and at-large member of the New York State Board of Regents, moved the crowd and shared some tears as he described his family’s connection to the university. Norwood met his wife, Lisa, as a student there; two of his children are buried in the adjacent Mount Hope Cemetery; his surviving children followed their parents to UR for an education; and his own studies were made possible because his mother spent her career as a nurse at UR’s Strong Memorial Hospital, earning a tuition benefit for her son.
As a result of all that, the University of Rochester is his family, he told Mangelsdorf: “I welcome you in the spirit of love with a genuine desire to see how you will make your mark on the legacy of my family.”
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