By Sam Colt
Kenyon serves as the backdrop for many weddings, but few measure up to last weekend’s marriage of the College to its new president, Sean Decatur.
Saturday’s Installation Ceremony ﾗ the product of months of planning by the Inauguration Committee and the administration ﾗ sought to cement Decatur’s position and authority with an event accessible to the whole community.
Student organizations were invited to process onto the Kenyon Athletic Center’s Toan Track with shield-shaped banners representing their groups. Cheyenne Davis ’15, who came out in support of Brave Potato Productions, thought the banners added pomp to the event. “I think they look great,” she said of the collection of banners.
Some students converged on the KAC simply to witness a seminal event in the College’s history.
“I feel very privileged to attend [Kenyon] when an event of this magnitude is occurring,” Andrew Stewart ’15 said.
First to process onto the track was the Black Student Union, followed by other organizations and student athletes.
After the recognition of student athletes, delegates from colleges and universities around the country ﾗ who customarily attend the inauguration of a new college president ﾗ made their way onto the stage.
For practical and financial reasons, colleges often ask local professors or alumni to represent their institutions. So while President Grant H. Cornwell represented nearby College of Wooster, Associate Professor of English Ivonne Garc?a served as delegate for Harvard University.
For many, the ceremony’s highlight was the hymn. Allen Ballard Jr. ’52, Kenyon’s first African-American graduate, who attended the College before the advent of the civil rights movement and was excluded from much of the campus’ social life, performed a slow, stripped-down rendition of “Amazing Grace” on acoustic guitar. The audience rose for a standing ovation as he left the stage.
Former Hamilton College President Eugene M. Tobin delivered remarks entitled “The College is Called Liberal.” Tobin mounted a defense of the liberal arts education while acknowledging recent attacks on the pedagogy.
“Liberal arts colleges embody a currently unfashionable educational philosophy that espouses intellectual wholeness and resists fragmentation and premature specialization,” he said.
The Investiture, led by Board of Trustees Chair Barry Schwartz ’70, marked the official beginning of Decatur’s tenure at the College. Schwartz delivered a proclamation first in Latin and then in English.
“It was thrilling for me to be serving the privileged role of Board Chair, and as a result of that role to be the one to invest Sean in his new role as our president,” Schwartz said. “So I was delighted to be there.”
Next was the presentation of the presidential medallion. In a symbolic gesture, President Emeritus Phillip H. Jordan Jr. H’95 removed the medallion from President Emerita S. Georgia Nugent H’13 and placed it around Decatur’s neck.
In his inaugural address, Decatur made an effort to endear himself to the community with proclamations such as “I’ve always wanted a mace,” and “I’m a geek.” Though fair weather prevailed during the indoor ceremony, Decatur speculated on winter’s arrival. “I haven’t been on campus in February yet,” he said.
Drawing on his background in chemistry, Decatur compared the College to a catalytic reactor, a place where elements are made uncomfortable and undergo change. “The graduates of Kenyon are catalysts themselves,” he said.
As the approximately 90-minute ceremony drew to a close, Decatur affirmed his desire to affect change here. “I’m looking forward to doing the work,” he said.
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