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The Journey Begins

Northwestern University celebrated the inauguration of President Morton Schapiro with song and dance, thoughtful discussion and football.


Video: Campus Celebrates President Schapiro's Inauguration. See complete coverage of the inauguration.

For only the 16th time in its nearly 160-year history, Northwestern inaugurated a new president. The University celebrated the inauguration of President Morton Schapiro with four days of events in early October, including a concert by Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend and an academic symposium headlined by three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (H05).

On a cold, wet and windy inauguration day, Oct. 9, more than 2,000 attendees packed the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion to witness the event.

In his address, President Schapiro talked about the opportunities ahead. While he shied away from laying out "grand strategic plans" so early in his tenure, he did share his perspectives on higher education.

President Schapiro talked about the responsibilities that accompany the ample resources provided to Northwestern. "While Northwestern is one of those schools often associated with the word elite," he said, "this doesn't have to mean and shouldn't mean we're elitist."

He called for Northwestern to continue opening its campus to students, faculty and staff from a wider range of backgrounds. "Once they arrive on campus, the hardest work begins," he said of the process of building community. "I'm not talking here about tolerance. People don't want to be tolerated. They want to be full members of the community."

President Schapiro called on the University to be a leader on important issues such as the environment.

The new president said Northwestern can be proud of its accomplishments, but "we must never, never, never be complacent," he said.

"Many fabulous opportunities lie ahead," he said in conclusion. "I see a community working as one to reach ever greater heights. I see a university that reflects the loftiest of all ideals.

"May Northwestern help lead the way in creating a safer, more just, more enlightened world, one that we can pass along with pride to future generations. I am absolutely thrilled to join you on this journey."

During his remarks, President Schapiro also thanked his wife, Mimi, his family and several mentors and friends. He also thanked his predecessor, President Emeritus Henry S. Bienen (H09), whom President Schapiro said he introduced at the Aspen Institute last year by saying, "I pity the poor fool who's going to fill his giant shoes."

The ceremony opened with joyous music from the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra and a procession of representatives from more than 100 colleges, universities and learned societies.

Friedman, the inauguration guest speaker and author of the current One Book One Northwestern selection Hot Flat and Crowded, offered his thoughts on the importance of a liberal arts education.

"Imagination is the single most important competitive advantage we have today as a country," he said. "A liberal arts education is the best fountain for imagination."

On the morning of the inauguration President Schapiro moderated a symposium with other experts on the economics of higher education, a subject on which he is a leading authority. Friedman took part in the other inaugural symposium, on energy and sustainability, with NBC News correspondent Kelly O'Donnell (SESP87) moderating.

Other inaugural events included a live and online chat with students at Norris University Center, where President Schapiro answered questions about sustainability, the job market, faith, building community on campus and his first impressions of Northwestern.

On Thursday, Oct. 8, President Schapiro enjoyed the Celebrate Northwestern Concert that featured student, alumni and faculty performances. He also attended a pregame tailgate and officiated the "Schapiro Challenge" — a special relay race that included wheelbarrow races, textbooks and dizzy bat spinning - during halftime of the Wildcats' 16-6 win over Miami University on Oct. 10.

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