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President Schapiro Inaugurated with Style

October 9, 2009 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

For only the 16th time in its 160-year history, Northwestern University inaugurated a president -- and did so in style. The University celebrated the inauguration of President Morton Schapiro with a celebratory concert featuring Northwestern-affiliated performers and another with Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend.

Leading up to the ceremony, President Schapiro, known for his rapport with students, scholars and policymakers alike, also engaged publicly in inaugural events with the Northwestern community. He answered questions, in person and online, from undergraduates and moderated a symposium with other experts on the economics of higher education, a subject on which he is a leading authority. Thomas Friedman, The New York Times columnist and best-selling author on global affairs, took part in the other inaugural symposium, on energy and sustainability, with NBC News correspondent Kelly O’Donnell (SESP 1987) moderating.

Later that day, the significance of the historic occasion was brought home with splendid pageantry. As is the custom on such an occasion, representatives of nearly 100 colleges, universities and learned societies from throughout the nation marched in the inaugural procession. Garbed in traditional academic dress, the visiting delegates marched in order of the founding of their institutions, leading Northwestern community members and faculty in a procession that reflected academic tradition dating back many centuries.

Joyous music by the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra lifted the ceremony, beginning with the first and fourth movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92. The ceremony opened with welcoming remarks and an invocation, followed by a speech by three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Friedman, the investiture and presentations of the symbols of office.

Then President Schapiro -- wearing the traditional purple doctoral gown of Northwestern, with the four black velvet chevrons on its sleeves -- gave the audience what it was waiting for. President Schapiro’s opening remarks were filled with gratitude, especially to his wife, Mimi, and his three children. He cited mentors, friends and colleagues, including Dick Easterlin, his thesis advisor, more than 30 years ago, and William G. Bowen, president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a “brilliantly innovative economist.” He also singled out Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation, a long-time friend and co-author.  (Bowen and McPherson were on the higher education panel President Schapiro moderated earlier in the day.)

Faculty, staff, trustees and, most of all, students whom he worked with during a decade at the University of Southern California and two decades at Williams College got a special mention. And President Schapiro cited Friedman as “a person of tremendous courage and vision.” It was no coincidence, he said, that Northwestern undergraduates were given a copy of Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America.” The book was given to them to stimulate a common conversation across campus.

Citing his predecessor, President Schapiro gave the audience a chuckle when he mentioned how he felt when he first heard President Emeritus Henry Bienen was stepping down. He said at that time, “I pity the poor fool who is going to try to fill his giant shoes.”

While President Schapiro was hesitant to lay out grand strategic plans so early in his tenure, he did share his strong feelings about higher education. “In a world where myriad forces push society toward stratification, higher education must always provide opportunity,” he said. He applauded success in attracting students, faculty and staff who previously would have been excluded from institutions of higher learning, but stressed that the hard work starts once they arrive on campus. “I’m not talking about tolerance,” he said. “People don’t want to be tolerated; they want to be full members of the community.”

Universities such as Northwestern must lead the way when it comes to issues related to the common good, such as environmental degradation, he said. “There is a moral and an economic imperative not to delay. And Northwestern needs to help lead those efforts.”

The mission of great colleges and universities must be to promote the common good, he stressed. “Whether through providing opportunity, fostering global development, increasing environmental awareness, or through our many scholarly and artistic achievements, we must be explicit in the tradeoffs we make and efficient in our use of resources,” he said.

Northwestern does many things well, in the arts and sciences, business, communication, education and social policy, engineering, journalism, law, medicine and music.

“In this place of learning, we rejoice in the range and excellence of our programs,” he said. “In all we do, we are united in our core values of deep intellectual curiosity, commitment to achievement in teaching, research and service and, most of all, immutable integrity.”

Fabulous opportunities lie ahead, he said. “I see a community working as one to reach ever greater heights,” President Schapiro concluded. “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.”  

Inaugural events:

• Wednesday evening, Oct. 7: President Schapiro held a “LiveWired Conversation” with leaders of student organizations at the Norris University Center. Students chatted in person and online with President Schapiro.

• Thursday evening, Oct. 8: Celebrate Northwestern Concert featured Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band, Daniel J. Farris, conductor; Willie the Wildcat and Northwestern cheerleaders; Daniel Linzer, provost; Victor Goines, professor and director of jazz studies, Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, alto saxophone; Peter Martin, lecturer in jazz studies, Bienen School of Music, piano; Elizabeth B. Tisdahl, mayor of Evanston; Nancy Gustafson (MM 1980), artist in residence, Bienen School of Music, soprano; Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean, Bienen School of Music, piano; Leslie Donavan (JD 1982), president, Northwestern Alumni Association; Boomshaka, student drum, dance and rhythm ensemble; women’s lacrosse team, Kelly Amonte Hiller, head coach; Mike McGee (class of 2010), president, Associated Student Government; dancers from “One for the Books,” 2009 Waa-Mu Show, “Tap for Dummies,” choreography by David H. Bell, associate professor of  theatre and Donald G. Robertson Director of Music Theatre.

• Friday morning, Oct. 9: President Schapiro moderated a symposium on the economics of higher education. Panelists included: William G. Bowen, president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Catharine Bond Hill, president and professor of economics, Vassar College; Michael S. McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation; and Burton A. Weisbrod, the John Evans Professor of Economics and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern.

• Friday morning, Oct. 9: Kelly O’Donnell (SESP 1987), Capitol Hill correspondent, NBC News, moderated a symposium on issues related to energy and sustainability. Panelists for that discussion included Thomas L. Friedman, foreign affairs columnist, The New York Times; Kimberly A. Gray, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern; Mark P. Mills, founding partner of Digital Power Capital, a private equity firm focused on new technologies; and Mark A. Ratner, the Lawrence B. Dumas Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and co-director of the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern.

• Friday afternoon, Oct. 9: Inauguration of Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro; the ceremony was preceded by a procession and followed by a reception.

• Friday evening, Oct. 9: A special inauguration concert featuring Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend at the Welsh-Ryan Arena.

• Saturday, Oct. 10: Inauguration activities continued with festivities at Wildcat Alley, north of Welsh-Ryan Arena, before the Northwestern football game against Miami University at Ryan Field. At halftime, four teams of Northwestern students representing each undergraduate class participated in the “Schapiro Challenge” -- a special relay race that included wheelbarrows, textbooks and dizzy bat spinning. President Schapiro officiated.

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