The Connecticut College community came together Monday, March 30, for an important campuswide conversation
Exactly 103 years after Connecticut College’s founding in 1911, the community celebrated a new stanza in the song of the College with the April 5 inauguration of Katherine Bergeron as its 11th president.
The Founders Day Inauguration ceremony was resplendent with music that not only reflects the new president’s musical roots but also the College’s growing global connections and lived commitment to inclusivity, as well as the symbolism that characterizes the progressive spirit of the institution.
In her remarks, Bergeron underscored the many connections between the pioneering founders and today’s forward-thinking scholars and leaders.
“Connecticut College is an institution that, from the start, dared to imagine something greater for its first students,” she said. “That imperative is part of our heritage and it continues to be reflected in the central values that define our institution: in the principle of inclusive education that marked our origins; in the enjoyment of hard work that informs our character; and in the progressive spirit, with its openness to change, that pervades everything we do.”
The ceremony featured an academic procession of trustees, faculty, administrators and students, as well as delegates representing nearly 100 learned institutions and societies from across the country and one all the way from South Africa. Led by a group of bagpipers, the procession advanced along Tempel Green, with its sweeping view of Long Island Sound, and into Palmer Auditorium where the ceremony began with a call to community and musical selections chosen to reflect the new president’s diverse musical scholarship.
In her Inaugural address, “Transplanted by a River,” Bergeron argued that the pace of cultural transformation that led to the College’s founding has only increased with today’s global connections and technological advances. With a curriculum that inspires “thinkers, doers and leaders,” Connecticut College graduates are well-prepared to address modern-day challenges.
“We live in a time marked by the same mix of disruption and opportunity that our forbearers experienced a century ago,” she said. “The terms may have changed, but the issues have persisted. And just as Connecticut College has prospered and flourished over the last century, growing in size and stature, so, too, has the need for the thoughtful, versatile and socially responsible graduates we produce. Indeed, I would argue, that need has never been more urgent.”
Keynote Speaker Ruth J. Simmons, president emerita and professor of comparative literature and Africana studies at Brown University, said Katherine Bergeron is exactly the right leader for the College at this time of transformative change. Simmons noted that Bergeron’s commitment to academic excellence and propensity for developing creative solutions will help her lead the College in its second century.
“Katherine Bergeron is a scholar who loves teaching, an administrator who eschews rigidity, and a musician without an elitist esthetic. But most importantly her appetite for the breadth of endeavors represented within a college and the depth of her intellectual curiosity guide her every action,” Simmons said. “Katherine Bergeron has the capacity to understand how to mine the diversity of talents and perspectives that now enrich the campus.”
The ceremony was further enriched by sincere and often entertaining greetings brought by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy; New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio; New England Small College Athletic Conference Chair-Elect and Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth; Chair of the Connecticut College Board of Trustees Pamela D. Zilly ’75, Chair of the Faculty Steering and Conference Committee and the Jean C. Tempel ’65 Professor of Biology Stephen Loomis; Chair of Staff Council and Assistant Director of the Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology Elizabeth Orzack Friedman ’80; Chair of Connecticut College Alumni of Color Liza A. Talusan ’97; Vice President of the Alumni Association Board of Directors Eric Kaplan ’85; and President of the Student Government Association Evert Fowle ’14.
In one particularly poignant moment, as seniors Julian Gordon and Philip Pacelli led the singing of the College’s alma mater, Bergeron’s powerful mezzo-soprano voice could be heard above the students’ baritone and tenor to the delight of the audience.
The ceremony was the highlight of a weekend of Inauguration events connected by the theme “Think. Do. Lead.” Other highlights included two panel discussions — “The Arts in the Digital Age” and “The World is Our Home: Higher Education in Local/Global Communities” — a community concert and a post-Inauguration luncheon.
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