By Hillary Anderson
Before the blustery weather settled in the Collegeville area on Saturday, the sunny blue skies reigned over Ursinus College as the campus and community gathered to celebrate the inauguration of the institution’s 15th president, Dr. Bobby Fong.
While Saturday’s ceremony was more than noteworthy, Ursinus College did not stop with dancing dragons and a full luncheon for a Saturday afternoon. The week preceding the inauguration began with the Student Activities Office-sponsored Community Festival on Saturday and the student art fair, sponsored by Ursinus’s To Write Love on Her Arms, and the Berman Art Museum Community Partnership Parade art workshop on Sunday. UCARE’s Community Week also kicked off on Saturday and continued through the week, promoting Fong’s strategic community outreach plan by partnering Ursinus students with service opportunity in Collegeville and surrounding communities.
The week continued as Thursday marked the campus’s annual Celebration of Student Achievement. During the day, more than 130 presentations were given by 300-plus Ursinus students, showcasing student research that has been done throughout the school year. The Faculty and Staff Expo was hosted in Lower Wismer on Friday afternoon, leading into the preparation finale Inaugural Ball at the Phoenixville Foundry Friday night, which was well attended by Ursinus students, faculty, staff and Fong.
With the weeklong celebration completed, banners hanging from campus lightposts, and balloons covering Ursinus Main Street housing units, campus was ready. The production began from the recently dedicated Strassburger Commons, which were named after the College’s late John Strassburger, who served as president of Ursinus College 1995-2010. The procession, consisting of a bagpiper, UC faculty and staff, student class officers, alumni representatives, and others, continued into the Floy Lewis Bakes Center’s Field House, where hundreds of Ursinus faculty, staff, students, and community members eagerly awaited its arrival.
After a beautiful performance by the college’s Wind Ensemble, directed by UC’s Dr. Holly Gaines, College Chaplain Rev. Charles Rice opened the “historic day,” as described by Board of Trustees Chair and last year’s interim president John Corson, with an invocation. Corson then introduced faculty representative Dr. C. Dallett Hemphill, student representative Erica Schindewolf, staff representative Lisa Tremper Hanover of the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art, alumni representative Alan Novak of the class of 1971, community representative Arnold Mann of the Collegeville Borough Council, government representative John C. Rafferty, Jr. of the Pennsylvania Senate, and religious representative Rev. Judith Youngman of the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Each spoke highly of Fong, who was named the president of Ursinus College in the spring of 2011 and undertook the position July 1, 2011. Student Schindewolf loved his assumption of the role as “new kid on the block,” and spoke highly of the new president’s ability to enter new situations and learn about them before speaking on them. Hanover focused her admiration more on what Fong had to say after the learning process, though. “We embrace your presidency and all the standards you’ve already set,” she said.
These standards seemed well-endorsed by others. “[Dr. Fong] knows where he’s going and where Ursinus College should go,” alumnus Novak commented.
Borough representative Arnold Mann agreed, “He’s putting the ‘College’ back in Collegeville.” Rafferty and Youngman also commended Fong for his profound dedication to community and improvement.
Keynote speaker Dr. Daniel F. Sullivan of St. Lawrence University recounted the years he spent on the reaccreditation committee and expressed his deep love of Ursinus College. Sullivan described former president John Strassburger as a “giant,” and knew Ursinus, after losing President Strassburger, would need “an even bigger giant.” Sullivan commended Fong, saying the college had found such a giant in its new president. He described Fong’s being at Ursinus as “good for America, but even better for Ursinus.”
After a pledge of support and assurance of the confidence all have placed in Fong from Jeff Corson, the new president was inaugurated.
“My heart is full of gratitude,” the new president smiled, as he thanked the Ursinus community for its “warm embrace and constant kindnesses.”
Fong declared the day one to rededicate the college to what it means to have an Ursinus education and to “open a new chapter” of Ursinus College. “The work we do here can change the world.”
Rev. Dr. Harold C. Smith sent the gatherers in peace, giving thanks for a future full of “truth and knowledge” under Fong’s leadership. Before exiting, guests were delighted by the dancing dragon performance of the Philadelphia Suns.
Music for the ceremony was provided by Gaines and the Ursinus College Choir and Meistersingers under the direction of Dr. John French of Ursinus. One particular arrangement, Breath of Days, was composed by Dr. Garret Hope, with lyrics written by Dr. M. Nzadi Keita, both of Ursinus. The composition and poem were presented to Fong as a memorable gift to mark the day.
All attendees were invited to join Fong for a luncheon directly following the ceremony, and smiles were abound in celebration of the new president of Ursinus College.