Inauguration of University of Delaware’s 28th president [video]

(Charlie O'Neill/WHYY; inset photo courtesy Univ. of Delaware)

(Charlie O'Neill/WHYY; inset photo courtesy Univ. of Delaware)

Dr. Dennis Assanis was inaugurated as the University of Delaware’s 28th president during an elaborate ceremony at the Thompson Theatre of the Roselle Center for the Arts.

Vice President Joe Biden and Governor Jack Markell were among the distinguished speakers at today’s ceremony.

The morning started early with security sweeps and checks, a standard practice when Biden, a graduate of the class of 1965, is in attendance. Final preparations were made as university employees scurried about to make sure everything was in place for this meticulously organized ceremony.

The event started with a faculty procession, which was followed by the national anthem performed by the university’s Chorale. Among the speakers during the 90-minute ceremony was Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, President of the Association of American Universities. Her speech took a somewhat surprising direction. Taking a cue from the post election climate, Dr. Coleman emphasized the importance of higher education’s role in bridging the gap in today’s contentious society.

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Referencing the rise in intolerance, bigotry and harassment, Coleman cited reports of intense classroom climates and K-12 teachers’ reluctance to discuss the outcome of election. She proclaimed the time is ripe for educators to help heal the ills of society and said President Assanis is the right person for the job. “The importance of civil discourse is on the minds of virtually every university president today. A commitment to free speech and expression, and to equal treatment of all members of society, is the very lifeblood of our institutions, from Michigan, to Stony Brook, to Delaware. This is why Dennis Assanis is an exceptional choice to lead this university at this time,” Coleman said.

While Dr. Assanis was clearly the focus of today’s ceremony, Delaware’s favorite son, Vice President Joe Biden didn’t disappoint. Echoing Dr. Coleman’s sentiment, Biden shared how as a young man he went to Washington, D.C. with the belief that he could fix America because of his professors at the University of Delaware who encouraged him to do so. “Everything that I learned here at the university, the women and men that I was exposed to, and what I had been taught gave me confidence in myself,” Biden said.

Following those remarks, Dr. Assanis officially became the university’s 28th president and was bestowed the chain of office, an ornate necklace, placed around his neck. He then graciously thanked family, friends, faculty and invited guests. The rest of his inaugural address focused on the plan he’s chartered for University of Delaware.

“So now, as I stand before you as the 28th President of University of Delaware, we must all ask together, ‘What’s next?’ How do we take this rich legacy of discovery, progress and people forward? How can we impact a new generation? How can we ensure that our university not only endures, but thrives, for centuries to come?” Assanis then outlined his 5-point-goal: ensure the success of every student; diversity, equity and inclusion; a strong interdisciplinary and global perspective; a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and Intellectual and physical capital to take the University of Delaware into the future.

Assanis unofficially became president of the university on June 6, 2016 and he’s been busy. Today he announced the development of the STAR Campus and the soon to be ground breaking to build the new 10-story STAR Tower.

Today’s inauguration was followed by an academic symposium showcasing some of the work of University of Delaware professors and students.

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