PAIGE P. PARVIN 96G
James W. Wagner was a professor of engineering at Johns Hopkins
University some twenty years ago, he rented a black academic gown
for Commencement exercises each year. On the day Wagner was granted
tenure, a group of his graduate students and advisees arrived
on his front doorstep with a brand-new Johns Hopkins doctoral
robe of his own, a gift in honor of his rise to full professorship.
same former students sat in the front row, near Wagners
family, on the Emory Quadrangle on April 2, while their teacher
and mentor was inaugurated as Emorys nineteenth president.
At the pinnacle of the ceremony, Johns Hopkins President William
Brody helped Wagner remove the gown his students had given him,
and former Emory presidents James T. Laney and Billy Frye draped
him in a new presidential robe of rich gold and blue.
moment symbolized another transformation for Wagner, and his
emotion was evident as he donned the gown and with it the mantle
of the Emory University presidency.
great privilege, Wagner said, comes great obligation. The link
between the two, and Emorys responsibility to use its
wealth of resources to serve a troubled world, was a theme stressed
repeatedly throughout the ceremonynot least by Wagner
recounted a story in his inaugural address: He described a young
man he encountered at a recent alumni gathering who asked him
what Emory can do to heal the divisiveness and conflict of the
world. His answer, he said, grew into a vision of Emory as a
genuine community of higher education that would meet the worlds
most challenging troubles with its commitment to truth, knowledge,
service, and ethical discourse in all academic disciplines.
was a challenging question, a vexing question, but it turns
out it was a good question, deserving of a thoughtful answer,
Wagner said. . . . As much as we might want to dodge this
young mans question, doing so would not relieve that nagging
sense of responsibility that presses on those in positions of
high privilege, that sense of responsibility that makes demands
both of people and of institutions. The link between privilege
and obligation is inescapable and strong.
careful consideration, Wagner said, he told the young man: I
dont know, but I do believe that higher education is part
of the answer.
Chairman and all members of the University community, I do believe
that, when privilege and responsibility are held together, genuine
higher education is a compelling answer to the divisiveness
and isolation in the world. Allow me . . . to acknowledge the
rich privilege you have extended to me to serve as Emorys
nineteenth president. And out of that great privilege, I enthusiastically
respond to the attendant obligations and responsibilities.
observance of James Warren Wagners Inauguration began
with a walk through the Oxford campus (left), Emorys original
home, where students served as his guides; it concluded on the
University Quadrangle in the presence of more than two hundred
leaders from fellow colleges and luminaries such as former President
Jimmy Carter, Governor Sonny Perdue, and Mayor Shirley Franklin.
Fittingly, the week-long Inauguration Celebration allowed the
new president to experience the full reach of the Emory community
and clasp hands with dozensperhaps hundredsof those
Emory has touched.
centerpiece of the first Inauguration event on March 29 at Oxford
College was the lighting of the inaugural torch, which symbolized
the passing of the mantle from one president to the next. The
torch is an element of Emorys coat of arms.
hundred and sixty-seven years after the founding of Emory College,
and eighty-nine years after the founding of Emory University,
and on this, the first day of Emorys future, do you hear
the calling of the past and promise to carry this heritage as
your guide to the future? University Secretary Gary Hauk
91PhD asked Wagner.
do, the president replied.
Student Government Association President Michael Woodworth handed
Wagner the flaming torch, which would be carried the thirty-seven
miles from Oxford to the Emory campus by a relay of twenty-seven
runners including students, alumni, faculty, and administrators.
triumphantly brought the flame through Emory Village and up
to the Haygood-Hopkins gate on Thursday afternoon, April 1,
but found himself without an immediate successor: the immortal
spirit of Emory, James W. Dooley, who was scheduled to take
the torch from Hauk, was nowhere to be seen. Whether his absence
was due to a logistical hitch or an April Fools prank
was unclear, but Dooley arrived by limousine some ten minutes
late. Nonetheless, another forty-three community members carried
the torch through the campus before it was passed againthis
time by the errant Dooleyto Wagner, who lit a cauldron
that would burn throughout Fridays Inauguration ceremony.
the real spirit of Emory has been carried by countless thousands
at the University since 1836, Wagner said as he set the
Celebrate Emory, Inauguration week offered an opportunity
to pay tribute to many of the Universitys strengths, with
particular emphasis on the arts. The Inaugural Arts Festival
featured poetry readings, dance, and dramatic performances.
Barenaked Voices, the first annual a capella performance
by eight choral groups in the Schwartz Center for Performing
Arts, brought the entire audience to its feet.
arts always have been an important part of life at Emory, but
never more so than in the last decade, culminating in the dedication
of the Schwartz Center, Hauk said. What better way
to celebrate the spirit of this community than to show off the
lively flourishing of the arts here?
works of art also were commissioned especially for Wagners
Inauguration, including new musical arrangements and compositions
by music professors John A. Lennon and Steven Everett, a poem
by retired medical professor John Stone, and a silk batik of
Lullwater Preserve by artist Mary Edna Frasier.
celebration also gave a nod to Emorys commitment to ethics,
an aspect of the Universitys character that Wagner has
said helped draw him here. A forum sponsored by the Center for
Ethics was held on Tuesday, March 30, featuring an inaugural
panel from a cross-section of Emorys schools and
disciplines, including those of public health, English, theology,
medicine, law, and business. Each panelist was asked to speak
about emerging ethical challenges in the professions.
festival-like week culminated on a cool, windy afternoon in
a formal ceremony on the Quadrangle. Honored guests marched
in full academic regalia as the strains of bagpipes lent the
procession further solemnity. Poet John Stone read The
Spirits of This Lawn, an homage to Emorys scholarly
past and future, composed for the occasion.
wife, Debbie, and their two daughters, Kimberly and Christine,
sat in the front row along with his parents and his two brothers,
as well as former First Lady Rosalynn Carter (left). Wagner
thanked his family with profound emotion during the ceremony
as Mrs. Wagner dabbed at the tears in her eyes.
Perdue, Mayor Franklin, and President Carter each extended their
welcomes to President Wagner, speaking on behalf of the people
of Georgia, Atlanta, and a world in need of courageous leadership.
celebrate the future legacy of James Warren Wagner, one in which
Atlantas premiere research university is pushed to even
higher levels, a university developing the best and brightest
minds of a new generation, said Franklin.
Vaughn 87C, president of the Association of Emory Alumni,
spoke for his fellow graduates, saying, As we welcome
you today, President Wagner, let me assure you that Emorys
alumni are forward looking and ready to be full partners in
bringing the University to new heights and to achieving our
shared vision of Emory as a destination university.
from the Emory faculty, staff, students, and the Methodist church
also greeted Wagner.
my four years here, I have never seen as much excitement and
optimism on this campus as I have viewed in the past seven months
since Dr. Wagner assumed the presidency, said Euler Bropleh
02Ox-04C, speaking for Emory students. While
students are impressed with his warmth, humor, and affability,
his collaborative style and willingness to listenand take
action when necessaryare his most notable traits.
F. Johnson III 63C, chair of the University Board of Trustees
and of the presidential search committee, described to those
assembled how keynote speaker Frank H. T. Rhodes helped guide
Emory and President Wagner toward one another. Rhodes, a distinguished
expert in higher education and president emeritus of Cornell
University, served as a consultant during the search.
have found, in Jim and Debbie Wagner, a remarkable couple, individually
immensely talented, and as a couple, open, gracious, caring,
and totally committed, Rhodes said. And with their
joint leadership, even greater times lie ahead.
seems to me that the great university of the future will be
one that is locally rooted but internationally oriented, and
how well prepared Emory is for that role. . . . Todays
compact, todays commitment to support and trust and friendship
with Jim and Debbie Wagner, not just in the sunshine of April
but in the dark days of November, is part of the celebration
of today. That compact, that partnership between men and women
who love learning and have defended it well, stretches all the
way back to Bologna and Paris and Oxford and links us here today,
in Oxford, Georgia and Atlanta, with them, across the oceans,
across the continents, across the centuries.
Wagner donned his Emory robe, Robert Fannin 67T-70T,
a Methodist bishop and vice chair of the Board of Trustees,
gave him a sprig of the traditional Wesley holly, symbolizing
Emorys ties to the church; Board Secretary Charles Ginden
55C handed him the original 1836 Emory College charter;
and trustee Chilton Varner 76L presented Wagner with a
set of keys denoting his access to the traditions and heritage
true purpose of higher education, Wagner said in his address,
is to lead us out of our self-centered universe to a place
where we can perceive the world from others perspectives
and have a positive impact on the community. Higher education,
you see, is as much about insight as it is about gaining information;
its as much about wisdom as it is about seeking knowledge.
. . .
must trust that personal satisfaction comes as an added blessing
when we offer and pursue genuine higher education. At Emory,
when our commitment to see the world through others eyes
is strong, when we hunger and thirst to transcend ourselves
and our self-centered worlds, we will be drawn together and
the world will be drawn to Emory. Doing so will indeed make
Emory a destination university. We will be internationally recognized
as a scholarly community. We will be inquiry driven, ethically
engaged, and diverse. We will work collaboratively for positive
transformation in the world through courageous leadership in
teaching, research, scholarship, health care, and social action.