April 7, 2004

Week begins with walk through Oxford heritage       

By Eric Rangus

With lighting of the inaugural torch, an entertaining and informative tour of Emory's ancestral home, and just the right amount of pomp and circumstance, the weeklong Inauguration Celebration of Emory's 19th president, Jim Wagner, began at Oxford College, Monday afternoon, March 29.

"One hundred and sixty-seven years after the founding of Emory College, and 89 years after the founding of Emory University, and on this, the first day of Emory's 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 asked of Wagner as the pair stood on a platform in front of the Few Monument on Oxford's Quadrangle.

They, along with a crowd of about 250, had just finished a 30-minute "heritage tour" of campus that took them to four of Oxford's most symbolic buildings.

"I do," Wagner replied.

"As 19th president of Emory University, will you respond to our call to remember, our call to serve God and each other faithfully, our call to seek truth and knowledge, and our call to teach?" Hauk continued.

"With God's help, I will," Wagner said.

With that, Oxford Student Government Association President Michael Woodworth handed Wagner the flaming torch he had carried to each heritage tour stop, the Seney Hall bell tolled once (it had rung 18 times earlier in the ceremony--once for each of Emory's previous presidents), and the crowd erupted with applause.

To conclude, Hoyt Oliver, professor of religion and an Oxford faculty member for 38 years, led the gathering in singing the alma mater. Standing center stage and holding his torch high, Wagner clearly did his homework before the ceremony; he was one of the few who sang without the aid of a program, and he didn't miss a word.

The ceremony, titled "A Celebration of Heritage," finished where it began--in front of the Few Monument. That was where Hauk and Oxford Dean Dana Greene welcomed attendees at 5 p.m., and Ray DuVarney, chief marshal of the University and associate professor of physics, lit a candle using Jacob's Ladder, a metal transformer with two antennae resembling an antique radio. When turned on, a spark traveled up the antennae and lit the candle, which in turn lit a lantern, and then a torch held by Woodworth.

After the lighting, a trumpeter from the steps of Phi Gamma Hall, the campus' oldest academic building, invited the gathering across the Quadrangle where they were serenaded by the Oxford Chorale singing the hymn "Now Is The Time," composed specifically for the event by David Leinweber, associate professor of history, who played guitar as accompaniment.

Woodworth, holding the Inaugural torch aloft, led the crowd--with Wagner, wife Debbie and daughter Christine at the front--to Phi Gamma and three other buildings: the Chapel, Hopkins Hall and Seney Hall, where they were treated to prepared readings from Oxford students (Chapel--Fern Carty; Hopkins Hall--Rhiannon Hubert; Seney Hall--Elizabeth Willis. George Ampat was the Phi Gamma reader), as well as other special extras. Woodworth capped the presentation at each location by proclaiming, "Let us move on. There is much to be done."

In front of Hopkins Hall, Sheila Conner, executive administrative assistant to Greene, read from Proverbs 3:13-19, and Hubert announced that Wagner would receive as a gift a copy of a 19th century drawing depicting Emory students engaged in mechanics and engineering experiments in Hopkins, the old technology school building.

On the steps of Seney Hall was a dramatic "Tableau of Students: 1836 & 2004," which mixed history and performance art. Willis told of Emory's Old South past, and a handful of students--all white males--emerged from Seney dressed in period jackets and ties. As Willis told her story, women and students of color replaced their counterparts one by one, representing Oxford's growing diversity.

The accompanying readings were filled with history and symbolism. Ampat's Phi Gamma reading was "Our Call To Remember," and it included references to the building's history and Oxford's role during the Civil War. "Our Call To Serve God and Each Other Faithfully" was Carty's reading in front of the Chapel, and it spoke to Emory's ties with the Methodist Church. "Our Call To Seek Truth and Knowledge" was delivered by Hubert, who told of the devotion to science of the building's namesake, Isaac Stiles Hopkins, Emory's ninth president and founder of Georgia Tech.

"As students, we depend on the University to have teaching at the heart of its mission," read Willis on the Seney steps. Her reading was titled, "Our Call To Teach and Learn."

"After only a short time here," she said, "we begin to emulate our mentors, who share knowledge and model a life of commitment tohonest inquiry, both inside and outside the classroom."