President Jim Wagner was the final torch bearer of the Inauguration torch relay, which concluded Thursday, April 1, less than 24 hours before the ceremony that formally installed him as Emory's 19th president.
Upon taking the torch from James W. Dooley, eternal spirit of Emory, Wagner spoke of the symbolism of spirit being carried from Oxford to Emory in the manner of a torch.
"But the real spirit of Emory has been carried by countless thousands at the University since 1836," said Wagner as he lit the cauldron that burned through the night and remained aflame throughout Friday's Inauguration ceremony.
The torch left Oxford College at about 10 a.m. on Thursday morning following a brief ceremony. It had been lit on Monday, March 29, during Oxford's Inaugural celebration (see story).
A relay of 27 runners carried it to the Emory campus. They included Emory students, alumni, faculty and administrators. University Secretary Gary Hauk, one of the relay organizers, carried the torch through Emory Village and up to the Haygood-Hopkins gate, where he passed it off. Hauk continued to run interference as the torch wound its way around campus.
"It was incredible," said Jimin Kim, a junior economics and political science double major from Madison, Ala. The newly elected Student Government Association president was the first on-campus runner. She received the torch from one of Dooley's bodyguards underneath the Haygood-Hopkins gate. Dooley himself received the torch with Wagner onstage.
"I didn't know how spiritual and historical this was for Emory," said Kim, whose relay leg took her up Fishburne Drive.
"I've been at Emory, either as a student or staff member, for over 20 years," said fellow torch bearer Catherine Howett Smith, associate director of the Carlos Museum. More than a dozen museum staff members lined up outside its door to cheer her on as she passed.
"As an Emory 'old-timer,' carrying the torch made me feel a part of Emory's new beginning. I could sense how excited the campus feels about what lies ahead," she said.
Smith, who is disabled, carried the torch while riding a scooter. Helping her out was Frank Gaertner, director of the Student Activity and Academic Center on the Clairmont Campus. "For me, that was a metaphor for how we will make Emory great," Smith said. "Working together, showing respect and compassion for each other, we will take our torch to the heights that it can go."
After they passed the torch, Gaertner continued ahead, holding aloft an Emory pennant, and led it all the way onto the Quadrangle. Gaertner said Hauk had asked him to participate in the relay because he was an avid runner.
He said he had a great time and after watching the brief torch-lighting ceremony and talking to some friends, Gaertner took off across the Quad--for a run.