When Emory inaugurates Jim Wagner as its 19th
president later this semester, the celebration will extend far
beyond simply bestowing upon Wagner the mantle of president.
A full slate of activities is in the works for Inauguration Week, which will
begin Monday, March 29, and culminate on Friday, April 2. The inauguration itself
will be held on the Quadrangle at 2:30 p.m. on April 2, to be followed that evening
by a multisite “gala ball” that hopes to bring together all members
of the Emory community for dancing and music on McDonough Field and in Cox Hall.
“The committee has taken its cue primarily from the president,” said
University Secretary Gary Hauk, who chairs the 15-member Presidential Inauguration
Committee. “He wants this to be about
Emory, to be a celebration of this place and its heritage, not a ‘coronation.’”
“In addition to the exciting sense of responsibility I feel in service
as Emory’s president, there is also a sense of honor and privilege of being
a part of the Emory family,” Wagner said. “It will be more than enough
for me to be the guest of honor at Emory’s celebration.”
Celebrating Emory’s heritage is exactly the point of the first event, a
ceremony on the Oxford campus on March 29. Hauk said the Oxford event will be
similar to one held during the Bill Chace inauguration in 1995, which he described
as a “moveable feast” that was held in several of the Emory mother
campus’ historic buildings.
One new wrinkle for Wagner’s inauguration will be the lighting of an “inaugural
flame” at Oxford, a flame that will make its way—somehow—to
the main campus by Friday. The likely mode of transportation will be a torch
relay, harkening back to the Oxford-Atlanta relay held during Emory’s
sesquicentennial celebration in 1986.
Also planned is an academic symposium for the morning of April 2 that will
feature several presidents of peer universities speaking on the subject of “Courageous
Leadership in Higher Education,” and Hauk said the Center for Ethics hopes
to host a similar event two days earlier that will examine “Educating
for Ethics in the Professions.”
On Thursday, April 1, an all-day festival of arts will bring together the theater,
music, dance, visual arts and creative writing departments for several events
beginning with a Poetry Matters reading at noon and culminating in an a cappella
concert in the Schwartz Center that evening.
Finally, on the invitation list for the inaugural ceremony itself are people
Gov. Sonny Perdue, Georgia Congresswoman Denise Majette and Atlanta Mayor Shirley
Franklin. The symbolic elements of the ceremony include transferring to Wagner
the University charter, and presenting the badge of office and the keys to
the University, along with a sprig of Wesley holly to commemorate Emory’s
relationship to the United Methodist Church.
“There’s been good energy on the committee,” Hauk said. “One
interesting thing is trying to plan something that is both traditional and distinctive
to this president; we’re trying to fit in things that say ‘Emory’ while
making this Jim Wagner’s ceremony.”