Inauguration Week Preview

Inauguration Ceremony, disassembled

By Michael Terrazas

The focal point of Emory’s Inauguration Celebration is, naturally, the Inauguration Ceremony itself, to be held at 2:30 p.m., April 2, on the Quadrangle. And the elements of the two-hour event are rife with symbolism—some new, some old; some unique to Emory, others steeped in higher education tradition dating back centuries. What are these elements, and what do they mean?

• Procession of delegates. Part of the opening processional will be an ordered seating of delegates to Emory’s Inauguration. It is tradition in higher education for universities to invite representatives from four-year colleges and universities and learned societies to presidential inaugurations, according to University Secretary Gary Hauk, who said some 4,500 delegates have been invited to President Jim Wagner’s installation (about 350 attended former President Bill Chace’s inauguration in 1995). Procession of delegates begins with the delegate from the oldest school represented (often Oxford University) and continuing through to the newest institutions, some founded as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.

• Greetings. More and more, Hauk said, it is standard for universities to invite greetings not only from student, faculty and staff representatives but local elected officials. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Georgia Congresswoman Denise Majette, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin—and former President of the United States Jimmy Carter—all will deliver remarks of greeting on April 2.

• Guest address. This speaker, often chosen by the individual being inaugurated, serves to “challenge” the new president and put his or her tasks into a contemporary context. For former President James Laney’s inauguration in 1977, Harvard president emeritus Nathan Pusey spoke. Wagner selected Frank Rhodes, former president of Cornell University, whom Wagner considers a mentor and who consulted on the search that brought Wagner to Emory.

• Commissioning of works of art. Emory has commissioned several pieces for Wagner’s inauguration, including new arrangements of musical pieces by music Professors John Lennon and Steve Everett, a new piece by Lennon, a poem by retired medical Professor John Stone, and a silk batik of Lullwater Preserve by artist Mary Edna Fraser.

• Investiture. The investiture is the ceremonial awarding of office. Emory trustees will present Wagner with the original 1836 charter of Emory College; a sprig of holly cut from a tree descended from the holly that, legend has it, shaded Methodist founder John Wesley as he preached on Georgia’s St. Simons Island in the mid-1700s; keys to the University, symbolic of unlocking the doors to truth and knowledge; and the official badge of office, which will be draped over Wagner’s neck by Board of Trustees Chair Ben Johnson.

• Inaugural address. Finally, it is Wagner’s turn to speak. The president’s address, expected to last about 10 minutes, will be printed in its entirety in a special issue of Emory Report to be published on Wednesday, April 7.

• Blessings. Campus ministers and students will bless the proceedings and attendees with words in the Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Bahaí-í traditions.