Inauguration Week Preview

Emory inaugurations have short history

By Katherine Baust

When Emory inaugurates Jim Wagner as its 19th president on April 2, the University will continue a ceremonial tradition in higher education dating back centuries. Throughout its own history, Emory has established a few inaugural traditions of its own.

Although, as Dean of Alumni Jake Ward, ’33C, ’36G, pointed out, “Emory has not had many presidents because it is a young University; it is only two years older than I am.”

Ward was referring, of course, to the Emory campus in Atlanta, which was established in 1915. Emory College at Oxford had 12 presidents between its founding in 1836 and the establishment of the Druid Hills campus. However, in the institution’s entire history, there have been only five formal inaugurations.

According to the 1957 issue of the Emory Alumnus, “When Dr. [Goodrich] White was inaugurated in the fall of 1942, World War II was in progress and for that reason it was kept simple. Dr. White’s predecessor—Dr. Harvey W. Cox, the first president of the Emory University in Atlanta—came to Emory in 1920, when the institution was a group of loosely connected schools, and he did not have a formal inauguration.”

Formal inaugurations began with Walter Martin in 1957 and have progressively expanded. Martin’s inauguration was held on Nov. 15, 1957, and according to the 1957 Emory Alumnus, “On the evening before inauguration day, a preinauguration dinner for Dr. Martin attended chiefly by Atlanta business and civic leaders was given at the Piedmont Driving Club. On inauguration day, the procession of more than 700 moved from the walkways of the Quadrangle to Glenn Memorial Church, where every seat was taken, except those reserved for participants in the procession.”

Six years later to the day, on Nov. 15, 1963, Sanford Atwood’s inauguration was held on the Quadrangle, and the ceremony began with a procession of some 265 delegates, including 68 college and university presidents. Cornell president-emeritus Dean Malott delivered an address and received an honorary degree, the first such degree Atwood awarded. In 1977, James Laney’s inauguration also was to be held on the Quad but was moved to Glenn Auditorium due to rain.

According to Ward—who has attended all of Emory’s presidential inaugurations—the largest and most memorable was Bill Chace’s inauguration in 1995. In fact, celebrating the legacy of the Oxford campus began with Chace. A ceremony held at Oxford prior to his inauguration on the Quad revolved around the campus’ historic buildings. This new tradition will continue with Wagner’s inauguration (see story).

University Secretary Gary Hauk said he hopes student turnout will be high, and he pointed out that he thinks the students already have connected with Wagner. “In addition to guest-coaching a volleyball game and attending many other athletic events,” Hauk said, “President Wagner set a tone of inviting students’ collaboration and commentary.”