Inauguration Week Preview

Torch to be passed in relay

By Eric Rangus

The inauguration of Jim Wagner as Emory’s 19th president is a symbolic passing of the torch to a new University leader. With that symbolism fully in mind, the festivities will feature a literal passing of the torch as well.

Dozens of torchbearers—all Emory faculty, staff, students, alumni and administrators—will carry a flame lit on the Oxford campus roughly 37 miles to the Atlanta campus where Wagner, the final torch bearer, will light a cauldron to begin his tenure as Emory’s leader.

“The Inauguration committee thought this would be a fun way for the campus to note, both literally and symbolically, the passing of the torch from Oxford to Atlanta, and from one administration to another,” said University Secretary Gary Hauk.
The torch will be lit during the Oxford jubilee, Monday, March 29, then kept on that campus until Thursday, April 1. The relay will begin at 10 a.m. that morning with a small ceremony. Retired deans Bond Fleming and Bill Murdy, current Dean Dana Greene, and current Oxford Student Government Association President Mike Woodworth will be among the torchbearers before the flame leaves campus and begins the five-hour trek to Atlanta.

Kirk Larsen, an Emory College alumnus and a member of the Atlanta Track Club, charted the best course from Oxford to Atlanta and recruited some 30 runners with enough stamina to handle individual segments of up to two miles (members of the Emory track team will run as a group over one nine-mile stretch).

“There is one stretch that’s a hard-packed dirt road,” said Larsen, ’73C. “There is a long stretch down Covington Highway, then through Avondale and Decatur before reaching campus.”

A friend of Larsen’s, Gary Jenkins, a race organizer and publisher of Georgia Runner magazine, helped with logisitics such as contacting police departments in Newton, Rockdale and DeKalb counties. The actual torches runners will use are borrowed torches from the Special Olympics (which holds competitions on campus each year).

Larsen will run one of the last legs with his wife, Susan Gantt, assistant professor of psychiatry. Hauk will carry the torch through Emory Village and up to the Haygood-Hopkins Gate where he will hand it off to the eternal spirit of Emory, Lord James W. Dooley. After Dooley walks it though the gate, he will pass it to newly elected Student Government Association President Jimin Kim, who will start the torch’s tour of campus. A host of Emory notables will carry the torch about 300–500 meters each.

“I hope many people will turn out to watch and cheer along the runners,” Hauk said. “Personally I’m excited about carrying the torch myself. My mother told me not to run with scissors, but she never said anything about running with fire.”

The flame will be kept on campus overnight before re-emerging during the Inauguration ceremony, where Wagner will use it to light the Inaugural cauldron.

The Wagner inauguration is not the first time a torch has been passed between Oxford and Emory. In 1986 a torch run between the two campuses was a part of the
University’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. Emory’s 18th president Bill Chace lit a torch at his inauguration in 1995, but the ceremony did not involve a relay.