English bells and Johann Sebastian Bach welcomed guests from around the world as President Jorge Gonzalez was officially inaugurated as Kalamazoo College’s 18th president.
The well attended afternoon event was held this past Saturday, November 5th. College community members, family, friends, and delegates from 32 other colleges and universities filled the halls of Stetson Chapel to welcome the new President.
Although President Gonzalez has been at work since summer as Kalamazoo College’s president, the inaugural event gave the college community a chance to “publically declare the trust we place in our new president,” as said by Board of Trustees Chair Charlotte Hall, ’66.
Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell spoke of President Gonzalez’s understanding of educational and community needs, saying, “he understands the importance of experiential learning and the opportunity to dive into communities and provide service.”
“Earlier [President Gonzalez] said that [by being selected], he had won the lottery. That’s not true; here at K and in this community, we have,” concluded Mayor Hopewell.
Referencing Kalamazoo College’s controversial 2012 rezoning request and stadium light installment, Mayor Hopewell affirmed President Gonzalez as a “shining example for the world, shining brighter than even the powerful stadium lights,” eliciting laughs and applause from the audience.
Student Tanush Jagdish ’18 recounted President Gonzalez’s dedication to not only diversity but full inclusion among students, staff, and faculty.
“We can relate to him…and he’s not only a role model, but a companion,” Jagdish later told the audience on behalf of the student body, recalling the President’s diverse experiences abroad and as an intern.
Faculty Representative and award winning physics professor Dr. Jan Tobochnik proclaimed, “[President Gonzalez’s] enthusiasm is infectious, his intelligence is remarkable, and his warmth is genuine,” finally noting that, “he conveys the importance of the liberal arts not as a set of abstract ideals but as concrete stories that come from the mind and heart.”
“We’ve heard several references to [the President] winning the lottery, to Kalamazoo College winning the lottery, but maybe it’s [really] as if you went to eHarmony and Match.com and found the perfect match,” joked the Managing Director for the MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Cecilia Conrad.
In an address to the audience, President Gonzalez discussed diversity and the factors shaping the world and their influence on higher education in the 21st century: technology, globalization, diversity, and urbanization. The Presidents claims that it is the liberal arts’ job to not prepare students for the jobs of today, but for the world of tomorrow.
“It’s truly an honor and tremendous privilege to be given the responsibility to lead an institution that has been here for 183 years,” Gonzalez said, attributing his success to “the support of many mentors…as well as my former students.”
Students Hannah Kim ’17 and Thaddeus Buttrey ’17 held intermittent piano and vocal performances, respectively, with the latter vocal arrangement accompanied by Susan Lawrence on piano. The entire ceremony opened and closed with bell ringing and Dr. Eric Strand’s organ prelude and recessional.
Interested audiences can watch the inaugural ceremony at kzoo.edu.
The Index officially welcomes President Jorge Gonzalez to Kalamazoo College and looks forward to the coming years under his leadership!
Correction: Mayor Bobby Hopewell referenced Kalamazoo College’s 2012 rezoning project in his speech, rather than Western Michigan University’s successful 2016 football season. This article now differs from the print edition. Last edit made on 09 November 2016 at 23:45 ET.