The Inauguration of The University of Toledo’s 17th President
By Patty Gelb
That’s the message that Dr. Sharon L. Gaber shared with more than 1,200 people in Savage Arena and many more on a global video feed, as she was officially installed as The University of Toledo’s 17th President on Sept. 25, 2015.
In her inauguration address, Dr. Gaber laid out her priorities which include elevating The University of Toledo’s reputation on a national stage. She stressed that she needed the support of everyone…students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, to help her realize her vision for a bright new future for the institution.
“When I was first contacted about the UT presidency, the potential embedding in the simple fact of a University named after its city intrigued me,” she said during her address. “The more I investigated, the more impressed I was with what I learned about the region, the city, and The University of Toledo.”
There is, President Gaber said, an overarching reason to ask for the support of the University family.
“Let’s commit to not only do the right thing for our students,” Gaber said. “But to do the extra thing. Ensuring student success is the job of every single member of this community.”
An inauguration week, in a university setting, refers to the series of events planned in celebration of the installation of a new president. The “installation” is the actual moment the new president assumes the articles of office.
The campus-wide events held in celebration of the president’s inauguration were planned by numerous individuals and groups across campus. Leading the planning for these events on behalf of the University’s Board of Trustees was Jeff Cole (B.A. ’89; Masters in Education ’96), chair of the Trusteeship and Governance Committee.
“There are so many facets of the University that were involved in the planning,” said Cole. “This is a historic occasion for the University to welcome such a transformational leader to our campus. We wanted to make sure that it was appropriately recognized, not just by our faculty, staff, student and alumni bodies, but by the community at large and other academic institutions across the United States.”
The week-long celebration, funded by private dollars, offered opportunities for the whole campus to get involved.
During the week, everyone was encouraged to sign welcome banners that were then displayed during the formal inauguration ceremonies.
A backyard barbecue, sponsored by the Office of the President and the Division of Student Affairs, was held and all were welcome. Rocky, Rocksy, the Blue Crew and hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the celebration that included a pep rally for the Toledo vs. Arkansas State game, Rocket cheerleaders, music from the marching band, caricature artists and trampolines. The University of Toledo Alumni Association and the Division of Student Affairs provided inauguration T-shirts sporting the date 09.25.15 which were handed out to all who attended.
Student Government held a reception welcoming Dr. Gaber. The Departments of Music and Theatre hosted a presidential concert that was free and open to the public. Special lectures, symposiums and conferences were held across all of the colleges in honor of the University’s new president.
“That is one of the fabulous things about an inauguration,” said Cole. “It is not just the formal ceremony itself, but all that takes place during the week leading up to the inauguration. It really highlights all that a major metropolitan university has to offer from a concert to symposia to activities for students to different academic celebrations in different departments.”
On Friday morning, the day of the official inauguration ceremony, celebrations began with an academic symposium entitled “Creating a Social Compact Between the City of Toledo and The University of Toledo: From Knowledge to Action.”
The installation ceremony, held that afternoon, was full of pageantry and respect to the history of UT. It began with a processional of over 500 representatives which started at the Student Union traveling across campus to Savage Arena with the chimes of the clock tower ringing in celebration.
The processional was led by Grand Marshal Kristen K. Keith, Ph.D., president of Faculty Senate carrying the University’s ceremonial mace.
The ceremonial mace is adopted from middle ages when it was a weapon against armored warriors. Through the years it was transformed into an ornamental staff that served as a symbol of authority of a ruler. Colleges and universities have adopted the mace as an ornamental staff or baton which is carried by the grand marshal of the university in all formal academic processions of the university.
The mace carried in Dr. Gaber’s inauguration was created in 2006 by Monroe, Mich., artist Jiro J. Masudo, following the merger of UT and the Medical University of Ohio. The maces of the individual organizations, prior to the merger, were formally retired at that time.
The grand marshal began the colorful procession at 2:30 p.m. on a perfect day of blue skies and warm temperatures. She led the group past the University Seal in the middle of Centennial Mall, touching it, before heading toward the Arena. Behind the grand marshal was a breathtaking sight of color guard with the American, State and University flags followed by a procession of over 40 international students carrying their country’s flags, many wearing native dress.
Immediately following the flag procession, Dr. Gaber led hundreds of people, attired in the academic robes of inaugural dress representing respective degrees, colleges, doctorates and areas of study. The procession included past presidents, senior leadership, deans, delegates from the community and other universities. Presidential Ambassadors wearing their presidential blazers adorned with the University’s seal and special 25th anniversary pins, along with student representatives, were part of the procession in support of Dr. Gaber. Each of the University’s colleges was represented by a contingent following its logoed flags. The procession became a river of color and pageantry that flowed across campus.
Dr. Gaber was seen smiling and waving, even stopping when a student ran up to take a quick selfie with her. The atmosphere of the processional was joyous and celebratory.
The processional entered the arena to the sounds of the UT Wind Ensemble playing “Crown Imperial.” Once settled, Cole introduced the colors and led the assembly in the National Anthem before welcoming the platform party.
Sharon Speyer (’86 J.D.), chair of the Board of Trustees, shared remarks and hosted a series of greetings and gifts of welcome to the new president from Cody Spoon, president of Student Government; Keith, on behalf of Faculty Senate; Catherine Martineau (’77 B.S., ’81 J.D.), president of the UT Alumni Association International Board of Trustees; Gary Leidich (’72 B.S., ’74 M.S.), president of the UT Foundation Board of Trustees, and The Honorable John Carey, chancellor of Ohio Department of Higher Education.
A video on the digital scoreboards featured UT students, faculty, staff and community leaders welcoming Dr. Gaber to the University. The poignant presentation included a special message of support from her children, Allison, Jennifer and Peter. One could tell from her reaction this was a touching surprise.
The view the video greetings, click here.
Following a musical presentation, Speyer recognized past presidents in attendance before Joseph H. Zerbey, member of the University’s Board of Trustees gave remarks which officially introduced Dr. Gaber to the University and community. Speyer then officially installed the president by symbolically bestowing the University’s 150-year-old bound charter to Dr. Gaber then placing the UT medallion around her neck before declaring her the University’s 17th president.
“There is a lot of pageantry that goes along with an inauguration that is full of symbolism and tradition,” said Cole. “It also really provides the president her first opportunity, with classes back in session, to speak to all facets of the University and lay out her vision of what she would like to accomplish.”
Following her official installation as president of the University, Dr. Gaber, who is a nationally recognized urban planner, emphasized the critical ties she sees between the University and the city of Toledo.
“The University of Toledo is an anchor institution of this community and has the opportunity and the responsibility to move beyond rhetoric; to create a community positioned to embrace and mold our own future,” Gaber said. “It is critical that we seize this moment.”
An excerpt from her speech shares her call to action to the University and community:
A Call to Action
First, it will be my top priority to work with the University community and regional organizations to elevate UT’s reputation on the national stage. But this is not one person’s task. Don’t ever be shy about sharing your successes and accomplishments and those of your UT colleagues. As a “University of us,” our strength comes from the chorus of many voices.
Second, we will increase the numbers and the academic preparedness of students enrolling at UT, and we will make sure they graduate. First- to second-year student retention has increased by about 2 percentage points in each of the past two years — a good start toward improved graduation numbers.
Third, we will increase externally funded research and research expenditures, and we will embrace the importance of faculty scholarship. As a doctoral research university, it is the job of our faculty to discover new knowledge in collaboration with our undergraduate and graduate students, and pass that on to society.
We have done this, and we will reinvigorate this effort.
Fourth, we will dramatically increase our fundraising efforts for student scholarships, endowed professorships, new and renovated facilities, and University initiatives. As I look around, it’s wonderful to see so many University supporters. This is a great indicator of the passion so many of you have for this institution.
And fifth, we will ensure that a UT education stays financially accessible for students by reducing administrative costs.
We will continue to be responsible stewards of our public resources.
And embedded within all of these priorities is an ongoing commitment to increasing and celebrating the strength created by our diversity.
To read the full inauguration address of Dr. Gaber, click here.
Following the president’s address and conclusion from Speyer, the entire assembly sang the University’s Alma Mater, “Fair Toledo,” then recessed to a reception. Dr. Gaber strolled through the crowd, stopping to talk to everyone, shaking hands and sharing laughs at the joyful event.
Thoughts captured at the reception…
I think it was really a wonderful experience to be at the inauguration. Since I am a Presidential Ambassador we had the privilege to be on the floor seeing everything firsthand which was really, really special. It is really cool because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Being a student here at The University of Toledo, I think that Dr. Gaber has a lot of amazing plans and ideas for our University. Everyone is talking about her transformational leadership, her vision for UT and the city of Toledo. As a young student at UT, I am really excited to be here under her leadership.
Human Resource Management and Marketing Student
I thought it was really inspiring to be a part of such a great tradition. As a UT staff member and two time alumnus it was just really cool to be a part of something that only happened at the University 17 times.
Jocelyn Szymanski, ’12, ‘13
Wellness Coordinator for the Office of Community Wellness and Health Promotion
The ceremony was very impressive and Dr. Gaber’s speech was very impressive. It laid out a great pathway for the future for The University of Toledo.
Director of Development, Lourdes University
I thought it was absolutely outstanding. To me it was touching and it hit on all of the exact reasons why we hired Dr. Gaber. She is going to knock it out of the park.
Member, Board of Trustees
I found it very moving. It is neat to see the support of the community who turned out. I certainly look forward to her term as President.
Jim Lapp ’73, ‘74
Vice-President of the UT Retirees Association
It was a fitting ceremony on a beautiful day. President Gaber’s message was on the mark in urging all of us to come together to make UT successful. I wish her the very best and look forward to working with her.
Dr. Nagi Naganathan
Professor and Dean, College of Engineering
I thought it was a really nice event. I think that Dr. Gaber is going to do a lot of good here at UT. You can just tell she has a positive vibe about her. Just the way she was smiling up there, especially when she saw her kids on the video, it was more like a personal experience than business. It was really nice.
First-year P.A. student
It was a very nice ceremony. It was nice to be a part of something that only happens every so often. It is cool to have something like this happen during my four years that I can look back and say, ‘I was part of that.’ I really like Dr. Gaber and look forward to seeing what she has in store for the University.
I thought the inauguration was a very good experience for our students, alumni, faculty and staff. It was a great opportunity to introduce Dr. Gaber and welcome her in a public fashion. It was really an amazing experience.
Marcus Sneed ‘07
Associate Director, Alumni Relations
I was just telling my colleague that when Dr. Gaber came and interviewed with us, that we as faculty got a chance to ask her questions — and it was her smile that did it for me. Her smile was reassuring, it shows strength, it shows character, but is also shows the kind of pleasantry that I feel that we’ve been missing. She is such a good role model for our young girls. All of the girls in my class are always told to speak up, you might be a leader one day. We’ve got a female president, look how she projects herself, you must do the same. You must project a smile and it must be sincere and it has to have strength. That is what I see in Dr. Gaber. I saw it all the way through the ceremony. It is so genuine. When she smiles, you can’t help but be reassured and know that behind it, something good is coming.
Associate Lecturer in Spanish
I thought it was incredible and an opportunity to engage the entire campus to celebrate, not only Dr. Gaber’s inauguration, but the University and its future. I have never had the opportunity to be at an event like this and it was really wonderful. I think Dr. Gaber was absolutely the right choice. I am so excited about her ideas and her commitment to collaboration, her sense of urgency and call to action. I think she is going to be a fantastic president –and she already is.
Chair, Board of Trustees
Traditionally these types of things are pretty low energy but I think that today, listening to each of the individuals speak, their inputs were so vibrant and so forward thinking. They seemed to be very excited about Dr. Gaber joining our University and I think she is going to be excellent. She is so personable and I think she connects really well with the students. I got a chance to see her at the student BBQ and she shook hands with everyone, including myself. Speaking with her, you can tell she is intelligent and she is going to provide a lot of insight, and valuable things to our University.
Public Health Student
I like meaningful events and today was a very special one for the history of the University. I have had a chance to meet her and she is a very personable individual. She is going to excel with our students, our faculty, the staff and most of all, the community. I think what she brings to the University is inspiration and excellence.
President of the Satellites Auxiliary Volunteers
The entire hour and a half ceremony can be viewed here.
For a short overview of the procession and ceremony, click here.
To learn more about the inauguration of the 17th President of The University of Toledo, visit the full website here.
Come meet Dr. Gaber at Homecoming on Saturday, October 10th on the campus of UT. The Toledo Rockets play Kent State University and kick-off is at 3:00 p.m. For full details about Homecoming activities and for tickets to the game, click here.
No matter where you live, you can be a part of historic events at The University of Toledo through social media. You can stay connected at pep rallies, sporting events, Alumni activities, happenings around campus, and even major celebrations like the inauguration of Dr. Sharon L. Gaber. Find your UT Alumni Association on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to stay connected.