The wind was brisk outside Eastman Theatre on Friday, as President Sarah Mangelsdorf was officially inaugurated as the 11th president and first woman to lead the University of Rochester.
Students, alumni, family, trustees, and community members were among the audience of roughly one thousand people attending. 62 representatives of colleges and universities across the country, representatives of learned societies, professional organizations, foundations, and faculty of the University entered Kodak Hall in a procession with an accompaniment by the Eastman Brass band.
The ceremony began with words of welcome from representatives of the students, staff, faculty, community, and alumni.
“I have been so impressed with the way our president has engaged with students in her first three months. She shows up, she listens, and of course she is always willing to join you for a selfie,” said SA president and senior Jamal Holtz as he began his speech.
Holtz also attested to her physical strength, recounting when he saw her pick up a 50-pound box on move-in day. “Her leadership makes us optimistic, and even better, makes us hopeful,” he said.
In their speeches, faculty and staff expressed confidence that Mangelsdorf could uphold the values of equity and inclusion, based on her extensive work on issues of academic quality, educational access, diversity, and inclusion in her previous roles.
“At one of our first meetings, I vividly remembered her simple gesture of declining to sit at the head of the table, signaling her spirit of humility and teamwork,” said faculty senate co-chair Chunkit Fung on the character of Mangelsdorf’s leadership.
Mangelsdorf ended the speeches by reflecting on a letter written by the University’s first president, Martin Brewer Anderson in which he lamented on the vigor of the job. “The typical college president is expected to be a vigorous writer and public speaker,” wrote Anderson. “He must be able to address all types of audiences upon all sorts of subjects, he must be a financier able to extract money from the hordes of misers.”
But, said Mangelsdorf, Anderson’s account “omits the president’s most important, most critical and indeed, the happiest responsibility, the stewardship of the university itself.”
Mangelsdorf said she was committed to keeping UR conducive to learning and, ensuring the University was “not just a university in the community, but a university of the community.” She continued: “We must continue to be mindful of our role in the city of Rochester. Without a vibrant Rochester, the university cannot thrive.”
Mangelsdorf also pledged to make UR ever more inclusive. “As president, I will be particularly attentive to issues of equity and inclusion and I will do everything I can to make sure that every student, faculty, and staff member at [UR] feels welcome and included.”
In between the speeches, Eastman alumni performed throughout the ceremony.
“This was a beautiful traditional ceremony,” alumni Bill Robinson ‘72 said. “The intrinsic joy to something like this is that there is always the prospect under another leader of continuing to move forward. ”
First-year Kyra Sawey said: “I absolutely loved it […] I think it was a really beautiful ceremony and I’m really excited to be in the same year as the president, to grow with her.”
Board of trustees member Cathy E. Minehan, who has had three generations of her family attend UR, said: “This is a great day for the University […] and everybody has mentioned more than once, ‘this is all about meliora,’ but I have to say, it doesn’t get much better than this.”