The Eastman Theatre was a fitting background for Sunday’s inauguration of President Joel Seligman, who calls UR “the school George Eastman built.”

“The inauguration ceremony featured all the requisite academic pageantry and the lower level of the Eastman Theatre was mostly filled,” Vice President and General Secretary Paul Burgett, who cochaired the inaugural planning committee, said. “I can’t imagine how this inauguration could have been any better than it was.”

Before President Seligman stepped to the dandelion-gold podium emblazoned with the university seal, student, faculty and alumni representatives – Students’ Association President and senior Matt Goldblatt, Lee A. DuBridge Professor of physics and Professor of optics Nicholas Bigelow and chief of staff for the Rochester city school district Kim Dyce Faucette ’89, ’05W, respectively – welcomed the president and his wife Friederike to the ceremony as well as the university.

“One underlying current is that we, as students all seek and hopefully find inspiration,” Goldblatt said. “We look to you [Seligman], for inspiration, from standing on our fundamental principle of diversity, to honing a high degree of national recognition we deserve, to increasing our financial resources.”

Faucette reminded the president of his goal to promote strength in the greater Rochester area.

“People from all walks of life can benefit from this great university,” she said. “We look forward to a new and creative endeavor that will benefit our children and this institution.”

Chairman of the Board of Trustees G. Robert Witmer Jr. ’59, invested Seligman with the original school charter, UR’s 70-year-old mace, an official copy of his appointment notification letter and the president medal – which has been awarded to the last eight presidents at each of their inaugurations.

“It is our hope that you will keep this medal in view as you work in the coming years to lead this university to new and worthy accomplishments,” Witmer said.

The president stayed at center stage to confer honorary awards and degrees.

He presented the highest award given to an alumnus, the Hutchison Medal, to William A. Peck, former Executive Vice Chancellor for medical affairs at Washington University in St. Louis. President Seligman then awarded Doctor of Law degrees to three university presidents – Lee C. Bollinger of Columbia University, Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania and John Sexton of New York University. All four sat as panelists on the president’s symposium on higher education, held in Strong Auditorium earlier that morning – and all four received warm embraces from Seligman.

The dual-aisle academic processional and recessional boasted over 200 participants, beginning with representatives of colleges and universities, learned societies and professional organizations – including Oxford University, founded around 1096 and the University Athletic Association.

The platform party soon followed, including faculty members, the search committee, the Board of Trustees, university officers and the last three university presidents – Robert L. Sproull, 1975-84, George Dennis O’Brien, 1984-94, and Thomas H. Jackson, 1994-2005.

Eastman School of Music professor and composer Robert Morris wrote an original piece to commemorate the celebration.

Mark Scatterday conducted the Eastman Chamber Winds and pianist Nelita True in the world premiere of “Quarere et Inveniere.”

Members of the Midnight Ramblers, Yellowjackets and Vocal Point a cappella groups ended the ceremony with the alma mater “The Genesee” – a tradition that dates back to Rush Rhees’ inauguration.

Borchardt can be reached at

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