Hundreds of members of the UR community witnessed the inauguration of UR’s 10th president, Joel Seligman, Sunday afternoon at the Eastman Theatre.

In his 26-minute inaugural address, Seligman drew on four values “that are responsible for this and other universities being among the most significant social institutions in the world today.”

“An inaugural address is an opportunity to articulate the values that animate the university at a given time and that frame its aspirations,” he said in the opening minute of his speech.

His first value was commitment to the idea of academic excellence, touching on selective hiring and admittance standards, the Rochester Curriculum and constant integration between fields of study. President Seligman then stressed the importance of academic freedom.

“The university is one of the longest lasting social institutions in the world, precisely because it is a safe haven for thought that is new, daring or controversial,” he said. “My job is to protect the process in which innovation, novel scholarship and discovery best can flourish.”

Diversity, especially simultaneous with mutual respect, was the third fundamental value.

“We should defend the right of all to think, to speak, to write, to teach and to learn, including those with whom we most fervently disagree,” he said.

The last value addressed was commitment to the greater Rochester community. President Seligman noted that UR is the Rochester area’s largest employer and ties will only grow between the university and its hometown.

“For our faculty, students and alumni, Rochester is our home, but the world is our stage,” he said.

Taking the four values into account, Seligman reminded the audience of the plans for UR’s largest capital campaign ever and declared vision to be the fundamental challenge in upholding those values.

“We have the opportunity to re-characterize ourselves, to stretch the frontiers of our research, improve the quality of our teaching and scholarship and develop the type of path-breaking programs that have long distinguished UR,” he said.

Seligman the need to bring the entities of the university together under a common name, a goal he has outlined in his statements of strategic planning.

“The transformation of a small liberal arts college into a Research One university, replete with six schools, a dental center, a laser lab, a celebrated art gallery, a leading academic health center and several affiliated programs fundamentally challenges our sense of collective identity,” he said. “We are one university, powerfully bound by values that are responsible for this and other universities being among the most significant social institutions in the world today.”

Many students attended the event and were touched by it.

“His speech was divided into two parts,” sophomore Greg Meditz said. “The first part re-invigorated the idea that we have such a strong school with such a thick history and it was nice for Seligman to recognize that and speak about it.”

Borchardt can be reached at

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