President Rick Hurley was officially sworn into office as the University of Mary Washington’s ninth president on Sept. 30 at 3 p.m in Dodd Auditorium.
“It feels pretty darn special,” said Hurley about his official inauguration. “The whole week was uplifting and rewarding. I felt a real strong connection with students, faculty and the community, and it just feels really good.”
According to Hurley, he chose “Engaging Minds and Serving the World” as the theme for his inauguration because compared to other places he’s been, UMW has an unusually strong amount of volunteerism, according to Hurley.
The ceremony began with a performance by the university’s Faculty Brass Quintet as the stage filled with various faculty, guest speakers and Hurley himself.
The first speaker was Stephen Stageberg, marshal of the faculty, who, after a solemn moment of silence in memory of the recently deceased Tim Massy, introduced Charles Tate, president of university’s staff advisory council, and Daryl Ott who would lead in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem respectively.
Virginia Secretary of Education Laura Fornash gave a speech highlighting and applauding Hurley on his “commitment to community service as part of the University of Mary Washington experience.”
Fornash added that she looked forward to future work with Hurley and UMW; “a place and a person that inspire students to make positive changes in the world.”
Next, Derek Bottcher, president of the alumni association, reminisced about the first time he met Hurley ten years ago, when he was the featured guest at a D.C. area alumni event and spoke about all the exciting things that were planned, from Eagle Village to the Bell Tower, to the Anderson Center, about all the exciting changes and plans he had for the university.
Bottcher explained that the most important part of UMW is that through “all of these changes, alumni of all ages share certain bonds that cannot be broken no matter how many years separate us. We cherish honor, excellence in education, a world-class faculty and the tradition of serving the world.”
Professor of English and linguistics Claudia Emerson then read “Windscale,” an original poem composed especially for the occasion, honoring Hurley’s journey.
Afterward, SGA President Ashley Nixon, talked about the necessity of strong leadership in the face of constant change, and how Hurley is the embodiment of such leadership. Nixon thanked Hurley for connecting the student body and giving it “a sense of community and for accepting the presidency of the University of Mary Washington.”
The President of the American Community of Schools of Athens, Greece, Stefanos Gialamas was then introduced, and spoke on the importance of thinking and learning both locally and globally, and that “the opportunities from students attending higher education institutions are directly related to the educational experience they receive.”
“The educational experience must be comprehensive based on their academic, physical, spiritual, ethical, and social engagement and development,” said Gialamas, which he believes is dependent on strong leadership, like that present in Hurley.
Then, President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Belle Wheelan, who offered her thoughts on the new chapter beginning at UMW, and gave congratulations to Hurley and best wishes that his tenure would be remembered in the future “for the willingness to think of the possibilities, cooperation, and a determination that every student leaves the university more engaged and more determined to make a difference in the world then when they entered.”
Students from the theater and dance departments then presented an inaugural tribute to Hurley comprised of a mash up of Wicked’s “Defying Gravity” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
“I didn’t know what was going to happen for the musical interlude,” said Hurley. “Someone said I was going to be surprised, and I was really blown away when all the students came into the auditorium. It was exactly what I wanted.”
This was followed by Judge Pamela White administering the oath of office to Hurley, after which Hurley was officially installed as the president and given the chain of office, symbolic of the position and the “responsibilities and duties of attending to [his] office.”
There was some difficulty fastening the clasp of the Chain of Office while putting it on Hurley.
“I was whispering to them, ‘you should have practiced,’” said Hurley. “I’ve worn that chain before and it’s not easy to get on.
Hurley gave the final speech of the night, in which he traced the events and decisions of his life that led him to his new post as president, and spoke of the “transformative power of education” and the advantages UMW has above others and his hopes for an even brighter future.
“As I take the oath of office, I do so with enthusiasm and confidence,” said Hurley during his inauguration speech. “Today is a day I will never forget and long cherish.”
“Our challenge for the future is not to create something new, but to preserve, enhance and build on what we already have,” Hurley stated.
Sophomore Erin Taylor and 1991 alumni Barbara Perry ended the ceremony by singing the Alma Mater.
Chair of the English, Linguistics and Communication Department Teresa Kennedy enjoyed the event and especially liked Hurley’s story on the meaning of education and thought Nixon did a wonderful job in detailing the student’s perspective.
Kennedy also remarked that there was “a general feeling of goodwill” towards Hurley and that “all the faculty loved it.”
Chelsea Mays, one of the students involved in the musical mash-up had “lots of fun,” and said that it was a “great experience [and] great to be a part of.”
Later that night, UMW hosted an inaugural ball for Hurley in the Anderson Center, hiring the Voltage Brothers to be the night’s musical entertainment.
“I wanted a dance band, and they had a nice mixture of songs,” said Hurley. “I wanted it to be fun.”
Hurley stated that he was impressed with how the students, faculty and guests of UMW conducted themselves at the event, and was happy with how the Anderson Center accommodated everybody.
Hurley served as acting president of the UMW in 2007, after William Frawley’s resignation.
When asked what finally led him to apply to be the UMW president, Hurley stated, “The year I did it as an acting stint, one: I really enjoyed it; two: I was really good at it. When this opportunity came about, I let the Board of Visitors know I was happy to serve if they were so inclined to ask me.”
Photo by Marie Sicola.