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Inaugural Address of Richard Celeste as Colorado College President
Inaugural Address of Richard Celeste as Colorado College President
Richard F. Celeste, who took office in July, is a former governor of Ohio and U.S. ambassador to India. He was director of the Peace Corps, as well as a magna cum laude graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar. His political career includes serving as an Ohio state representative from 1970 to 1974, as Ohio lieutenant governor from 1974 to 1978, and as Ohio governor from 1982 to 1990. He was appointed U.S. ambassador to India in 1997 and served until 2001. Celeste has been a visiting fellow in public policy at Case Western Reserve University, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and chair of the National Governors Association Committee on Science and Technology. He also chaired the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable and has been a board member of Habitat for Humanity International, the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, and numerous other not-for-profit organizations. He has served on corporate boards including Navistar International, HealthSouth Rehabilitation Corp., and BP Oil (North American Advisory Board).
Remarks by President Richard F. Celeste on Sunday, October 13, 2002.
I thank you, Bill Ward and the Trustees of Colorado College, for entrusting me with the privilege of serving as the twelfth president of this extraordinary college of the liberal arts and sciences. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and humility standing here in the shadow of my predecessors who struggled a century and a quarter ago to shape and sustain the founders' vision and those who since have exercised our legacy of innovation to achieve "the highest standards of intellectual life and public service."
I want to acknowledge all of you who have gathered to share this occasion with me. I must begin with my family: my wife Jacqueline and son Sam, Ruth, Pat and, though absent, my well-loved older children, grandchildren and brother. And then my new family-students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and my neighbors here on the Front Range.
My friends, many of whom have gathered here including David Warren and Bruce Alberts. My colleague presidents, including CC's own Bro Adams and Tom Cronin. And my very special friend and role model, Doug Bennet. Our families shared the adventure of India in the 1960s; he and I, the experience of working for a remarkable public servant and mentor Chester Bowles. Later as the sweet coincidences of life would have it, he would become Director of USAID for President Carter while I was serving as Peace Corps Director. Then seven years ago, Doug moved from public service to academe to become President of Wesleyan University-with such sustained enthusiasm that I must have subconsciously vowed to find an opportunity to follow his career path.
Bruce, my thanks for your thought-provoking message. Ofer, my thanks for your uplifting music. And David, my thanks for your powerful images of this learning community. I confess that I identify with the red ant-new in class, needing a nudge.
I wish our learning were always playful. Sometimes it isn't. I must acknowledge a heavy heart for the untimely and tragic death of our young Ben Hoyler. In just six blocks Ben had brightened so many lives with his ready smile, his encouraging words, his love of nature-even his kilt and bagpipes. Ben thought deeply about life and truth, and yearned one day to bring justice to those who suffered on the margins of society.
One week ago, in an instant, an adventure turned to misadventure. And in an instant, we were reminded that life is a gift, that every day with family, friends and colleagues is precious.
Some days, of course, are more precious than others. This, for me, is such a day.
I would like to reflect for a few minutes on the theme of today's inauguration and of the transition from Kathryn Mohrman's presidency to mine: "Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future."
We have much to celebrate, and celebrate we have this weekend as alumni gathered for homecoming and parents for a kind of anticipatory homecoming.
The fourth and final article of CC's 1874 charter reads, "The existence of said corporation, The Colorado College, is intended to be perpetual." What an ambition, considering that one day even the uplifted granite to the west will be only dust.
Yet that ambition birthed a community of learning which has been sustained by generation after generation of scholars, dedicated to imbuing young women and men with a passion for knowledge-exploring ideas and actions often miles or millennia removed from this idyllic splendor. These professors might eventually be obliged by time to retire from the classroom, but most remain close enough to keep a welcome hand in the life of the college.
What accounts for the strength of the ties, that bind members of the CC family over time-teachers, graduates, parents? I can only give you this early account of the ingredients I have sensed during my first weeks on and off this campus-interacting with faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents.
* The fact that virtually every faculty member, even the most published scholar, has been and is today supremely devoted to the act of teaching.
* The fact that small classes devouring subjects at a breathtaking pace oblige students to engage their work and each other with an intensity that can be-and usually is-life transforming.
* The fact that outside the classroom on the athletic field, or in the theater, or in the residence halls, or at the community service site, and especially on Block breaks-friendships deepen beyond all expectation.
* The fact that this magnificent place does somehow invite every one of us to get in touch with nature in a personal and indelible way.
Is it any wonder that the words of William Slocum, the fourth president of Colorado College, written in a letter in 1901 and opened last year in the Century Chest, sound so appropriate as one more greeting to a new president today:
"The students, faculty, and Board of Trustees send their greeting down along the years to you, living in the next century. They rejoice in all your prosperity and in the work which you are doing. Biding [sic] you all God speed, trusting that it may be our privilge [sic] to look in upon you from the unseen world, to walk through your buildings, to sit under the trees which we are planting, to witness the growth that has come with every good wish for the future."
We have much to celebrate about our past beyond simply having endured long enough to enjoy Slocum's trees in full growth. And virtually all of what we celebrate is people: our teachers, our students, our friends. That is as it should be, especially if you heed the motto on our college seal. Scientia et Disciplina, or as Professor Carol Neel put it to me in a helpful contemporary rendering: "Acquiring knowledge and living it." And living it!
It is in the spirit of "living it" that I trust we will Embrace the Future. Of course to embrace the future we must first envision it. And that, to my way of thinking, is the exciting work of the present.
That is why I have asked the faculty to take the leadership, working with the rest of the college community, in articulating in a fresh, crisp way the distinctive mission of our college.
That is why I am excited by the challenge of fashioning together a strategic vision of what we expect Colorado College to be, and to do, five and ten years from now.
How might we build on the successes-and address the challenges-of the Block Plan? Can we claim as fine a teaching faculty as any liberal arts and sciences college in the country? Can we devise a formula which assures that scholarship in service of teaching abounds? Might we recruit diverse and talented students with promise in classics, or chemistry, or studio art, or environmental science as energetically as we recruit outstanding hockey and soccer players-and counsel and support them so that they are as likely to graduate as our student athletes?
I plan to exercise the responsibilities of my office in a spirited collaboration with all of you. My hope and expectation is that as we consider the direction for our college during the next decade, we will do so in a manner consistent with our core values: we will be open; we will invite all to participate; we will debate differences in a thoughtful and civil fashion; and we will arrive at inventive but well-considered choices. If that sounds something like the process that bequeathed the Block Plan to us, I say so be it.
As I thought about the notion of Embracing the Future, I wondered whether we as a community were up to such a dramatic yet intimate act. I imagined the faculty discussions: what do we mean by "Embrace"?
Our natural scientists might be attracted to definition #3 in the American Heritage Dictionary: "to include, comprise or contain"; the social scientists might advocate for #2: "to surround or encircle"; and those in the humanities probably would opt for "to clasp or hold to one…usually as a display of affection." Celeste, of course, holds out for the last but not least definition: "to take up willingly or eagerly."
In our endeavor, let us embrace the canon, and that which lies beyond. Let us embrace this city, and its people who are our neighbors. Let us embrace this magnificent region of our country and its unique character. Let us embrace the world-in its confusion and wonder.
You have embraced me in a very special way. I vow to embrace you-each and everyone of you-in my labor on our behalf. Let us together embrace in our deliciously diverse ways the future of this remarkable enterprise, and shape it by our acts -- stronger, better, livelier. A worthy legacy for the red ants who follow us!