Last modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2007
IU inaugurations have reflected tradition and personalities of those being installed
When Indiana University's first president, Andrew Wylie, arrived in Bloomington with his family for his inauguration, it prompted an enthusiastic escort of faculty, students, trustees and citizens.
And the best supper that the frontier town of 600 people could muster.
"Between the speeches, the flutist and fiddler played their most enlivening airs," reported the late IU historian James A. Woodburn, "the fiddler keeping the time by the pat of his foot, in which exercise all the boys and a good many of the citizens gleefully joined."
A few weeks later, at a well-planned occasion at the Monroe County Courthouse, David Maxwell, the IU trustees' president, presented Wylie with the keys of the college and declared him duly elected and installed as its president. The Indiana Journal reported that, afterwards, Wylie gave "a chaste and appropriate address."
"Of what advantage is a college to the community?" Wylie offered in his opening remarks on Oct. 29, 1829. "To this question, it is reasonably expected that, on an occasion like the present, a plain and satisfactory answer should be given."
His prepared remarks to answer that question lasted about an hour and can be printed out over 27 pages. Woodburn commented that IU's first inaugural address would make for dull reading for most people today, but it was directed at persons then who barely understood the concept of a university.
The question Wylie raised, "Of what advantage is a college to the community?," remains one that subsequent IU presidents have continued to answer in their own installation ceremonies, like that of Michael A. McRobbie on Oct. 18.
To celebrate McRobbie's inauguration as the university's 18th president, the IU Archives is presenting an exhibit highlighting ceremonies of many past IU presidents, including Wylie. The exhibit, on display Oct. 15-21 at the Lilly Library, will feature photographs, programs, texts of speeches and congratulatory letters.
Pomp, circumstance and personality
University inaugurations, at IU and elsewhere, usually reflect the history and traditions of scholarly administration dating back to the Middle Ages. They also often reflect the personalities of those being installed, as well as the times.
Inaugurations "reaffirm the traditions and values of the university and show solidarity with other universities," said James Capshew, associate professor of history and philosophy of science at IU Bloomington. "It's an ingathering of all of the stakeholders in the university."
Ceremonies for the university's previous 17 presidents have been quite varied. Joseph Swain, IU's ninth president, delivered his inaugural address at the 1893 commencement ceremonies. John W. Ryan, its 14th president, requested a dignified, yet simple occasion in the Bryan Hall board room, and only 45 people were in attendance.
IU's 13th president, Joseph Sutton, indicated in media reports that he was not superstitious. However, shortly after being named president, he needed emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder in January 1969. In that same year, his wife fell ill to cancer, leading up to her death in December 1970. He stepped down as president shortly thereafter. No records exist in the IU Archives about an inauguration ceremony for Sutton.
William Lowe Bryan, the only IU president to be a native of Monroe County, was inaugurated during three days of activities surrounding Foundation Day, now called Founders Day. It was the custom to present a student play on the eve of Foundation Day, and, perhaps coincidentally, Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing was produced. Science Hall, now known as Lindley Hall, was dedicated as part of his installation in 1903.
"My inaugural address (on Jan. 21, 1885) I made very informal, as my installation took place in the middle of the year and at a time when affairs seemed at a dead-low ebb," wrote IU's seventh president, David Starr Jordan, in his memoir, The Days of a Man. "Nevertheless, I spoke of the institution as the most valuable of Indiana's possessions, not yet a great university, not yet even a real university, but the germ of one, its growth being as certain as the progress of the seasons."
Jordan had been selected quickly after the sudden resignation of President Lemuel Moss in December 1884. In his three-paragraph inauguration address, Jordan was somewhat self-effacing. "I am glad to believe that the president is not the essential part of the university," he said. "I certainly hope, that as president, my efforts may aid the growth of the university, but I also take comfort in the belief that my blunders cannot do much to retard it. In any case, success or failure does not depend upon my efforts alone."
Mindful that state politics played a role in the economic vitality of the institution, IU's fourth president, John H. Lathrop, turned to then Gov. Ashbel Williard and said, "In her darkest hour, the university of Indiana found in you a steadfast friend. Long may you live to witness the glories of her risen day."
"Often times, the inaugural addresses sketch policy directions and plans for the university, the presidential vision," said Capshew, who also teaches a class on the history of IU and is writing a biography about its 11th president, Herman B Wells.
The modern tradition
The tradition grew in scope and spectacle during the last century. While the installation for Wells was considered low-key for its day, the event still attracted a vast audience of 3,400 people and was broadcast live on the NBC and Mutual radio networks.
Universities and colleges from across the United States and the world typically send representatives, along with governmental agencies, educational associations and industry. Many of these dignitaries participate in the familiar practice of a procession into the installation ceremony and are adorned in colorful caps and gowns.
"A crowd of 200, many clutching cameras, waited along the procession route from the old fieldhouse to the Auditorium," the Indiana Daily Student reported about the 1962 inauguration of Elvis Stahr, IU's 12th president. "Some had been standing in the crisp morning air since 9:30 a.m. to catch a glimpse of the new president and the color of the ceremony."
Stahr, who previously had been U.S. secretary of the Army and had served under three U.S. presidents, attracted the interest of the current and two former Indiana governors, two foreign ambassadors and dozens of college presidents at his ceremony at the IU Auditorium.
Since 1962, with the exception of Ryan, the 3,700-seat IU Auditorium has been the venue for the inaugurations of IU's last five presidents. All of these ceremonies have been televised.
The largest inauguration celebration was the 1987 installation of IU's 15th president, Thomas Ehrlich. The celebration began in Indianapolis the day before with an academic convocation at the Hilbert Circle Theatre. It featured a procession that wrapped around Monument Circle. The following day, the Ehrlichs utilized an unusual receiving line. Instead of remaining stationary, while the line moved forward, they took the initiative and moved through the line of people who had come to meet them at IU's Main Library in Bloomington.
His successor, Myles Brand, by contrast had a smaller ceremony reflecting the times. It was a highlight of IU's 175th anniversary celebration. The day after his installation, Brand and a delegation from IU reaffirmed the state's charter establishing IU as Indiana's first land-grant institution of higher education.
The inauguration of Adam W. Herbert on April 15, 2004, as IU's 17th president followed established traditions, while being a more contemporary occasion that paid tribute to IU's academic heritage. With all traditional pomp and circumstance, five presidents from colleges and universities in Indiana and a procession of 320 robed participants marched into the IU Auditorium for the ceremony. Famed tenor Timothy Noble, Distinugished Professor of Music, sang the national anthem, and in a personal touch, Herbert's niece, Rev. Deborah Martin, from Hustle, Va., delivered the invocation. Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis, interim senior vice president for academic affairs and chancellor of IUB, U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita and Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan, among others, welcomed Herbert to office. The dignified occasion held moments of levity. "When I asked what I should talk about, I was told about two minutes!" said Hill. Oatmeal raisin cookies, Herbert's favorite comfort food, and sparkling cranberry punch were served at a warm and simple public reception in the lobby of the auditorium after the ceremony.
According to Robin Roy Gress, secretary of the IU Board of Trustees, President McRobbie's inaugural on Oct. 18, 2007, also will be tailored to his personality and preferences. And tradition will be maintained. "The inauguration ceremony will pay honor to the office, while taking an approach that is reasonable in today's times," Gress said.
For McRobbie's inauguration, nine presidents of Indiana universities and colleges will lead the procession, which will begin in Wildermuth Intramural Center, where upwards of 400 participants will don full academic regalia, head down Seventh Street and circle Showalter Fountain before entering the IU Auditorium, its arrival announced by the IU Herald Trumpters. Delegates from at least 10 international universities will join the procession to march with those from various U.S. universities and colleges, learned societies, national organizations and foundations. Two-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Sylvia McNair, senior lecturer at the IU Jacobs School of Music, will solo with the IU Philharmonic Orchestra. The Honorable Becky Skillman, lieutenant governor of the state of Indiana, will offer remarks from the state, and The Honorable Mark Kruzan, mayor of the city of Bloomington, will likewise extend the best wishes of the city. Stephen L. Ferguson, president of the Trustees of Indiana University, will conduct the actual investiture of Michael A. McRobbie as the 18th president of Indiana University. Laurie Burns McRobbie, IU's first lady, will assist in affixing the the Jewel and Chain of Office to her husband's robe. On the Fine Arts Plaza just outside of the IU Auditorium, "Celebrate IU" sugar cookies and butter mints, along with apple cider, will be served at a public reception immediately following the ceremony.