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Last modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Inaugural facts: cookies, speeches and what to wear

During the week of Michael A. McRobbie's inauguration as Indiana University's 18th president, much will be written about the history of inaugural tradition, McRobbie's background and the schedule of events, but quirky, interesting and fun facts and topics may be overlooked. Here are just a few items from the "everything you ever wanted to know" category that might otherwise be missed.

What's in a name?

Inauguration? Installation? Investiture? According to Etiquette and Protocol: A Guide for Campus Events, the term "inauguration" is used in a university setting to refer to the series of events planned in celebration of the installation of a new president. The "installation" is the actual moment the new president assumes the articles of office. The ceremony itself is an "investiture."

Looking beyond academic etiquette, dictionaries generally define "inauguration" as a means to make a formal beginning, to initiate, commence or start, and it signifies an introduction into public use by some formal ceremony -- to be formally installed.

Likewise, "investiture" is a formal bestowal, confirmation or presentation of rank or of a possessory or prescriptive right. It usually involves the giving of insignia or official title. Investiture is the state of being invested as with a garment, quality or office, and it can also be that which covers or adorns.

Reference books refer to "installation" as the act or instance of installing, or the process or an instance of being installed.

The inaugural address

The inaugural address is an opportunity to formally introduce the new president to the community and to provide a platform for the new leader to present his or her vision for the university. Some visions require longer speeches than others. Andrew Wylie, the first president of IU, spoke for an hour in 1829 and the script, printed out, would be about 27 pages. On the other end is the three-paragraph address by IU's seventh president, David Starr Jordan, in 1885. At his investiture ceremony, Michael A. McRobbie, IU's 18th president, is expected to speak in the neighborhood of 35 minutes.

Event planning 101

Universities often hold the inauguration of presidents months after he or she actually takes office. A frequently-asked question regarding university inaugurations of presidents is, "Why is the ceremony held so long after the new president starts his job?" Several factors influence scheduling.

Since an inauguration is to be, at least in part, a reflection of the new president's personality and preferences, event and ceremony planners need time to become acquainted with the new person in order to determine what the details of the ceremony should be.

The inauguration also is an opportunity for the new president to offer his or her vision for the university. The new president needs time to get to know his or her new university -- what its current organization might be, what challenges it faces, its strengths and weaknesses, for example -- in order to build a vision.

There is also the university's calendar of events to consider. An inauguration generally doesn't take place too near another official ceremony, such as a December or May commencement; nor close to holidays, which rules out November because of Thanksgiving, December because of Christian and Jewish holidays, and March and/or April because of Easter and Passover. Other major events on campus complicate the issue further. March is undesirable because of spring break and the possibility of NCAA basketball tournament participation. A late April inauguration would conflict with Little 500 on the IU Bloomington campus.

Finally, in its introduction, "General Advice to the Neophytes," the 1969 book A Guide to Academic Protocol emphasizes allowing enough time to plan a proper event. Author Mary Kemper Gunn suggests minimum times required to prepare for certain events. A reception or tea requires six weeks; a lecture, two months; a commencement, four months; and, she says, an installation requires "six months (a year would be better)."

Michael A. McRobbie assumed the IU presidency on July 1, so his investiture is occurring relatively soon thereafter for several reasons. First, he is no stranger to IU. He came to the Bloomington campus 10 years ago, tasked by then-President Myles Brand to make the university a leader "in absolute terms for uses and applications of IT." Secondly, many visitors, and invited guests and dignitaries already were planning a visit to Bloomington for "Celebrate IU" week. Adding the inauguration of a new president to a full week of celebration -- which includes the usual Homecoming festivities, various exhibits and concerts, the dedication of Simon Hall and two unveilings: the cornerstone for the new Hutton Honors College and a new bust of former IU President Herman B Wells at the Herman B Wells Library -- seemed perfectly appropriate.

Event planning 102

About 8,000 personal invitations have been sent out for Michael A. McRobbie's inauguration, but since it is a celebration for both the university and all of its communities, the general public, in addition to faculty and staff from all campuses, are invited. The formal invitation list was constructed by asking all of the various university communities -- such as IU campuses, deans and administrators, the IU Alumni Association and the IU Foundation -- for submissions.

So, with such open-ended possibilities, how do you know how many people to plan for? You really don't, say the people at IU responsible for planning such events. Apparently, you just expect the unexpected.

After the investiture, everyone is welcome at the reception outside the IU Auditorium around Showalter Fountain, where they will enjoy IU sugar cookies, apple cider and specially packaged butter mints. Robin Gress, secretary of the IU Board of Trustees, has ordered 1,000 sugar cookies from the Indiana Memorial Union's Sugar and Spice Shop, cut with a cookie cutter made in the shape of the "Celebrate IU" logo, then iced and hand-decorated (after baking, of course). Additionally, 10,000 butter mints in wrappers printed with "Celebrate IU" are ready to go (leftovers will be tossed to the crowds during the Homecoming Parade on Friday) and 50 gallons of apple cider from the local Melton's Orchard will be served.

Will that be enough? Those event planners, some of whom have been at it for the past four inaugurations, say they've never run out yet.

What to wear, or the times they are a-changin'

Academic participants in the inaugural ceremony will be dressed in robes whose traditions date back to medieval times. The rest of us have only our own closets to turn to, but Mary Kemper Gunn, in her 1969 A Guide to Academic Protocol, offers advice: "At some time during the planning and preparation for one of the ceremonies described in the foregoing chapters, the question usually comes up: 'What shall I wear?' This is a problem which confronts women almost exclusively, since men, at least until recently, have resigned themselves to a comfortable obscurity in the matter of clothes."

For a daytime ceremony, such as Michael McRobbie's inauguration -- or a commencement, convocation or baccalaureate -- Gunn suggests for ladies a black, figured or lighter "silk" dress or suit. The dress is "usually of simple lines but ornate material." A "feminine hat" and gloves are also suggested.

If questions remain, Gunn writes, "First, if in doubt, underdress rather than overdress ... Second, do not buy a costume that is so 'in' it will be 'out' in a year or less ... Third, know your own figure faults ... Fourth, a few rules about jewelry and good taste. There is an old saying that one piece of jewelry is better than two, two are better than three, and more than three is a Christmas tree ... Fifth, the matter of hat or no hat for daytime events is something of a local option ... Sixth, avoid a conspicuous color if you must make one costume do for many occasions. Do not inspire the comment, 'There's Mrs. Jones in her red dress again.'"

On a very serious note -- the moment of installation

Curt Simic, president and CEO of the Indiana University Foundation, will serve as master of ceremonies at the investiture ceremony. During the actual moment of installation, President of the Trustees of Indiana University Stephen L. Ferguson will say, "Michael A. McRobbie, by the authority vested in me as president of the Trustees of Indiana University, I hereby install you as President of Indiana University." The conferral will be witnessed by five former presidents of IU -- John W. Ryan, Thomas Ehrlich, Myles Brand, Adam W. Herbert and Gerald L. Bepko, who served as interim president between Brand and Herbert -- and the chancellors of all eight IU campuses, with the former presidents standing to the right of Herbert and the chancellors to his left.

Presidential facts

Michael A. McRobbie, a native of Australia, became the 18th president of Indiana University on July 1, 2007, at age 56. The youngest IU president was David Starr Jordan (1884-1891), age 33 at the beginning of his term, and the oldest was John Lathrop (1859-1860), age 60.

The longest term in office as an IU president is William Lowe Bryan at 35 years (1902-1937). Alfred Ryors was president for only six months (1852-1853).

Three of IU's presidents were native-born Hoosiers: Joseph Swain (1893-1902), William Lowe Bryan (1902-1937) and Herman B Wells (1937-1938, acting president; 1938-1962, president; and 1968, interim president).

Five IU presidents were graduates of Indiana University: William Daily (1853-1859), Joseph Swain (1893-1902), William Lowe Bryan (1902-1937), Herman B Wells (1937-1938, acting president; 1938-1962, president; and 1968, interim president) and John W. Ryan (1971-1987).