While on the phone with my mom following the inauguration ceremony for President Krista Newkirk, I excitedly explained what a rare opportunity it was to attend a presidential inauguration ceremony at the University of Redlands–who is to say when the next one will be? Prior to Newkirk’s arrival in July 2021, former President Ralph Kuncl served the University of Redlands for nine years from 2012 to 2021.
The best word to describe the ceremony is wholesome. Alumni from each graduating year from as early as 1945 proceeded down both aisles of the Memorial Chapel with their class flags. To my right, the class representative of ‘98, Sandra L. Gallagher, paused her march to hold an old friend’s hand in the pew, jumping excitedly at their reunion. To my left, Marcia Wayne Fagan ‘74, dressed in a formal blazer set, waved shyly to the seated woman in a blue crochet scarf in the row in front of me. The chapel was alive with a general hum of reunions and jitters.
A wide range of speakers, both physically present and virtually cast on a projector, spoke about the different ways Newkirk had made impacts on them and what qualities she would bring to the University of Redlands.
The interludes were beautiful, so angelic that Newkirk teared up following the chapel singers’ rendition of Shenandoah. Reflections given varied in representatives and titles: the Honorable Pete Aguilar, representative of the 31st Congressional District of California, and Suzette A. Soboti, the president of Faculty Senate and head coach of the women’s lacrosse and soccer teams. Via pre pre-recorded video of her former colleagues Philip L. Dubois, Chancellor Emeritus of University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Kimberly V. Kent, former chair of the board of trustees at Converse University spoke on her behalf.
The presidential address that followed the praising reflections addressed several groups for which Newkirk is now responsible; she empathized with first-generation students, having been first-generation herself. She extended gratitude to her family and mentors for being key players in her success. She stated that as president, she plans to continue building the university’s relationship with the Serrano people on whose land we reside, as they are also fundamental to the continuing success of the University of Redlands.
With only blinking eyes and smiles hidden behind masks to glimpse at, Newkirk reflected on the pandemic we lived through and the isolation that came from it. In a polarized political climate, Newkirk noted students are eager for ethical leadership, an allusion to the turbulent political climate the country has endured for the past few years. It will be through collective wisdom that Newkirk and fellow administrators will make decisions that are student-centered, Newkirk stated.
“I know that the heart of any university is its people. And the University of Redlands has wonderful, talented, brilliant people who are passionate about the education and success of our students…I cherish the trust you have bestowed upon me as the 12th president of the University of Redlands. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working alongside you as we build our future together. Thank you, and go Bulldogs.”
As alumni, students, faculty, and guests shuffled out, the snow we had only seen blanketing the mountains drifted down upon the chapel lawn.
Feature photo contributed by Bulldog photographer Michael Driscoll.