Kent Syverud inaugurated as new SU chancellor

Syracuse University officially installed its 12th president in a day full of activities and orange spirit.

Syracuse University officially gained a new leader earlier today when Dr. Kent Syverud was inaugurated as the university’s 12th Chancellor.

The day was jam-packed with activities, beginning with a 1.2-mile run around campus. 500 students, faculty and staff joined Syverud in his morning run. The festivities included an academic symposium, the Fast Forward competition showcase and a campus celebration.

"Great Universities in the Next 25 Years"

In the half-packed Setnor Auditorium, faculty, students and community members patiently waited for the panelists to arrive for a discussion about “Great Universities in the Next 25 Years.”

The panelists were: Cathryn R. Newton, an earth science professor; Jim Boeheim, Syracuse’s men’s basketball coach; J. Michael Haynie; director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families; Michael Speaks; dean of the School of Architecture, Shiu Kai- Chin; an electrical engineering professor; George Saunders, an English professor; and Marcelle Haddix; an assistant professor and program director of English Education. They spoke about a number of topics linked to the university.

Ann Clarke, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, hosted the event. When the discussion began, she asked questions related to each panelist’s academic field. In Boeheim’s case, she asked about the athletic department. “I’m sure, I’m the least academically qualified,” Boeheim said.

The questions directed at Boeheim focused on Syracuse basketball and the integration of academics and athletics for student athletes. Boeheim addressed many stereotypes of college athletes, even telling stories of his own experiences as a former college athlete.

He also gave examples of some of his former players who either graduated early or excelled academically.

“I was not a great student, but I did graduate,” Boeheim said about his days as a student athlete, with chuckles resonating throughout the auditorium. He made sure to explain that being a college athlete and studying academically must go hand in hand. “ We're not about coming to play basketball,” Boeheim said. “We’re here to play basketball and get an education.”

Professor J. Michael Haynie, who spoke next, pinpointed some of the key reasons why it is vital for both military personal and college campuses to have military presence. Haynie, drawing from his own experiences, said, “the [military] experience made us better.” He said promoting higher education for military officials guarantees dynamic leadership and mature adults who are already advanced in other things.

The symposium continued in the same fashion until the last panelist answered questions. Professor Marcelle Haddix, the last speaker of the evening, addressed the topic of diversity and its fundamental importance on college campuses. “Diversity can no longer be on the margins. It can’t be an add-on, or set to the side,” Haddix said. For her, diversity and making a difference in someone’s life are connected. In order to understand a student prior to their acceptance into an institution, there needs to be work done in finding out their history and community amongst other things. “Students should come here and feel a sense of transformation,” Haddix said.

At the end of the symposium, audience members were given the floor to ask panelists questions.

Mechanical engineering freshman Andrew Farrell said he was in good spirits after the talk. “It interested me because of all the diverse group of people up there,” he said. “And being an engineer, I was interested to see what the electrical engineer would say about technological advances.” Farrell said that the academic symposium surpassed his standards.

Formal ceremony shows Syverud's commitment to SU

Students, faculty and guests in Hendricks Chapel, waiting for the ceremony to begin, said they felt as if they were in a dream. They were witnessing history.

Though the event was momentous, Syverud didn’t walk the red carpet. In true SU fashion, he walked the orange carpet. Laid out on Hendricks’s steps, the carpet was only one of many spots of orange throughout the day. The faculty’s robes, some mostly orange and others mostly blue, stuck out among the pews of Hendricks Chapel. Blue and orange scattered throughout the audience, mostly in shirt and tie combinations. And after the ceremony, students and faculty mingled around tables draped in orange cloths, drank orange punch, and ate cakes garnished with Syracuse University seals – printed in orange – on chocolate medallions.

All of this orange and blue did more than remind people of its importance in Syracuse. It reminded them that Chancellor Syverud, once loyal to Georgetown, is now an “orange bleeder.” It is a term Syverud has used many times since he joined the SU community in January. Students have become used to hearing it in the opening line of his weekly emails: “Dear Orange Bleeders…” 

Rachel Martin, a psychology sophomore, said that she is excited to get those emails. When she reads them, she knows Syverud cares about the little things. “He doesn’t just care about Syracuse as a whole,” she said. “He cares about the inner workings too.”

Syverud’s care for people in SU, and in general, became a theme during his inauguration ceremony. Boris Gresley, president of the Student Association, said in his welcoming address that he has had a chance to speak with the Chancellor. “He has been kind enough to actually attend a Student Association meeting,” Gresley said. He, like Martin, is impressed that Syverud is “continuously interacting” with students, faculty and staff.

Though Syverud has shown how deeply he cares about SU students, he said in his speech for everyone to remember that, “Syracuse University is not about you – it is about the pursuit of truth.” More so, he said, it is about what greatness the pursuit of truth can unleash in you, your friends, the community and the world.

Suzanne Baldwin, an earth science professor who also touched on Syverud’s care for SU in her welcoming speech, may have pointed toward a truth Chancellor Syverud has been seeking for the last few months — the truth of Syracuse University. “We’ve been tremendously impressed in how you’ve immersed yourself in University life,” she said to Syverud.

During his speech, Syverud said that he doesn’t mind when people tell him, “we don’t do it like that at Syracuse University.” He understands that he may not know the community and customs of SU as well as others, but he’s trying. Baldwin pulled out two examples of Syverud’s commitment to getting to know SU. In December, before his job had officially begun, Syverud stayed in Brewster, Boland, Brockway —commonly known as BBB—for 10 days to experience residence life at SU. This morning, he invited the entire student body for a run at 6:30 a.m. These examples of Syverud’s commitment to Syracuse and its students stood out to Baldwin, who said that she is “confident that [he] will achieve greatness here.”

But Syverud is more concerned with SU achieving greatness. Just as he said that Syracuse University wasn’t about us, Syverud said his mother would tell him that today wasn’t about him – today was about Syracuse University. He asked for a moment of silence to allow us to think about everyone who had ever pushed us to be better. Those people, he said, would want us to believe in the university and aim high. He said they “expect more of us. And so do you. And so do I.”

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, the last in a long line of people who spoke about how much Syverud cares, knows well how committed he is to the University and its people. As his former mentor, she said that Syverud is “a good listener, and a good doer.” After spending time on campus today, she said, “Kent and the University are a great match.” This is illustrated, she said, by the weather. When Syverud walked onto that orange carpet, O’Conner said she saw the clouds part and let down “a great burst of sunshine.”

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