On Thursday, September 22, 2016, I had the honor and privilege of attending the Duquesne University President’s Inauguration. You may think it’s odd that I was there, considering I have absolutely no connection to Duquesne whatsoever, and in fact, before that day, I had never actually even been on Duquesne’s campus. This opportunity came about for me, when I got an email from someone at the University of Delaware’s Alumni office, saying that UD’s President, Dr. Dennis Assanis, had been invited to this Inauguration, but he was unable to attend – since I am the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club President, would I like to represent him instead?
Absolutely. My first thought was that it would be a great networking opportunity, but also, if nothing else, it would be a unique experience on its own.
So the University of Delaware sent me what I believe is PhD regalia to wear for the occasion, as well as a snuggy UD blanket as a thank-you gift, and promised more information as the event moved closer.
One week out, I still hadn’t received any more information. All I knew was the date and approximate time, but I wasn’t sure where to go or what was happening. I reached back out to my UD contact and she told me she had a new position at the University and didn’t have any info, but would pass my message on to the right person. I then got an email from a much more helpful UD staff member who was able to RSVP to Duquesne for me and send me all the information I needed. Thank you, Kristen. Unfortunately, since my RSVP was so late, that meant that my name wouldn’t be printed in the program. Oh well.
On the day of the Inauguration, I showed up fantastically early. I’m all about not being late and I overdid it a bit. I was so focused on being able to find parking and walking across an unfamiliar campus that I overshot my timing. I was totally cool with it though.
When I arrived, I wasn’t the first person there, and other university representatives trickled in for the next hour or so. Most of them were like me – graduates of their respective colleges who lived or worked in the area, and some had a connection to Duquesne, but not all. There were a few local University Presidents, recognizable by their fancier garb and gold medallions swinging from their necks. You could also see an air of comfortable authority emanating from each President.
What was astounding and hilarious to me, was the fact that none of the professors, PhD’s, students, or representatives knew how to properly fit and adjust the hood on their regalia. I was erroneously worried that I would be the only one there who wasn’t sure how the hood was supposed to hang, however I quickly realized that every person there was guessing just as I was. There were one or two people who seemed to have a bit more experience and everyone soon started pointing them out to each other. “She’ll adjust it for you, she fixed mine, she knows what she’s doing.”
When we were robed and hooded and capped, we lined up in their seemingly arbitrary order that they had put us in and got ready to walk in the procession across campus. I was positioned between the representative from Yale and the representative from Columbia. In the front row. Nothing was alphabetical, no rhyme or reason, just UD smashed between the Ivy Leagues. Yale also was a professor in the law school at Duquesne and Columbia worked in insurance and financial planning.
“Yes, Hi, I got my undergraduate at UD and I work in digital media. They gave me this PhD robe and I’m a fraud.”
No, I didn’t say that. But later that night, a man did rudely call me a fraud after he asked what the stripes on my robe meant and I told him I wasn’t sure because I didn’t actually get my PhD. Probably trying to joke, but it wasn’t very funny.
The President’s Inauguration was an event that was dripping in rituals and oozing tradition. From the regalia that everyone was required to wear, to the bagpipes, the procession, the gold scepter held to announce the beginning and end of the ceremony, the “Greetings,” the “Interlude” performances, and the medallions engraved with past Presidents, passed on through the years to each successor.
The procession felt like a parade. Students, sports teams, parents, alumni, and kids were all out, lining the walkway and waving signs saying “Gormley 2016.” They were cheering and taking pictures. I felt proud to represent the University of Delaware, not that anyone there knew that or knew who I was.
As I mentioned, I was in the first row at the Inauguration, staring up at the stage full of extremely smart, talented, gifted individuals who help to build and run the fine Duquesne University. I was seated among academics, businessmen, professors, many lawyers (since the new President taught at the law school), the Rooney family who founded and owns the Steelers, the Lieutenant Governor, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, state politicians, faculty from Harvard and Pitt and countless others. I felt like I was among the elite, esteemed individuals who have done great things and will go on to do more great things. It was both inspiring and intimidating.
The Inauguration ceremony was a bit long – about two hours – but for the number of speakers they had, it went surprisingly fast. We listened to words of congratulations and encouragement, we heard orchestra, chorus and jazz ensembles, we watched a brief video about the history of the university, we stood and clapped for the promise of a university President who is expected to continue the greatness of a school in Pittsburgh that contributes to economic growth and development in our city and beyond. Again, very inspiring.
After the ceremony and the quick recessional, we were invited to enjoy food and drinks at the Inauguration Gala in the Union Ballroom.
It was overall a very interesting experience, and I was happy to be a part of it. It made me wish I could have attended our own UD President’s Inauguration – our President is also new this year and it would have been fun to welcome him to my own alma mater.