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ISSUE 120 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/13/2006

Speeches unite past, present

By Andrea Horbinski
Staff Writer

Friday, October 13, 2006

On the evening of last Friday, Oct. 6, St. Olaf College inaugurated David Robert Anderson ’'74 as its eleventh president. The inaugural ceremonies and subsequent reception in the Skoglund Center were attended by students, faculty, the Board of Regents, community members, and religious, civic and collegiate dignitaries.

The ceremony, which featured musical performances by the St. Olaf Band and the St. Olaf Choir, began and ended with an academic procession. Chair of the Board of Regents O. Jay Tomson ’'58 then welcomed the assembly, saying the group had come "to honor St. Olaf’'s past, celebrate today […] and embrace a shining future."

After an invocation by Bishop Harold L. Usgaard, Tomson presented President Anderson to the crowd, and Retired Bishop Glenn W. Nycklemore conducted the actual ceremony of inauguration: Nycklemore asked Anderson if he would lead St. Olaf, to which Anderson replied, "Yes," and then the bishop asked those assembled if they would accept Anderson as "a servant of the living God" and as their leader, to which the crowd replied, "We will."

The presentation of the presidential insignia, the silver medallion which the president wears at all formal events, provided the evening’s only unscripted interlude. Tomson and Regent Addison "Tad" Piper struggled for several minutes to fasten the clasp of the medallion’s chain around Anderson’'s neck with little success. "It isn’'t heavy, is it?" Tomson asked the president at one point, to which Anderson replied, "Not much. It isn’'t hot up here either."

Eventually the two men said "Congratulations," Anderson hoisted the medallion above his head to loud applause, and the trio resumed their seats. While waiting for the Choir to reach its position, Piper was apparently able to fix the clasp, and Anderson wore the medallion for the rest of the evening.

After the Choir led a rendition of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," six speakers conveyed formal greetings to President Anderson and to the community: Bishop Usgaard, Northfield Mayor Lee Lansing, Carleton President Robert Oden, Jr., Alumni Association Board of Directors President Douglas Smith ’'85, Professor Mary Carlsen ’'79, admissions counselor Philana Roberts ’'04, and Student Government Association President Vanessa Witt ’'07. Oden brought the house down at several points in his address, which centered on "the conviction that for all important events […] college presidents are responsible for the weather." At the end of his address, Oden presented Anderson with an umbrella as part of his sure-fire way of assuring good graduation weather. Witt also earned several laughs when she advised Anderson never to eat in Stav Hall at 6 p.m. and to always bring his OLE card.

Following another hymn, Provost and Dean James May introduced the three living former presidents of the college: Melvin George, Mark Edwards, Jr. and Christopher Thomforde, as well as the widow of President Sidney Rand. Former President Thomforde received the most enthusiastic reception from the crowd. May then introduced Professor of English Jonathan Hill, who gave the inaugural address, entitled "Now and Then."

Hill taught Anderson English at St. Olaf, and his address took the form of two communiqués on Anderson'’s behalf, one a recommendation letter written in 1974, the other a salutation to the community in 2006. Hill’'s address earned many laughs from the audience, including the point in the "then" portion of the speech when he remarked presciently that, "Today’'s agitator is tomorrow’'s administrator." In welcoming Anderson home, Hill described those portions of St. Olaf which, he said, have not changed since his departure: "the still, self-composed summit of the campus" and the faculty, which "abides" and which, he said, is ready to work with Anderson "in the present […] to shape the future so that without regret [we] can look back."

Anderson'’s response was the last extended speech of the evening. Anderson began by thanking many people, including students, for attending and went on to say that "from our earliest days we have been more than just another college." Anderson cited the college’s sense of community, which he noted was a "cliché" but real nonetheless, and its roots in the Lutheran variety of Christianity as key elements of St. Olaf’'s distinctive excellence. "Let us be faithful stewards of that distinction," he said.

Anderson closed his speech by declaring that the inauguration itself was a turning point: "No more focus on the new president. Now we focus on the work of the college."

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