Personal Touches Highlight Inauguration

April 5, 2004

Standing at the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church to accept a roar of applause after she finished the presidential oath, Dr. Pamela Fox smiled warmly and humbly.

Her April 2 inauguration as the college’s ninth president married ancient symbols and a look at the future direction of the college. It stressed respect for the college’s history and for new ideas.

“Today’s gathering is about more than any individual or office. The core of the legacy we are celebrating today is the potency and durability of an idea — the transformative power of liberal education and the transformative power of women in the world,” said Dr. Fox, garbed in the brilliant red robe of her alma mater, the University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Fox was officially installed as the college’s leader before an audience of about 700 invited guests, including delegates from nearly 90 colleges and universities. Four former Mary Baldwin presidents, its trustees, faculty, staff, students, college supporters, and representatives of Miami University in Ohio — where Dr. Fox was a professor and dean during two decades there — filled the church to capacity.

“I accept the charge to become the ninth president of Mary Baldwin University with pride, excitement and respect,” she said, after a declaration by Claire Lewis “Yum” Arnold, chair of the Board of Trustees. “I will, to the best of my abilities, dedicate myself to the support, encouragement and maturity of this college so that its community may be nurtured well in mind, body and character.”

It was the moment Dr. Fox had anticipated for exactly a year since her introduction as Mary Baldwin’s next president April 2, 2003, succeeding Dr. Cynthia H. Tyson.

“Mary Baldwin University will be nationally recognized as a leader in providing personalized, transforming liberal education,” she said. “According to this bold vision Mary Baldwin University will be a college like no other. It will be nationally recognized as a model institution because of its distinctive, signature programs offered through a learning community that provides personalized, transforming, liberal education as a foundation for lifelong learning, global citizenship, and the holistic integration of mind, body, and character.”

Before the ceremony began, students crowded into the balcony for a good view of the president they had gotten to know during this academic year.

“It’s college history in the making,” said sophomore Cara Magolda. Her friend, junior Renee Hewitt agreed: “Being here during this ceremony is a story that will stay with us after we’ve graduated from Mary Baldwin.”

In keeping with inaugural tradition, Dr. Fox welcomed greetings from dignitaries and college groups, but it was the final greeting from her family that elicited the most reaction.

“Dr. Fox,” said the president’s husband, Dan Layman, grinning when the crowd broke into laughter at his use of his wife’s official title.

Layman took the stage with two of their nieces, Megan and Rachel Bright, saying “We know the importance of your family’s support in this endeavor you have undertaken, and through the many demands you face, we assure you of your own family’s continuing love and support as you meet the needs of your college family.”

The ceremony also included performances by the Mary Baldwin Choir and a rousing version of “Kum Ba Yah” by the Anointed Voices of Praise student gospel group.

A pianist and music scholar, Dr. Fox etched her signature on the event, adding elements that illuminated her personality and her passion for education and music and world culture.

She chose the West African adinkra symbol of a chain link as the inauguration theme and the foundation of her inaugural address.

The symbol was introduced by Dr. Ronald Crutcher, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Miami and Wheaton College’s next president: “The adinkra chain link symbol conveys a rich variety of meanings related to unity and human relations. Symbolizing unity, responsibility, interdependence, and brotherhood, the linked geometric design relates to the concept of connection and cooperation.”

Fox’s oath of office was written specifically for the ceremony. She was also the first to wear the presidential medallion, a gold-plated pendant and chain of oak leaves and acorns commissioned by the faculty and presented as a gift to the college.

Instrumental and voice solos of music from Germany, Russia, Japan, America, England, Brazil, France, Spain, and an African-American spiritual were woven into the ceremony, too. The afternoon’s concert, “Hands Full of Beauty,” incorporated dancing, drums, a piano, and a saxophone into a celebration of world music, much of it from India.

Professor of Philosophy Roderic Owen, a member of the search committee that helped select Dr. Fox as Mary Baldwin’s president, said the ceremony elaborated on many of the personality traits she hinted at in her interview with the committee. “I appreciated the personal touches, such as including Dr. Crutcher and her other colleagues from Miami, and her husband and relatives,” he said. “She has graciously shared so many facets of her professional and personal life with us.”

“Everyone has a sense that this is a historic moment,” said Dr. Tyson. “This was a superb presentation of the college that reaffirmed the excellence in everything we do here.”

A student dinner the evening before the ceremony, an exhibition of aboriginal art, theatre performances, a faculty recital and fireworks made the inauguration a campus-wide celebration.