Before Memorial Auditorium fills with seniors, families and friends to send graduates off into the world, the facility will be flooded with Cobbers new and old to welcome someone new. On April 28, President William Craft’s inauguration will be held in conjunction with Founders Day Weekend.
“Inaugurations are a milestone for a college,” said Tracey Moorhead, senior associate to the president, in a November interview. “It’s a two-way thing – how we greet that leader and pledge our support, and how that leader shares what he has learned, what our potential is and where we want to take our institution.”
Each inauguration is different and is based on the ideas that president has for the future of the institution. Craft’s first year at Concordia has included the implementation of multiple new positions and projects, in addition to laying the framework for many more, and each of these will be incorporated into the weekend in some way to show the campus community what his vision for Concordia is. Additionally, Craft’s first year has held countless conversations and events during which he has gotten to know students, and his inaugural weekend will reflect these relationships in the form of an Inaugural Ball.
The weekend’s events start Friday with chapel followed by an introduction to the Forum on Faith and Life at 10:45 a.m. and the Founders Day Banquet at 6 p.m.
“We want everybody on campus to have the ability to get a better understanding of what is going on on our campus,” Moorhead said.
Seminar: “Liberal Arts in a Global Age”
Craft will host a Saturday morning seminar called “Liberal Arts in a Global Age,” which will include a campus-wide discussion about the definition of liberal arts and where the college wants to go in the future. Panelists John Churchill, the secretary of Phi Beta Kappa, and Earl Lewis, the provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Emory University, will offer their findings about the future of liberal arts to be further considered.
“You need outside eyes and knowing what is going on in other places to further understand where we are and where we are headed,” Moorhead said.
This seminar will be based off of the conversations Craft had with students, alumni, faculty and staff from last fall through January about where they see Concordia going. It will also incorporate Craft’s findings from the forums he held in March to discuss the framework his previous conversations provided.
“Concordia has had 120 years of liberal arts,” Moorhead said. “We are taking the tradition and what is strongly valued and asking what it will look like for the college in the future. The whole world has changed, and we are engaged in the whole world like we didn’t used to be.”
Craft’s first year has focused on building connections between every piece of Concordia’s campus, finding ways that they all work together for liberal arts.
The inauguration ceremony will build on these connections as faculty, students, alumni and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will join in to congratulate Craft on the success of his first year.
At the beginning and between speakers and choral performances, Communications professor Hank Tkachuk has created a video presentation that will incorporate greetings and congratulations from six international students on behalf of their home countries.
“Dr. Craft has regularly talked about how he believes international education is where our future should be and that we should remain committed to international education,” Tkachuk said.
Tkachuk proposed the series of 30- to 40-second video clips as a way to smoothly transition through the inauguration while offering a global perspective to the event. Each of the students – representing Norway, China, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Germany and Madagascar – will read the same Martin Luther quote that will soon be incorporated into the International Center.
“I doubt there is anybody who opposes global education,” Tkachuk said, “but the question is how and in what way. I expect that people will be interested in this connection.”
Craft will also present a speech discussing the findings of his first year at Concordia and what he plans to do to lead Concordia through the years ahead.
“It really symbolizes the beginning of an era,” Moorhead said in November. “It is a moment in time when a new president can state his agenda and start talking about the strengths of an institution and where those strengths will take us in the future.”
Residence Life, the Office of Student Success and Concordia Entertainment Commission have teamed up to plan a formal Inaugural Ball at 9 p.m. after the inauguration Saturday. This event, which is open to the entire campus community, was planned specifically as a way to incorporate students into the celebration more.
“It is a celebration for all of the constituents of the college,” Moorhead said. “It is a celebration of who we are and where we are headed. Students are a huge part of that – how they choose to celebrate is exciting.”
Both President and Anne Craft will be in attendance to the formal dance, and there will be a first dance for the couple and a live cutout of the Craft’s in a photo booth for students to take pictures with. Students will be invited to take part in a dollar dance – Monopoly dollars, that is – during which they will have the chance to dance with Craft himself. In addition, they will serve mini pies, which are Craft’s favorite food.
“When I told them about my ideas, they mostly laughed and said ‘Oh, AJ,’” said senior Anna ‘AJ’ Johnson, the CEC co-commissioner. “They then said they were definitely in.”
Craft’s family will also be in town for the weekend and will be in attendance to the event. Invitations will be delivered to students’ campus mailboxes this week.
“Without students, we wouldn’t have a college,” Johnson said. “I hope that this will be a main event that students will feel is put on just for them as a way for them to focus on celebrating their new president.”