Photographer: Ben SiegelBoard of Trustees members Janetta King (left) and David Scholl (right) place the Seal of Office around Dr. Nellis' neck during the ceremony
The Ohio University Board of Trustees welcomed delegates from higher education institutions around the world to campus Wednesday afternoon as students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of Ohio University gathered in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium to install Dr. M. Duane Nellis as its 21st President.
Higher education delegates, Ohio University faculty, and members of the Platform Party, all wearing traditional, academic regalia, processed from Baker University Center to the Auditorium were greeted with well-wishers. Their pathway, which culminated on the College Green, was lined with 102 flags for all the countries represented by Ohio University students, set against a backdrop of autumn foliage on a beautiful, sunny fall day.
The arrival of the Ceremonial Mace marked the beginning of the ceremony and it was displayed, just as it is for all official Ohio University ceremonies the President presides over, on the stage. The investiture ceremony included greetings from members of all five of the University’s senates and an original inauguration poem written and presented by Ohio University Lancaster professor and three-time Ohio University alumnus Dr. Scott Minar.
Honored guest and keynote speaker, Dr. Kamlesh Lulla, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed NASA chief scientist, spoke about his more than 35-year relationship with Dr. Nellis.
“As young professors we collaborated on research projects and organized professional workshops, symposia and special sessions at various conferences,” Dr. Lulla said. “Our paths diverged in 1988, when I was invited to join NASA’s Johnson Space Center and he continued to pursue his academic career, but our friendship continued and our professional collaboration grew stronger.”
Dr. Lulla said he admires Dr. Nellis for his love of discovery and passion for learning, his commitment to diversity and inclusion and his unwavering support of his friends and family.
“You have in Dr. Nellis a visionary who has the leadership experience to lead Ohio University to even greater heights of achievements, not only for this generation of learners, but also for the future generations who will shape the destiny of our nation,” Dr. Lulla said.
Chair King and Board Secretary David Moore officiated the swearing-in of President Nellis.
Board of Trustees Vice Chair Dave Scholl then presented the official seal of office to Dr. Nellis, representing the authority of his office and is worn for all official University occasions.
President Emeritus Charles Ping presented the charter of Ohio University to Dr. Nellis, reminding him, “Possession of this charter identifies you, as it did each of your 20 predecessors, as the steward of the University’s past, and the architect of its future.”
After taking the official oath of office, Dr. Nellis outlined his strategic pathways for the University and shared his plans for Ohio University’s future. These strategic pathways were developed following a listening tour that began when he began his official role on June 12. The listening tour included visits to all regional and extension campuses, every college, and meetings with faculty, staff, students, state and U.S. government officials, alumni, and friends of Ohio University. The strategic pathways he outlined included:
- Becoming a national leader for diversity and inclusion. In support of this goal, President Nellis announced that the chief diversity position at the University has been elevated from vice provost to vice president for diversity and inclusion. He said the new title comes with additional support and recognition and will help define the University as a national model in this area. “We must establish an environment where difference in all of its forms is welcomed and celebrated,” President Nellis said.
- Creating an expanded University-wide Honors Program by elevating the student recruitment programs, academic success programs, initiatives to enhance teaching and the overall academic quality of the University. President Nellis said he will look for fresh ways to create more opportunities for student engagement and learning. He called the University’s Honors Tutorial College (HTC) a hallmark for engaged learning. He announced that he has created a task force that will be charged with developing a pathway to a sustainable, robust and expanded University-wide Honors Program that will not replace HTC, but complement and enrich the University’s ability to attract the best and brightest students.
- Building a University engagement ecosystem. President Nellis said the University can be a model for being a positive catalyst of economic and quality of life change for Appalachia. He announced that the new Engagement Office will report to the executive vice president and provost and build upon the work of the Center for Campus and Community Engagement. “We must lead through helping to coordinate work with communities in our region to develop approaches that look to a new and sustainable economy through innovation and other strategic support,” President Nellis said.
- Becoming a place where dialogue and rigorous, civil debate are institutional hallmarks. President Nellis said he would do that by creating a campus-wide lecture series around difficult dialogues, which he will call “The OHIO Challenging Dialogues on Contemporary Issues.” He said he will work with the University Foundation to identify funds to support the series that he hopes will attract activism, thought-provoking dialogue and debate and affirm the University’s commitment to intellectual diversity.
In addition to these four strategic pathways, Dr. Nellis identified ten strategic priorities that he believes will build upon Ohio University’s strengths and include.
- Strengthening global engagement efforts
- Supporting the outstanding faculty and staff of Ohio University by investing in them
- Enhancing graduate student stipends and related benefits
- Strengthening the University’s public service mission
- Incentivizing interdisciplinary collaborations
- Seeking a more robust OHIO Online Engaged Learning enterprise
- Enhancing the campus infrastructure and ensure a sustainable financial model
- Enhancing the University’s national position as a leading edge laboratory for sustainability
- Taking our branding and marketing efforts to greater heights by finding new, strategic, consistent, and rhetorically powerful ways to talk about the University
- Strategically reconnecting with the University’s 232,000-strong alumni base
Dr. Nellis concluded his address with gratitude and humility for the legacy he inherited, “one that started some 213 years ago on the frontier of a vast wilderness.”
“I challenge all of you to work with me in shared governance in the years ahead as we take this shining star on the banks of the Hocking River to new levels of national and international prominence,” President Nellis said.
He expressed a sense of urgency to get this right no matter the challenges and barriers.
“As an institution of teaching, learning, research and service, we have an obligation to future generations. The new world of Ohio University starts here,” President Nellis said. “We must succeed and be the model, not only for our nation, but the generations that will come after us.”
Board Chair King concluded the ceremony with enthusiasm for Ohio University’s future. She said, “This marks the conclusion of the investiture ceremony, but the beginning of an even brighter future at Ohio University.”
More information about Inauguration Week can be found at www.ohio.edu/inauguration.
Photographer: Ben SiegelDr. M. Duane Nellis greets the crowd during the pre-investiture parade on College Green
Photographer: Ben SiegelDr. M. Duane Nellis pledges to faithfully execute and discharge the duties of the Office of the President during the ceremony