With a ceremonial mace, traditional robes and a ritualized march, yesterday's ceremony may have looked more like the coronation of a medieval queen than the inauguration of Penn's eighth president, Amy Gutmann.
Even though the traditional procession down Locust Walk was canceled because of inclement weather, the ceremony was consistent with a show from the Middle Ages. President Gutmann was greeted and welcomed into her new leadership role by friends, members of the Penn community and several dignitaries, or delegates, from other academic institutions and societies from across the country.
The dignitaries who honored Gutmann at her inauguration yesterday -- including Princeton President Shirley Tilghman and administrators from other Ivy League and Pennsylvania institutions -- are members of academia's most elite societys and groups.
"The delegates are there representing their own institutions and their support of Dr. Gutmann," says Alison McGhie, coordinator of special projects for the Office of the University Secretary. "They are symbolically greeting her into the community of higher learning."
And indeed, the approximately 125 delegates represent a wide array of academic interests, including universities, scholarly groups and learned societies.
"The delegates really represent the highest level of learning of almost every discipline," says Deanna Kamler, who works in the Secretary's Office. "They are Ivy League presidents, representatives of societies like the American Historical Association and American Philosophical Society, plus about 12 of Dr. Gutmann's personal friends."
Although the delegates' participation in the inauguration is primarily of symbolic value to demonstrate moral support and encouragement for their colleague, the inclusion of delegates has nevertheless become enshrined in tradition, and is now a vital part of any collegiate inauguration ceremony in the United States.
The delegates enhance the ceremony's symbolic nature by showing off their own institutions' traditional colors and crests and by bringing with them formal greetings. They presented Gutmann with leather-bound certificates that officially welcome Gutmann into the community of higher learning.
"Although delegates show support by their presence and serve more of a symbolic role, at a greater level, the delegates are important because they link all colleges and universities together," says Diane-Louise Wormley, the delegate who represented Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the procession.
"The inauguration of a president is a very special event in the life of a University. It's a universal proces s, and delegates participate in each and every ceremony, representing peer institutions. There are so many colleges and universities all across the country, and we're all so different, but this is one thing we have in common."
She added, "The delegates are the bond which tie Penn to every other college in the country."Comments powered by Disqus
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