“Hobart and William Smith have a history of taking chances and being bold,” said HWS President Gregory J. Vincent ’83 as he outlined his vision for the Colleges’ future during his inaugural address.
During his standing-room-only Presidential Inauguration at Trinity Church in Geneva, Vincent reflected on the legacy of the pioneering students, faculty and graduates who have had incredible achievements during the course of their lives. He said the Colleges “gave us opportunities to soar, and then rewarded us for daring to dream big and for making our dreams a reality. … I learned that being bold means questioning the status quo, looking beyond my own perspectives and engaging in serious inquiry.”
Vincent’s investiture as the 27th president of Hobart College and the 16th of William Smith College was met with a resounding standing ovation. Guests and delegates from other colleges and universities across North America joined HWS faculty, staff and students, as well as alumni, alumnae and parents, HWS President Emeritus Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17, and many of the Colleges’ community partners in celebrating Vincent’s installation. The ceremony also included a rendition of “America the Beautiful” performed by Director of the HWS Gospel Chior Patrisha A. Blue ’77 and the Alma Maters by the Colleges’ Cantori.
Vincent, who began his term on July 17, described “four pillars of effort that I strongly believe will give us the additional resources and motivation necessary to take our place among the best colleges in the country.” Those areas of focus include a multi-faceted, relevant and comprehensive student experience; a deepened engagement within, among and beyond the broad HWS community; a market smart and mission driven approach to the Colleges’ financial responsibilities; and the elevation of inclusive excellence and diversity as a key strategic priority.
In his welcome during the ceremony, Chair of the Board of Trustees Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68 described the “swiftly evolving” landscape of higher education, with its “great challenges and great opportunities.” Bozzuto and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Cynthia Gelsthorpe Fish ’82 officially installed Vincent as President of the Colleges. Bozzuto expressed confidence from the Board, noting “…there is no one better to help us navigate this future than Greg Vincent. In the short time he has been here, Greg has set forth aggressive plans for, among other things, student access and student success, community engagement and our financial strength. Greg has a bold vision that will take these, our beloved Colleges, to new heights.”
During his address, Vincent acknowledges his wife, Kim Wilson Vincent, his family, and his parents, Cyril and Gloria, who were all in the audience. He credited his parents for giving him three priceless gifts: unconditional love, a love of reading and a church home. Vincent also recognized the Rev. Dr. Alger L. Adams ’32, D.D. ’83 the first African-American man to receive a degree from Hobart, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Alger’s daughter Patricia attended the ceremony.
Professor Emeritus of German and Former Dean of Hobart College Clarence E. Butler L.H.D. ’06 recalled that as a student at HWS, Vincent was “a young man of impeccable integrity because first and foremost, he knew himself.” Butler said: “He acted on values which required him to live and work not solely for himself, but also on behalf of others.”
Delivering the Faculty Greeting, Senior Dean of Faculty and Professor of Geoscience Nan Crystal Arens offered Vincent the gift of a pineapple, a traditional New England symbol of welcome, and drew an analogy between the fruit and the diverse experiences and points-of-view at work in a collegiate environment.
“If we are not paying attention, we can get stuck on the spines as we try to get to the goodness within,” she said. “Because we lack common points of view, having authentic conversations in diverse communities is difficult. Solving problems in diverse communities is difficult. Yet I believe HWS is ready to have the hard conversations and solve the difficult problems. … As educators, we understand that the most innovative ideas and the best decisions come from a diverse group of leaders. We know that real equality is built on difference not sameness.”
President of the Hobart Alumni Association Frank V. Aloise Jr. ’87 and President of the William Smith Alumnae Association Jane M. Erickson ’07 offered their welcome to Vincent on behalf of the more than 20,000 HWS graduates. HWS Student Trustees Brianna Moore ’18 and Tyler Fuller ’18 also shared passages from poet Sara Tearsdale and from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote “intelligence plus character…is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”
It was at HWS, Vincent said, where such an education was possible for him. “This bold place – Hobart and William Smith – is a physical reminder to each one of us to move into the future with wonder and intent. This bold place – Hobart and William Smith – represents the values we hold dear. This bold place – Hobart and William Smith – inspires us to lead lives of consequence.”
Rev. D. Maurice Charles, Chaplain of the Colleges, and Julianne Miller, Hillel Advisor and Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life, delivered the Invocation. The Benediction was given by the Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and HWS Trustee. The program’s processional music was performed by the Inaugural Ensemble, led by Instructor of Music Yunn-Shan Ma. Professor of Philosophy Scott Brophy ’78, P’12 served as the Colleges’ Marshal.