Ann Weaver Hart inaugurated as first female president of UA
A procession of UA faculty dressed in their academic regalia proceeded into the generously filled auditorium in Centennial Hall at 3 p.m. sharp on Friday.
The group included UA faculty members, government officials, state institution administrators and student leaders, all in attendance to welcome Ann Weaver Hart, the university’s 21st president.
The daylong inauguration culminated with a two-hour ceremony, which featured more than a dozen speeches, four musical performances and a handful of standing ovations to commemorate what some described as a “changing of the guard” for the university.
“It has been an exhilarating day, filled with warm welcomes from students, faculty and staff and mutual leadership,” said interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Andrew Comrie, who also served as the master of ceremonies.
The event kicked off with a number of speeches from government officials, including Gov. Jan Brewer, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. Brewer spoke about the history of Arizona universities, addressing their role in contributing to the state’s economy.
“Dr. Hart, we know you are the right person to serve at the helm of the University of Arizona and to help realize this important vision,” she said.
During Rothschild’s speech, he addressed Hart’s position as the university’s first female president, mentioning similar milestones in her past years of academic leadership. Hart was also the first female president of Temple University, and Rothschild reminded her that she now resides in the hometown of the first Arizona congresswoman, Isabella Greenway.
“In Tucson, we like our glass ceilings broken,” Rothschild said.
Student leaders also gave speeches during the ceremony, beginning with Katy Murray, the president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Katy Murray.
“It is my distinct honor, privilege and absolute delight to officially welcome you into your position,” Murray said, adding that the UA is “incredibly lucky” to have Hart to learn from and look up to.
Zachary Brooks, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, also welcomed Hart to the university after recognizing that the two of them had attended the same junior high school in Salt Lake City.
“Walk into a building in Tucson or Phoenix and you are likely to find Dr. Hart working to make the University of Arizona great throughout the state, from Nogales, Tucson and Tempe,” Brooks said.
Hart’s own, 13-page inaugural address was saved until the end of the ceremony, in which she described the recession’s effects on state education and her goals for the university, which included advancing technological innovations and the university as a land-grant institution.
Hart issued a series of “calls to action” to the regents, faculty, administrators and students to overcome financial burdens and optimize university resources.
“I call upon all of you to commit yourselves to the University of Arizona in new ways, for you may never know just how far the of your influence will reach,” Hart said as her speech drew to a close. “And, as we love and forever treasure the diversity of thinking and knowing nurtured in our past, let us see that richness to shape the future and ask ourselves, ‘What will our conduct produce?’”
Following the ceremony, a reception was held on the lawn in front of the Arizona State Museum, which featured performances by the Pride of Arizona marching band and a meet-and-greet with Hart. Some faculty who had joined the procession said they were pleased with the ceremony, and optimistic about Hart’s future at the UA.
“I was very excited to be here,” said Richard Snodgrass, a professor of computer science. “[Hart] brings a lot of energy and passion, it’s a very exciting time.”
Victor Baker, a regents’ professor of hydrology and water resources, planetary sciences and geosciences, came to the ceremony dressed in his academic regalia. Baker said in his 30 years at the university, this was the first inaugural procession he had attended.
“It’s an important time for this university, it’s an important time for all universities,” Baker said. “As President Hart pointed out, the environment for all universities is certainly changing … it’s certainly a time for innovative ideas and I think that’s partly behind President Hart’s statements.”
As the interim president who sought to prepare the university for a new leader, Eugene Sander agreed that Hart was a good addition, and Friday’s ceremony gave her a chance to showcase her goals.
“[The ceremony] gave Ann an opportunity to lay out her view of the future,” he said. “It surely made me feel very good because my goal last year was to prepare the place for a great new leader, and I think we were able to do all of those things.”
Sander wasn’t the only former president to wish Hart the best for her time in office. Former President Robert Shelton also spoke highly of the ceremony, adding that it had been reminiscent of his own time at the UA.
“It’s a wonderful event, of course,” he said. “I thought President Hart spoke beautifully, very impassioned, and of course, it’s a bit of nostalgia. I think it’s important to celebrate transitions in life. In our society … we’re so goal-oriented — we’re so oriented in completing our task that we complete it and then we move right on to the next, and we don’t take time to celebrate the meaning and the importance of it, and I think that’s what this was all about.”