Introduction of Rebecca Chopp by Barbara Mather '65
It is my great pleasure to introduce Rebecca Chopp to you as we formally "install" her as the 14th president of Swarthmore College. Our installation ceremony follows nearly a year of Rebecca's having already served ably as our president.
It is worth pausing for a moment to consider all that has gone on during this inaugural year. Before she arrived on campus, Rebecca immersed herself in learning about the history of the College, its Quaker roots and traditions, and the values that have guided us for nearly 150 years now. And in the last 10 months, Rebecca has steeped herself in learning still more about our culture and traditions, engaging in an extended Listening Tour that has taken her across the country — and even the world — to learn more about the perspectives of our alumni, parents, and friends.
On campus, she has also met extensively with faculty, students, and staff in order to best understand the on-campus culture of which she is now a part. This deep commitment to understand how traditions evolve directly from a community's values has its origins in the research she conducted while pursuing her doctoral degree at the University of Chicago, where she studied Western intellectual thought.
Rebecca also spent a good bit of time this year helping resolve an $8 million budget shortfall and managed to do so gracefully, effectively, and decisively. Her ability to work collaboratively served her well in this exercise, as she led our community through a sometimes difficult but always forward-looking process. Her most recent prior experience, serving for seven years as Colgate University's president, undoubtedly contributed to her capacity to successfully navigate the complexities of this undertaking. At Colgate, Rebecca presided over the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan followed by the most successful fundraising campaign in the school's history, well on its way to its $400 million goal. She will begin to lead a similar direction — setting exercise for Swarthmore in the coming months.
Prior to her leadership role at Colgate, Rebecca also served as dean and Titus Street Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and as provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Emory University. While at Yale and Emory, Rebecca strengthened her commitment to build communities that are diverse and deliberative, applying her training in and commitment to progressive movements in the U.S. and around the world.
A well-known scholar of religion and American culture, Rebecca has been widely published and has recently focused her research on changing structures and cultures of higher education, on the role of liberal arts in a democratic society, and on religion and higher education. Rebecca's interest in common good and civil discourse, which you will hear much more about in a few moments when she delivers her inaugural remarks, grew out of her work on the relationship between democracy and education.
It is customary for the Board of Managers to deliver a "charge" to a new president, so I will close my introduction of Rebecca by sharing with you our thoughts about how she can most effectively lead the College in the coming years.
Rebecca, Swarthmore is a special place, a profound one for those of us who had the good fortune to experience it directly. We urge you to preserve the best of its values even while you imagine and explore the new and as yet unknown possibilities the future holds for us.
Keep the flame of our intellectual engagement burning, the energy of our passion crackling; never lose sight of our desire to contribute both intellect and a sense of the common good to the broader community.
Preserve and re-envision what we do best. Help us adapt to the dynamic changes in our world. And above all, lead us in creating a vision for the future that builds upon our strengths and encourages us to reach farther and deeper in our commitment to one another. Help us to find, in your words, here on campus, and in our engagement with the world, "hope amidst the clamor."
Fellow alumni, members of the faculty, distinguished guests of honor, parents, family members, students, staff, and friends of the College, please help me welcome Swarthmore College's 14th president, Rebecca Chopp.