At the inauguration of President Valerie Smith, Chair of the Board of Managers Tom Spock '78 opened the installation ceremony. After a moment of silence, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Joyce Tompkins gave a reading, after which Spock offered welcoming remarks.
Board Chair Spock:
Friends….Good afternoon. Swarthmore College was founded more than 150 years ago. And in that time, only 15 people - 15 - have been chosen to lead this life-changing, world-changing institution, including, today, Valerie Smith. In a moment we will listen to a reading from Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Joyce Tompkins. But first, recognizing - and out of respect for - the significance of this moment, I ask that you please stand as you are able and join in our tradition, a legacy of our founding by the Society of Friends, or Quakers, of beginning with a brief period of silence. Please stand.
[Moment of Silence]
Thank you. You may be seated.
I was asked to share a spiritually inclusive reading as a part of today’s ceremony. The reading I’ve chosen is from my own tradition, the Christian Scriptures. To some it will be familiar – perhaps too familiar. This passage is often read at Christian weddings. It speaks about love. Trite? I don’t think so. While today’s occasion is not a wedding, it is, in a way, a marriage – a marriage between this community and our newly chosen leader. As in a wedding, love is our central theme. Not love as a feeling – but love as an act of will. Love as a daily discipline. Love as the hard work of building a vibrant community out of diverse parts. Only a strong, spiritually grounded leader can model that kind of love.
And so, the reading. And at the end, in keeping with my own tradition’s practice when ordaining a leader, I will give a brief charge.
A reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
To Valerie Smith: You have been called to this community of Swarthmore as our new president. May love always guide you. May that love be horizontal in its outreach, embracing all here who teach and learn and serve. May that love be vertical as well, reaching deeply into the life of God to ground you, reaching high into the lofty vision we all strive to share.
To the Swarthmore community: The mantle of leadership is not always easy to bear. May we be mindful of the human woman beneath that mantle, joining together with her as partners in this important work. May we be a people who do the hard work of teaching, of learning, of questioning, of building - and always, with love.
Welcome, everyone, to Swarthmore College and to our own Lamb Miller Field House – which is no Scott Amphitheater, but with some generous donations could be turned into a very nice facility! Hurricane Joaquin may be making its presence felt – but today is all about Hurricane Val. As your program indicates, I’m Tom Spock, chair of the College’s Board of Managers. I’m also one of the many extremely proud alumni who have returned to campus for this landmark occasion – the inauguration and installation of Dr. Valerie Smith as the 15th president of Swarthmore College. And while I do not for one moment believe that this is what Val will be best remembered for, I’m especially proud to acknowledge the historic significance of this inauguration, and celebrate the fact that our new leader is Swarthmore’s first African American president.
I’d like to offer a special welcome to the students who are with us today. And also to those who are visiting us for the first time, including representatives from more than 80 colleges and universities—schools with which Swarthmore is in so many ways united in values and purpose.
To me, “celebration” is the spirit of the weekend. We’re celebrating a new beginning—a fresh future. And, trust me, it’s a future bursting with ideas and energy, with optimism and confidence.
It’s a celebration that affirms the College’s identity—its deepest values and highest priorities: Last evening, students, faculty, and alumni displayed an amazingly wide range of artistic talent. Earlier today, we had two symposium panels with alumni who, in true Swarthmore fashion, showed that they will never stop wondering—never stop listening, analyzing, exploring, striving for better answers and, even, for that matter, for better questions. (Basically, they’ll never stop talking.) Following the installation, we will celebrate simply by being together as colleagues and friends—united by our association with a place that has changed—or is changing—so many of our lives in so many ways.
As part of this celebration, we are privileged now to hear a variety of reflections from the College’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni, as well as friends from the surrounding community and other educational institutions. We’ll hear musical interludes featuring one of the area’s greatest success stories, the Chester Children’s Chorus. You have already heard the wonderful sounds from our talented Gamelan Semara Santi.
Thank you, one and all, for being here today. Enjoy the celebration.