Thousands attend inauguration of Rochon as Tuskegee’s sixth president
Nearly 3,000 people gathered in the Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Center on Saturday, Jan. 22 for the inauguration of Tuskegee University’s sixth president, Dr. Gilbert L. Rochon. Attendees included University faculty, staff, students, administration, Board of Trustees members, local and state government officials, and more. Among the speakers were Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley; Tuskegee Mayor Omar Neal; State Rep. Pebblin Warren; Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund; and other dignitaries and representatives from other institution affiliations. Letters of well wishes were read from former U.S. President Bill Clinton and current U.S. President Barack Obama.
Rochon, who officially took office Nov. 1, 2010, said he “stood upon the shoulders” of Tuskegee’s past presidents: Booker T. Washington (1881-1915), Robert R. Moton (1915-1935), Frederick D. Patterson, (1935-1953) Luther H. Foster (1953-1981) and Benjamin F. Payton (1981-2010), who presented Rochon with the presidential medallion.
Rochon talked about Tuskegee’s consistent high ranking among Historically Black Colleges and Universities, dedicated alumni, competitive student body, productive faculty and academic programs. He pointed out the diverse centers of excellence addressing advance materials, biomedical research, risk analysis, food and plant systems, the newly established Health Disparities Institute for Research and Education, and more.
“Notwithstanding these significant and laudable accomplishments, in order for Tuskegee University to achieve the next level of globally recognized preeminence, there is still much to be accomplished,” Rochon said.
Among these goals are: enhancing the undergraduate curriculum and expansion of graduate programs; increasing the student body; infusing cutting-edge technology; upgrading physical facilities; University dedication to economic and social development in surrounding local and regional communities; redefining and enforcing student-centric policies; and increasing collaboration in research, instruction and local, national and global engagement initiatives with major universities, national research labs and corporations. He also spoke of establishing an alumni house and community/visitor information and engagement center as well as improving the athletic facilities on campus.
“Given the ambitious, yet accomplishable, vision that we apparently collectively share for Tuskegee University’s future globally recognized research preeminence, we have hope in abundance and we have great expectations.”
The University started four days of inaugural activities with a “Day of Service” kick off and press conference at Booker T. Washington High School in Tuskegee on Thursday. Rochon and other University personnel committed to two or more hours of service in the community through Friday. On Friday evening, the Golden Voices Choir presented a concert featuring various genres of music. On Saturday, several university presidents from across the country participated in the Inaugural President’s Symposium. The keynote speaker was Dr. Phillip L. Clay, chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After the inaugural ceremony in the James Center, attendees were invited to a grand reception in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Legendary soul/R&B band Maze featuring Frankie Beverly were featured at the Inaugural Concert.
On Sunday morning, an ecumenical service was held in the University Chapel. A special message was delivered by Fr. Gregory Chisholm, S.J., Ph.D., of St. Patrick Church (Oakland, Calif.). That evening, at a cultural event presented by students, the Booker T. Washington Award was presented to esteemed individuals who have made significant and unsung contributions to the Tuskegee community, education and the nation. Among them were: Sister Mary Alice Chineworth, member and former director of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the nation’s first order of black nuns; alumna Mildred L. Hemmons Carter, pilot counted among the Tuskegee Airmen; alumnus Herbert E. Carter, veteran fighter pilot and Tuskegee Airman; alumnus Booker T. Felder, fashion designer and entrepreneur; Norman Francis, president of Xavier University (New Orleans); Fred Gray, attorney and author; Elton C. Harrison, higher education administrator and educator (Dillard University, New Orleans; Fort Valley State University, Ga.; and Southern University, Baton Rouge, La.); alumnus Albert L. Murray, author and jazz musician; alumna Della Davison Sullins, nurse and educator; Louis A. Rabb, higher education administrator and former administrator of John Andrew Hospital (Tuskegee); and Dr. Nevin Scrimshaw, institute professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and senior adviser for the food and nutrition program at the United Nations University.
About Tuskegee University
Founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee University is home to approximately 3,000 students from the U.S. and 30 foreign countries. The institution is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and all of its professional programs are accredited by their respective agencies.
The academic programs are organized into six Colleges/Schools: 1.) College of Agriculture, Environmental and Natural Sciences; 2.) School of Architecture and Construction Science 3.) College of Business and Information Science; 4.) College of Engineering and Physical Sciences; 5.) College of Liberal Arts and Education; and 6.) College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health.