April 11, 2011 — "It's not about me," is President Teresa A. Sullivan's most frequent comment about this week's inauguration festivities. So she and University of Virginia students, faculty and staff will be the center of attention for her official installation this week as U.Va.'s eighth president.
"If the Board of Visitors had elected someone else," she said last week at a press conference, "the University would still be having an inauguration. It's about the institution. It's an organized opportunity to talk about ourselves and celebrate."
Two events are already under way.
One focus of the inauguration is the University's mission to foster research and scholarship. A poster competition attracted 220 entries from hundreds of faculty members and students, which went on display Friday in the Rotunda. Finalists have been chosen in science and engineering, bioscience and health, the humanities, social/behavioral/economic sciences, law/business/education, translational/cross-disciplinary research, and the fine and performing arts and architecture.
Meanwhile, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library opened an exhibit exploring U.Va.'s presidents as students and scholars in February. It will be on display in the lower gallery of the Small Special Collections/Harrison Institute through June 5.
On Thursday, U.Va. faculty and students are leading a daylong academic symposium centered on evidence-based methods to achieve the best teaching and learning outcomes. The keynote speaker will be Lee S. Shulman, president emeritus of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Winners of the poster contest will be announced during lunch at the Aquatic & Fitness Center.
Hundreds are registered to participate in the Day of Service on Saturday and the Inaugural Walk on Sunday. The walk, a "volksmarch," can be done anytime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., starting at The Park on North Grounds.
The main event, of course, is the installation ceremony on Friday at 3 p.m. on the Lawn, which will be highlighted by an academic procession of U.Va. faculty and representatives of scholarly organizations and other higher education institutions.
The ceremony will be webcast live on the inauguration website (and archived the following week) for those who can't be there in person. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to the John Paul Jones Arena – and organizers say the yardstick for "inclement" will be rain, not severe weather as it is for Final Exercises.
The keynote speaker will be Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan and a mentor in Sullivan's previous post as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and chief budget officer at Michigan. Speaking just before Coleman will be Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.
Sullivan will be sworn in with her hand resting on the crumbling leather cover of a 149-year-old family Bible, originally given by her great-grandmother, Catherine Shepard, to her daughter, Virginia, in 1879 in Ballard County, Ky. and later entrusted to Sullivan. After taking the oath, she will give her inaugural address.
A reception will follow the ceremony in the grassy area between the Rotunda and the University Chapel.
This week's festivities will begin with an Interfaith Observance, to be held Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in St. Thomas Hall at 401 Alderman Road. Following a reflection by J. Augustine Di Nola, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican, Sullivan will receive African, American Indian, Baha'I, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Old Celtic, Orthodox Christian, Sikh, Shinto and students' blessings.
The music will include selections by the Mount Zion First African Baptist Choir, an Interfaith Vigil Choir and the University Singers. The graduating class of the area program in poetry writing in the College of Arts & Sciences will offer a reading of "When You Feel the Holy Verse at Your Fingertips: A Pantoum."
Details of all the week's activities can be found at the inauguration website, www.virginia.edu/inauguration. Registrations for the academic symposium lunch and the day of service closed Friday; the University and wider Charlottesville community are invited to all of the other public events, including the installation ceremony and Sunday's Inaugural Walk.