Unlocking the future of the liberal arts

The inauguration of a college president offers plenty of opportunity for pomp and circumstance, but it offers much more than that, as well. At Cornell, on the weekend of April 20–22, 2012, the inauguration of Jonathan Brand served as a chance to show off the best things the college has to offer to alumni, friends, community members and visiting dignitaries.

Starting Friday night with a concert by the college’s orchestra—featuring Dean of the College Joe Dieker on clarinet—and a performance of the play “Defying Gravity,” the weekend was packed with events that put the campus and students on display.

On Saturday dozens of student scholars presented their research at the Student Symposium and 18 were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the country’s oldest and most respected academic honor society. The softball team faced Loras College and student organizations took part in a street fair on the Pedestrian Mall. President Brand and Mount Vernon Mayor Scott Peterson gathered on Sunday to dedicate a ginkgo tree in Mount Vernon’s Memorial Park and the college choir debuted a piece written for it by a Cornell parent.

And that’s to say nothing of the ceremony itself, where hundreds gathered in King Chapel to see Brand presented with the symbols of his office and hear his inaugural address.

It was, in short, an encapsulation of the things that make Cornell so special. It mixed the serious and the playful, the academic and the co-curricular, the past, present, and future of the college. It showed the vitality and vibrancy on offer at a residential liberal arts college in the 21st century and reminded the visitors, be they faculty, students, alumni, staff, or friends, exactly how much there is to love about Cornell.

View inauguration weekend videos and photo galleries

Read Jonathan Brand's inaugural address

See a list of Cornell presidents