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Posted on 03.27.2013

The University of  Indianapolis held an inauguration for its ninth president, Robert Manuel, on March 21, in the presence of the campus community. Delegates from more than 30 institutes of higher learning and other guests, including Former Sen. Richard Lugar and Former Mayor William Hudnut, attended the ceremony. Former UIndy presidents Gene Sease, Benjamin Lantz, Jerry Israel and Beverley Pitts also were present.

The Investiture Ceremony and Inaugural Address were the zenith of a week-long series of events celebrating both Manuel and UIndy. Although Manuel did not plan the events, he said that the way the events showcased UIndy’s capabilities was inspiring.

Four UIndy presidents, (from left) Gene Sease, Benjamin Lantz, Jerry Israel, Beverley Pitts and Robert Manuel, attended. Photos by Kelbi Ervin

“There’s a committee that organizes and manages … the inauguration, and they said, ‘What would you like to see?’ And I said, ‘A real representation of what the university is,’” Manuel said. “So when people start looking at us and saying, ‘What’s UIndy?’ they can see the complete diversity of just what exists here.”

To answer this question, the committee—composed of members of the board of trustees, faculty and students—first had to  research the university’s inauguration history.

“They went into the archives; they looked at everybody from Gene Sease and Ben Lantz and Jerry Israel and Bev Pitts, and what they did and why they did it,” Manuel said. “And then they looked at the writings of was important to the university, they connected back to the United Methodist Church and … the development of the university over time. They looked at our community involvements and the diversity of the programs and people we have. And they said, ‘How do we take all of that and showcase that for a week?’”

After the inauguration, the university held a reception in the Schwitzer Student Center Atrium. Photo by Kelbi Ervin.

The events emphasized the importance of looking back but moving forward. During his Inaugural Address, Manuel quoted a former UIndy president who said, “there’s a reason why our rearview mirrors are so much smaller than our windshields.”

Manuel said that this is an exciting time for the entire campus community, and the buzz about campus was not because of him.

“There’s a swelling in the interest in it, and … it’s about the university. This is what the university does; it should be engaged with the community; it should have them coming into these events,” Manuel said. “That’s what is powerful about this.”

President Manuel (right) poses with Indy in the photo booth at the inauguration pep rally. Photo by Kelbi Ervin.

The week of events began on March 17, with a day out at the Children’s Museum. The inauguration committee showed its commitment to creating events for everyone, including the children of UIndy campus community members.

Wilmara Manuel, President Manuel’s wife, created the idea for the Carnival of Books, which took place on March 18. The event invited parents to bring their children to campus for a night of games, snacks, crafts and reading. Each child received a book donated by nonprofit bookstore IndyReads Books.

“The girls and I actually came up with the theme, and we chose it because books are magical,” Wilmara said.

(Left) Two of President Manuel’s daughters entertain themselves at the inauguration. Photo by Kelbi Ervin.

Representatives from the Southport Library were on site, issuing cards for the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library to students.  According to President Manuel, connecting students with IMCPL signifies UIndy’s commitment to learning for all ages.

“When you think of our community being everything from children to research-savvy college students, that library connection is symbolic of a whole lot of things: literacy, inquisitiveness, finding and then following your passions and a relationship with the community,” Manuel said.

On March 19, the UIndy Black Student Association hosted a campus blood drive. Other events included the Kellogg Writers Series and the Showers Lecture Series speech by UIndy alumnus Steve O’Malley.

On the inauguration day, service projects were held on campus. Photo by Kelbi Ervin.

A pep rally was held for Manuel on March 20, with food and special guests. The UIndy Pep Band played renditions of popular songs, such as “Bad Romance” and “All I Do Is Win,” from the balcony of the Schwitzer Student Center Atrium.

Senior Associate Dean and Chief Administrative Officer at Georgetown University Jim Parenti, a friend and former colleague of Manuel’s, paid a surprise visit and shared some equally surprising details about UIndy’s president. Parenti joked that Manuel does not often divulge his talents as a dancer and bassoonist. Parenti also encouraged that UIndy has a great leader in Manuel.

“Many people today relish any type of recognition or notoriety. Rob has always made it clear throughout his career that success is a team effort,” Parenti said. “There was never any victory dance; there was always the question, ‘What’s next?’”

After Parenti spoke, Indianapolis Student Government President Liza Jarrett announced an official proclamation signed by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Gov. Mike Pence that declared March 21, 2013, to be Robert L. Manuel and University of Indianapolis Day in the state of Indiana.

Jarrett, a junior art therapy major, said that she has had many exciting times during her career at UIndy, and being involved in the inauguration was definitely one of them.

Later, junior communication major Will Schnabel took the stage and congratulated President Manuel. In order to make his boss, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli, regret telling him that he could say anything, Schnabel issued an unorthodox challenge for the students.

“I think that if we have 300 students at the inauguration tomorrow, I think that Kory Vitangeli should dye her hair red,” Schnabel said to cheers from the assembled crowd. “And I also think that if we have 400 students, Ms. June from the cafeteria should pie Dr. Manuel in the face.”

Manuel then spoke, saying he hoped this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students, as well as for himself.

“The things that we do in the next couple of weeks, the next months, the next year, will define UIndy for generations to come. The traditions and the missions and the involvements that I’m asking you to do will end up preparing the life that people will have 30 and 40 years down the road,” Manuel said. “As we move through the celebrations … just know that now is a moment in time when you have the opportunity to be the first at UIndy—the first to set these traditions, the first to set these opportunities for people who we don’t even know, who don’t even exist yet.”

The day after the Investiture Ceremony, March 22, was UIndy Night with the Indiana Pacers. According to Vitangeli, almost 450 students, faculty and staff attended the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.


According to University Archivist Christine Guyonneau, there is no typical UIndy inauguration, but there are some standard facets.

“Well, the pattern, the protocol, follows a tradition that is common to all colleges and universities. So you do have a procession with faculty, you have a platform with the board of trustees and speakers who are close to the university or friends of the new president,” Guyonneau said. “So this is pretty much something that is, you know, it is common place.”

Guyonneau said that what is unique about UIndy inaugurations is having a theme. Former President Beverley Pitts used the theme “Passport to Possibilities.” Pitts encouraged students to study abroad and helped them acquire passports and funds to do so.

Guyonneau said that former President Jerry Israel’s theme was recognizing the host of international students at UIndy. At Israel’s inauguration, a student from each country represented at UIndy carried his or her homeland’s flag to the stage.

The only other inauguration that boasted a week-long series of events was that of former President Gene Sease, mainly because his took place during Homecoming Week in 1959.

What makes this inauguration unique is the focus on inclusion. This inauguration emphasizes the direction in which Manuel wants to take the university, in the same way Pitts’ and Israel’s themes emphasized their unique missions.

“You know, faculty and alumni have always been included for homecoming weekend for all the athletic events,” Guyonneau said. “But I think that Dr. Manuel is going a little further in the sense that he really is making an effort to include the community.”

According to Director of Polk Food Services Ted Polk, all of the events on campus have kept him and his staff busy.

Polk, who has been around for four inaugurations and served under five university presidents, also said that students seemed more involved with this inauguration than others he remembered. But he added that students always have been encouraged to participate in inaugurations, such as when Pitts hosted service projects.

“Everybody had a different vision, a different role. Dr. Pitts did a wonderful job building the dome over here with the Super Bowl practice [area] and all that. Dr. Lantz and Dr. Israel expanded the campus. Dr. Sease was a tremendous administrator,” Polk said. “I’ve liked every one. I’ve enjoyed working with every one. But this is the most energetic I’ve seen it in a long time.”

Polk emphasized that no president is better than the others—there is not a scale to place them on—because during their tenure they have each been what the university needed.

“He’s young, he’s energetic, he’s just super to work with,” Polk said. “ … I think every president we’ve had has been the right one, and he is definitely the right one this time.”

Manuel said that the details of his inauguration are not important. Manuel, who has witnessed multiple university inaugurations during his academic career, said it is important to focus on the excitement of the campus community.

“All of the facts are [that] every inauguration people come in and there are events,” Manuel said. “But the feeling and the meaning and the emotions behind this [inauguration] are far different than [what] I’ve seen.”


All classes prior to 5 p.m. were cancelled, and UIndy offices were closed for the Investiture Ceremony on March 21. Students were invited to participate in service projects that morning, which benefited nonprofits such as Disabled American Veterans and breast cancer awareness groups. Also, at 10 a.m., there was a worship service at the University Heights Methodist Church, to sanctify the inauguration.

As president of ISG, Jarrett was tasked with leading the group of student delegates onto the floor of Nicoson Hall. According to Jarrett, participating in the inauguration and its surrounding events is something that will matter to her for years to come. She said that if she comes back to the university years after graduating, this event will always be one of her most memorable ones.

“I think it’s important to see how we have led in the past and how we will lead in the future,” Jarrett said. “ … It’s very important that I am part of this day.”

According to the master of ceremonies, Chair and Associate Professor of  Theatre Jim Ream, the Investiture Ceremony was an ecumenical service featuring music from multiple UIndy groups and scripture readings from two students.

Manuel spoke after the Rite of Investiture was performed by Deborah Daniels and Robert Wingerter, both members of the board of trustees. Manuel said that it had been a challenge adjusting to a new place and new responsibilities. He compared it to a childhood experience of being tossed around in the ocean and forgetting which way was up.

“I learned that dealing with uncertainty can be temporarily disorienting, awkward, messy, sometimes embarrassing,” Manuel said. “But in the moments of real consequence, the skills we have—the ability to think logically and analytically—make us resilient and make us survive.”

According to Manuel, outside forces have been crashing against higher education ever since its inception. These forces are questions of who can access it, the approach to teaching and technology, the relevance of a liberal arts education in a competitive world and higher education’s survival through affordability and value.

“We are perpetually searching for ways to reconcile the demands of a growing number of stakeholders, seeking to balance the education that the world believes is required with the kind of education that we all know is needed for a productive citizenry, a competitive society and the deepening of our intellectual base,” Manuel said.

Manuel said that one of the challenges that UIndy faces is Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.

“My concern over the MOOCs is that … their chief purpose is pushing content to the user. Simply focusing on pushing content to the students disrupts the tender balance between credentialing and learning,” Manuel said. “A nation that is concerned about its competitiveness cannot afford to simply credential its population. It must ensure that they are educated to be creative, to be innovative, to be engines of discovery.”

According to Manuel, this is not a death sentence but a challenge to prove the value of a UIndy education. To do this, Manuel said that UIndy must prepare students for both life and a career, to be an anchor for the community and hold on to its core values. He also said that this goal is attainable.

“We are poised for greatness,” Manuel said. “The only failure we have to worry about at this moment is one of the imagination.”


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