A Ceremonial Affair

An anxious moment of silence descended over the crowd following Board Chairman Stephen Tumminello’s pronouncement: “I invest you with the office of the president.” As J. Michael Adams bowed his head, Tumminello draped around his neck the gold-plated President’s Medallion featuring the University’s coat of arms. The sixth presidency in the history of Fairleigh Dickinson University had officially begun.

But the climactic moment could not be rushed and had to bide its time to allow proper greetings from various representatives of the University and the state governor in a ceremony that featured some customary academic traditions and some elements unique to Fairleigh Dickinson.

Nearly 90 delegates from institutions of higher learning throughout the country and abroad joined community and business leaders, elected officials, three former University presidents and an audience of more than 1,000 people for the ceremony September 27 at the George and Phyllis Rothman Center on the Teaneck-Hackensack Campus.

Gov. Christine Todd Whitman offered greetings from the state of New Jersey. Whitman, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree from FDU in 1996, said Adams was “an outstanding choice to lead this University into a new century,” and she described him as “a scholar of vision, a man of ideas, a believer in the power of education.” She added that although knowing about other countries, cultures and languages was once an “academic exercise, today it is an economic necessity. So I applaud the University’s new mission and I wish you well in serving that mission. ... As FDU embarks on a new and exciting journey, I am confident that you have picked the right guide to lead the way to a future of amazing achievement.”

The ceremony also featured greetings from the student body represented by Charles Davis, president, Student Government Association (SGA), Teaneck-Hackensack Campus, and Tedd Konya, president, SGA, Florham-Madison Campus; from the Professional Administrative Senate, President Michael Smallis, associate dean of students on the Florham-Madison Campus; from the faculty, Antoinette Anastasia, professor of biological sciences and the associate director of the School of Natural Sciences on the Teaneck-Hackensack Campus, who also served as the grand marshal; from the Alumni Association Board of Governors, President David Salzman, BS’77 (F-M), MBA’80 (F-M); and from the Board of Trustees, Mary Kay Mastronardy Stratis, BA’69 (R), MAT’71 (T-H), chair, inaugural committee.

Tumminello, BS’58 (R), presided over the investiture of Adams. Trustee Robert Budelman, Jr., BA’59 (T-H), also participated in the ceremony. In addition, former Fairleigh Dickinson University presidents Robert Donaldson (1984–1990) and J. Osborn Fuller (1968–1974), as well as former acting president Walter Savage (1983–1984), now professor emeritus of English, all attended the event.

Before presenting the President’s Medallion to Adams, Tumminello said, “I speak for the trustees, the faculty, the students, the staff and the alumni of Fairleigh Dickinson when I say that we expect much of you. In return, we pledge our complete cooperation and support for the efforts you will undertake in the coming years.”

He added, “In accepting this medallion, you accept the obligations as well as the rights and privileges of the office of president ... You have our confidence and respect. We look forward to your leadership.”

The President’s Medallion, in the form of a hexagonal shield, features the coat of arms backed by the colors of the University. The motto, Fortiter et Suaviter, is engraved above the shield and around it are the words, “Fairleigh Dickinson University 1942.” The frame of the medallion is surmounted by a crest consisting of buildings symbolizing the campuses. The medallion was first presented at the inauguration of Donaldson in 1985.

Budelman opened the inauguration by linking the past to the future. “This occasion is cause for us to honor those trustees, faculty, staff and alumni who assisted in the building of this great University — as well as to pay tribute to our current faculty and students who continue this tradition of excellence.”

Stratis said, “The cooperation and hard work of so many people have culminated in this distinguished event. Representatives from more than a dozen areas of the University must be thanked for their dedication. This is a memorable day for us all.”

Adding that it has been a “special honor” working with Adams, Stratis said, “I have witnessed his dedication to our University as he has explored, learned and built on the existing strengths of FDU ... His energy is surpassed only by his commitment to Fairleigh Dickinson University. This University is young with a rich and innovative history. And it is prepared to move forward in new ways with Michael Adams as its new president.”

Anastasia, the University’s longest serving professor, noted that Adams was building on the strengths of the faculty and the institution. “He has a clear vision and demonstrated the leadership skills necessary to prepare our institution and our students for the next millennium. We offer him our full support and our sincere congratulations.”

Both SGA presidents declared their support. Davis said, “In the time President Adams has been with us, students on both campuses have reacted to him positively. He is approachable, caring and a really nice guy. Now, we, the students, are challenged to match his enthusiasm and commitment, to support his exciting initiatives.”

Konya said, “On this inaugural day, the students wish President Adams much success and pledge to work with him to further the goals of Fairleigh Dickinson University.”

On behalf of the nearly 100,000 graduates of FDU, Salzman congratulated Adams and said he looked forward “to his continued guidance and friendship as we work together to strengthen the alumni community.”

He added, “With new leadership in a new millennium, the University is ready to face exciting new challenges. Having worked with President Adams over this past year, I know we have chosen an individual who can provide the direction and vision needed to meet these challenges.”

Representing the professional staff, Smallis described the recent growth of the institution and the lively first year under Adams. He predicted that the University’s future would be successful. “We are confident that you will continue this growth through your support of successful programs, development of new initiatives and the continued inclusion of the FDU family. You have recognized and are building on the strengths of the professional staff, and for that we are grateful. The professional staff offers support and encouragement to help you continue to make Fairleigh Dickinson University a world-class institution.”

In addition to the academic customs featured during the ceremony — such as the classic caps, hoods and gowns — FDU had several unique traditions on display. The procession included bagpipers, a practice dating back to the University’s eighth commencement in 1951.

Other parts of the ceremony recognized FDU’s global and multicultural background. The flags of many nations were carried by international students, a practice that has become a part of many Fairleigh Dickinson ceremonies and events. Also, a diversity of spiritual views was presented, and representatives of the Jewish, Christian (both Catholic and Protestant) and Muslim religions participated.

The inauguration was carried worldwide through audio streaming on the World Wide Web by WFDU (FM). Although the station has been audio streaming since the beginning of the year, this was the first major public FDU event to be available around the globe.

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