Under the theme of “Light Illuminated: Learning, Growing, Changing,” Michael L. Frandsen, Ph.D., was formally installed as Wittenberg University’s 15th president during an inaugural ceremony steeped in tradition and reflective of the university’s mission, April 5. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni came together to celebrate a new chapter in Wittenberg’s 173-year history inside Weaver Chapel.
The totality of the Wittenberg experience was on full display during the ceremony, which began with a full procession featuring more than 70 delegates representing institutions across the country, as well as Wittenberg student leaders, members of the university’s Board of Directors, faculty and staff, and several distinguished guests, all of whom were officially welcomed by The Rev. Jonathan Eilert, chair of the Wittenberg Board of Directors and a 1993 graduate of the university.
“Today is the day that we say emphatically that we have found in Dr. Michael L. Frandsen the right person to lead Wittenberg as its 15th president,” The Rev. Eilert said. “The Board of Directors is thrilled to join him in stewarding the mission and tradition of our great University.”
Special greetings from select representatives were then shared on behalf of students, faculty, staff, alumni, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Springfield community and from as far away as Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany, Springfield’s sister city and home of Wittenberg’s popular study-abroad program.
“Lutherstadt Wittenberg is pleased that the friendship between your university and our city remains vital,” said Mr. Christian Eggert on behalf of the city, the city’s Council and the Lord Mayor, Torsten Zugehör. “Friendships between institutions exist on paper. Our goal should be that people from Springfield and Lutherstadt Wittenberg carry this friendship in their hearts.”
During his remarks, Mr. Eggert presented Dr. Frandsen with a book of scholars from the original Wittenberg University and a special gift, an “0-Euro-Bill’ with a picture of the Wittenberg Castle Church and the famous Thesis Door that was issued on the occasion of the Reformation anniversary in 2017. Only available for purchase through German banks, the 0-Euro Bill has since sold out, and will no longer be reissued.
“There are some things money can’t buy,” Mr. Eggert said, and this ‘0-Euro-Bill’ “should remind us that our friendship is priceless.”
Additional greeters included Ms. Sophia Vandiford, director of donor relations, and Ms. Betty Dean, administrative assistant, audio visual and circulation, Thomas Library, who has served the University for 40 years; Dr. Nancy Woehrle, assistant professor of psychology; Ms. Rachel Wallace ’19, president, Student Senate; Ms. Mecca Abdul-Aziz ’18, president, class of 2018, and Alma Mater; Mr. Lucas George ’18, Alma Lux; Ms. Allison Scaia ’09, president, Wittenberg Alumni Board; Mr. Tom Loftis, Springfield leader; and the Rev. Dr. Mark Wilhelm, executive director, Network of ELCA Colleges & Universities.
Those in attendance were also treated to musical performances by the Wittenberg Choir, IMANI Gospel Choir, Wittmen Crew, Wittenberg’s all-male a capella group, and various organ selections by 1985 Wittenberg alumnus Mr. Robert Hobby, director of music at Trinity English Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., The Rev. Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt, Bishop of the Southern Ohio Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Mr. Don Sheets, chair of the Albion College Board of Trustees and a personal friend of the Frandsen family, added their voices to the ceremony, as well.
In addition, Dr. Randy Bass, vice provost for education and professor of English at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and founding executive director of Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, provided the keynote address. Dr. Bass has been a leading expert on the intersections of new media technologies and the scholarship of teaching and learning for more than two decades. During his remarks, Bass called on those present to reimagine the university of the future and its capacity to produce change agents.
“If we were designing a university to help us get better at being human, and to live in a world defined by inequality, then what could be more important than helping people to truly see others, to understand their own blind spots and capacity to compromise and to act with generosity,” he said. “An inauguration is a microcosm of starting from scratch and above all it is an opportunity to think about what matters.”
As part of the ceremony, Wittenberg’s 12th president, Dr. L. Baird Tipson, and 13th president, Dr. Mark H. Erickson, who were both in attendance, were formally recognized by Dr. Mary Jo Zembar, interim provost and professor of psychology, along with elected officials prior to the formal installation of the president.
During the installation, and on behalf of the Board, The Rev. Eilert administered the presidential responsibilities as expressed in the university’s charter, Wittenberg’s constitution and bylaws, and the will of the community. The Rev. Eilert presented Dr. Frandsen with the university’s traditional Luther cap, similar to the one worn by Martin Luther during the Reformation, along with the university’s charter and a medallion featuring the official Wittenberg Seal. Dr. Frandsen’s wife Sharon assisted in the ceremony by placing the traditional cap on her husband’s head.
Following the formal installation, Dr. Frandsen presented his inaugural remarks in which he first thanked his family, mentors and all those gathered for their support and encouragement. He also expressed his gratitude to the Board of Directors for its confidence in inviting him to lead Wittenberg at this important time in its history.
“Over the course of these first nine months at Wittenberg, I have learned more about the grit and the passion for this place that are reflected when one says ‘Tiger Up!’ and more about the ways in which we pass our light on to others,” he said, adding that his focus since joining the Wittenberg family has been on retention, recruitment and resources, and how those are lived out in the university’s new strategic plan.
“We face an increasingly competitive marketplace, demographics that are shifting dramatically, technology that is advancing rapidly, and family incomes that for the vast majority are stagnant. We read about disruption and hear speculation that some institutions will close. So, what does being a student-centered, residential, liberal arts and sciences institution like ours look like for the 21st century? How do we educate the whole person across the whole campus? How do we all find the places in our work that contribute to the shared responsibility for student success? How do we go about our work and how do we talk about it? We have to start with our mission and values.
“We’re already very good, but I want to help us get even better,” he continued, “and I think the place to get better is in how we think about the learning, growing, and changing in all the places in which it is occurring. How we make sure that what happens in the residence halls, or on the stage, or in the community, or on the court, or in the classroom is connected each to the other. How we make sure that the education we provide is intentionally integrated, bundled in all its dimensions. How each of us fulfills our roles as educators in a community of learners. As we illuminate that, we will continue to pass our light on to others well into the future and continue to be an important and exciting place for learning, growth, and change.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Dr. Frandsen invited his two grown daughters, Janie and Kate, to the podium for a surprise announcement to honor their grandfathers, Dr. Kenneth D. Frandsen, who was in attendance and who served as a delegate from Ohio University, and the late Dr. William Thompson Jr. Together, the family is establishing two scholarships at Wittenberg, one in each of their names.
The ceremony, which included faculty, administrators, student leaders and Board members in full academic regalia, concluded with 95 candles, reminiscent of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, being lit by students and members of the Wittenberg Choir with the last light being passed to Dr. Frandsen as a symbol of the university’s beloved motto, “Having Light We Pass It On To Others.” The community then joined in the singing of the Alma Mater. A shared benediction was then delivered by personal friends of the Frandsen family, The Rev. Christy Dowdy and The Rev. Dale Dowdy before the recessional.
The April 5 inauguration date was chosen specifically because it precedes the Celebration of Learning, April 6, when students from a range of disciplines and interests share their research, accomplishments, and pursuits, all of which have been inspired by the active, engaged learning environment that defines the Wittenberg experience.
Coordinated by a 17-member steering committee with campus-wide representation, the inauguration celebration consisted of other special events during the week, including a pep rally, popcorn with the president and the annual leadership awards. The Celebration of Learning took place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. today in the Joseph C. Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning, followed by the Honors Convocation at Weaver Chapel from 4:15-6 p.m.
Adding to the “totality of the Wittenberg experience,” Saturday’s events will center around service and the arts, beginning with two Celebrate Service events, including a 24-hour Lesotho Nutrition Packing event, and one to support the residents of Oesterlen Services for Youth in Springfield. The senior art exhibit in Koch Hall’s Thompson Gallery will be open from 2-5 p.m. A worship service at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 8, at Weaver Chapel followed by a campus picnic until 2 p.m. on Chapel Lawn will conclude the week’s inauguration festivities.
To watch the inauguration ceremony or learn more about the inauguration and related events, visit the Wittenberg website at www.wittenberg.edu/inauguration2018.