Interlacing knotwork patterns in
red, green, light and dark blue, and
yellow decorated the program and
flag for the inauguration of Jane
Dammen McAuliffe as Bryn Mawr's eighth president. The October 3–4 events
brought together hundreds of students, faculty
and staff and their families, alumnae/i, and
visitors in a celebration that mirrored its
signature graphic: a joyous continuum of life,
community, and spiritual growth.
The festivities began on Friday evening, October 3, with a street fair on Senior Row, its trees strung with lights. Jugglers, musicians and a magician performed on a stage and mingled with the crowd while vendors sold goods, painted faces and hennaed hands, told fortunes, and drew caricatures. Bryn Mawr Dining Services provided finger foods at various stations—mini-burgers, crab cakes and kebobs, fruit pies, cheesecake and ice cream.
Under a fingernail moon, a pair of salsa dancers led a line of revelers into Thomas Great Hall. There a series of performers taught the crowd a few moves in a variety of dance styles: first salsa, then swing, then bhangra, and finally hip-hop. The president took several turns on the floor, along with students, faculty, and staff members and their families, and more than a few of the College's trustees.
Two campus tours focusing on the College's history opened Saturday's events. In the late morning, six faculty-student research teams discussed their projects. Following celebratory luncheons for delegates and alumnae, participants in the ceremony donned academic regalia for a formal procession into the tent on Merion Green where the inauguration took place. Delegates from more than 40 colleges and universities around the nation joined members of the Bryn Mawr faculty and senior administrative staff, as well as alumnae representatives of each Bryn Mawr undergraduate class since 1939 and both of the College's graduate schools.
Barbara "Bunty" Marshall Sage '43, who marched for her class, wore her mother's 1910 gown (Charlotte Simonds Sage '10) and mortarboard "with its odd, squiggly tassel" underneath her own masters gown. "I was reliving my mother's Bryn Mawr years," she wrote. "Memories of my own wartime years kept coming as if out of a mist. If I had risen like Mary Poppins and floated over Taylor, it would not have been surprising."
At the inauguration ceremony, guest speakers and McAuliffe herself challenged the College to increase women's access to education around the globe. (Read full speech)
Representatives of the faculty, the staff, the undergraduate student body, each of the graduate schools, the College's board of trustees, and the Alumnae Association offered greetings, followed by six college presidents who share a special connection to Bryn Mawr or to McAuliffe: Stephen Emerson of Haverford, Al Bloom of Swarthmore, and Amy Gutmann from the University of Pennsylvania, leaders at area partner institutions; Carol Christ of Smith College, representing the five women's colleges; Patricia McGuire from Trinity University, McAuliffe's undergraduate institution; and John DeGioia of Georgetown University, where McAuliffe most recently served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before accepting her post at Bryn Mawr.
"Little did M. Carey Thomas know, when she met with several Sisters of Notre Dame in 1898 who came to campus to consult on their plans to start the nation's first Catholic college for women in Washington D.C., that she was making an investment of incalculable value for the future of both institutions," said McGuire. "Jane McAuliffe, you are without a doubt the best return on a long-term investment that any college can claim!"
Keynote speaker Johnnetta Betsch Cole, whose distinguished academic career includes the presidencies of two historically Black women's colleges, delivered a rousing address, "If You Educate a Woman." The title comes from African-American abolitionist Martin Delaney, who said, "If you educate a man, you educate a man. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation."
Cole argued that, "When girls and women are granted the right and have the means to go to school,many things that are good begin to happen, things that are good not only for them, but for their communities and their nations." After citing a list of the benefits of women's colleges over coeducational institutions to their students—including deeper student engagement, a higher graduation rate, an increased likelihood of earning advanced degrees, a higher rate of participation in mathematics and the sciences, and a higher lifetime earning potential—Cole added another benefit to the list.
It is, she said, "a benefit not only to the students of these special institutions, but a benefit to so many others. Graduates of women's colleges are twice as likely as graduates of coed institutions and universities to become more involved in philanthropic activity. How good it is when women give and give generously of their time, their talent, and their treasure in the interest of improving conditions in their communities, their country, and their world." Cole issued a challenge to Bryn Mawr and all women's colleges to demonstrate "a commitment to valuing diversity and promoting a culture of inclusion."
"How fortunate Bryn Mawr is to have in sister President Jane," she concluded, "an individual who has a longstanding commitment to…the notion that the besteducated and best-prepared students are those who experience on campus the same multicultural world that lies beyond their campus…I offer my hearty congratulations and sisterly support as she accepts the awesome and joyous responsibility of leading an institution that must educate women well so that these women can educate and change their nation and the world."
Formally confirming McAuliffe's election to the presidency, Board Chair Sally Hoover Zeckhauser '64 presented McAuliffe with a volume containing the will and codicil of Bryn Mawr founder Joseph Taylor and the College's original charter as a symbol of office. As she accepted the book, audience members broke into "Anassa Kata."
The Bryn Mawr-Haverford Chamber Singers performed Gerald Manley Hopkins' sonnet, Pied Beauty, set to music for the occasion and directed by Thomas Lloyd, associate professor of music at Haverford.McAuliffe chose the sonnet, which expresses the paradox of an eternal, unchangeable One as creator of all changing, beautiful things.
President Emeritus of Georgetown University, the Rev. Leo J. O'Donovan, S.J., gave the benediction, reading "Psalm 8," a song of David reflecting on the dignity and power that God has given human beings. Calling the occasion a "golden day" on a "magnificent campus,"O'Donovan asked that the College be "a home for wisdom and a beacon of justice…gathered in joy, in earnest and searching inquiry, in rich community and generous service around its remarkable new president….
Jane McAuliffe spent July and August walking
every inch of the campus, from basements and
boiler rooms to the top of Taylor Tower, and
meeting with staff in each College office and
department.When the students came back in
September, she began to host desserts for them
in their dorms. In Rockefeller, one student
asked McAuliffe, "Tell me something
interesting about yourself. For example, I was
born in an elevator."
"That silenced me," said McAuliffe. "I certainly couldn't think of anything as unusual as being born in an elevator! But that student gave us a great start to the conversation and to our fun evening together."
This fall, McAuliffe is also hosting lunches for faculty in Pen-Y-Groes and holding receptions to meet alumnae/i in major cities around the country. (See schedule on page 19.)
At Alumnae Council in October, she told volunteers, "As a new president, I'm often asked two questions. The first is, ‘Are you having fun?' I am here to testify that I am really having fun!' This is a wonderful school and I have been more warmly welcomed than I could ever have imagined.
"The other question is, ‘Now that you're on campus, have you uncovered issues they didn't tell you about?' I can give you a resounding ‘No!' One of things that has made this such a smooth move from Georgetown for my husband and me has been the transition process itself. Nancy Vickers could not have been more helpful and gracious in the way that she facilitated it. She was a font of information; she gave me access to everything I might possibly need to know and far more than I could consume as quickly as it was coming, so no surprises except good ones and those have been many."
In remarks to faculty, student and alumnae/i gatherings, McAuliffe stresses the importance of bi- and tri-college connections and speaks about the current globalization of higher education.
"The Bryn Mawr-Haverford connection is a particularly vibrant one that needs continual nourishment and enhancement," she said. "Steve Emerson and I have breakfast every couple of weeks, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with our provosts, so we have the opportunity to update each other on a regular basis. Out of those meetings have come some initiatives we are undertaking this fall.We are exploring ways to share back office information technology operations that might be able to save us money and get us a better quality IT across the two campuses. Another mutual focus is the arts. Both of our campuses are experiencing ever-increasing student interest in the visual and performing arts.We want to discuss collaborations that could maximize the capacities and resources on both campuses.
"In this century, globalization is going to be one of the most important ways in which we think about higher education and we need to focus on how Bryn Mawr can contribute to and take advantage of that new direction. Bryn Mawr has long had an international presence and outlook: many of our students study abroad; we recruit students and faculty from around the world; faculty have research connections with colleagues across the globe. Building on this strong record of international activity, is there more that we can do to establish a Bryn Mawr presence in other parts of the world? Are there forms of sophisticated telecommunications we can adopt to increase our global connectivity?"
McAuliffe said she "jumped at the chance" to be part of the U.K.-U.S. Study Commission on the Globalization of Higher Education, a shortterm think tank commissioned by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The other U.S. members are New York University President John Sexton, Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman, President of the American Council on Education Molly Broad (former president of the University of North Carolina), and President of the American Associations of Universities (former Chancellor of UC-Berkeley) Robert Berdahl. The U.K. participants are the Vice-Chancellors of five British universities: King's College London,Warwick, Surrey, Keele and Bristol. After meeting twice in London and twice in New York, the Commission will present a report to the Prime Minister in early 2009
McAuliffe says she has a very strong interest in
making sure that the student experience is "as
rich and powerful for each one of our students
each semester as we can possibly make it. That
is the heart of what we are about as an
institution, and that is why I am so excited to
be here at the point that we are undergoing a
very deliberate and reflective process of
"One of the things that attracted me to Bryn Mawr was its extraordinary history of doing both undergraduate and graduate education from its earliest days. I am grateful that the College faculty has decided to look at the curriculum, not just in its pieces and parts, but as the whole academic and intellectual experience with which we want to equip our students for their futures and for their lives as adult learners. This curricular renewal comes at a point when we have reaffirmed our commitment to graduate education and aspire to make the academic experience of the graduate and undergraduate programs a more integrated one. The faculty will be working on the details this year and next. It's one of those creative moments in the life of an academic institution that comes about only once or twice in a generation, and I feel fortunate to be here at such a time."
In an effort to provide visibility and support to the sciences, McAuliffe is hosting a lecture series this year on science and leadership, an idea that she first floated when talking with the search committee. "I was recently struck by the number of women scientists who have become presidents of major research universities," she said. "I am also intrigued by Bryn Mawr's extraordinary record in the sciences and our extraordinary percentages for students who major in math and science. I'm not a scientist, but I spent five years at Georgetown fundraising for the sciences very aggressively because increasing science literacy among undergraduates is important and because I needed to build a science building. I learned a lot and, coming to Bryn Mawr, I see this lecture series as a vehicle to draw additional attention to what is already an important part of Bryn Mawr's academic reputation."
The Hepburn Center and the Center for Science in Society are sponsoring the series, with talks by Tilghman on October 29; Chancellor of Syracuse University Nancy Cantor on February 24; Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill University Heather Munroe-Blum on March 3; and President of the University of Iowa Sally Mason on April 2
McAuliffe gave a lecture on the "Life of
Muhammad and the Revelation of the Qur'an" at
the Main Line School Night on October 28, as
part of the Bryn Mawr College series on the
"Jane didn't just take up graduate studies after a 10-year hiatus as a mother with a young family," said University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann in her inaugural remarks. "She didn't just follow an uncommon scholarly path to eminence. She didn't just earn a doctorate in Islamic studies long before the field was popular. She kept going and growing.
"Today she is one of the preeminent scholars of Islamic studies in the world. She has built sorely-needed bridges by promoting fruitful dialogue on the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims. As a distinguished and beloved dean at Georgetown, she demonstrated her passionate commitment to the arts and the sciences in equal measure."
In conversations earlier this year, McAuliffe explained her academic path from classics to religious studies."Small forms of religious pluralism were the ethos of my family, because my father was a convert from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism," she said."We were simply very interested in matters religious. It was often the subject of Sunday dinner table conversation —remember in that generation you had dinner at 2 p.m.—so not long after coming back from Sunday mass, we'd be sitting at the table and it would not be at all unusual to start dissecting the day's sermon. I married upon graduating, and we had our first two children in rapid succession. Suddenly there were these two little people, and I didn't feel adequate to the task of being an effective part of their religious education. (Although I had taken some theology classes in college, I majored in classics and philosophy.) We were living in the Bronx at the time, and Fordham's Bronx campus had a good program in religious education. I started taking one class at a time, and found myself intrigued by the deeper theological issues that were under exploration. The faculty at Fordham urged me to move to Union Theological, where I continued taking one course at a time for several more years.
"The stars really came into alignment when we moved to Toronto, where my husband had been offered a job in the Italian department. Our children were in first and second grade. I had just received a fellowship from the Danforth Foundation that would allow me to do full-time graduate work, and that year the University of Toronto began a PhD program in religious studies.
"Once I decided that I was going to make Islamic studies my primary focus, I started to study Arabic immediately, because so much of my subsequent work would be with Arabic texts. In today's world of graduate Islamic studies that would be considered a very, very late start, and I'm not sure it would even be doable any more, but I had terrific faculty who were willing to push me hard and get me moving in language study as rapidly as possible."