Saturday, I spent most of the afternoon in Yellow Springs. While thousands of others did so as well, I joined a couple hundred others on the Yellow Springs campus of Antioch University for the inauguration of Michael Fishbein as its second president. As one who attends several inaugurations a year, I can say with some degree of discernment that it was one of the most entertaining such events I have ever experienced.
Most inaugurations are solemn, formal affairs, with dozens or hundreds of faculty, alumni, speakers, and trustees dressing in academic regalia. Serious speeches expound new strategic visions for long-lived institutions. Hours are spent dressing, lining up, walking in, sitting, standing, sitting, applauding, walking out, and returning to informal attire for a reception. As an association president, I get the opportunity at inaugurations to see multiple presidents at one event, observe an institution's public face in full array, and dress up in my own fancy outfit.
Like Antioch itself, Dr. Fishbein's inauguration was different. It started with a tailgate party in front of the college, which included Young's Jersey Dairy ice cream. (Young's CEO Don Young is an Antioch trustee). The ceremony itself included a thoroughly entertaining introduction by Antioch University Chancellor Toni Murdoch. She spoke with humor about the process that led to Dr. Fishbein's selection, culminating in a joke about the tendency of male university presidents to wear blue blazers and her presentation to the new president of his very own, Antioch-University-crested blazer (pictured at right).
Then, it what is likely to be a first and last of its kind, the new president announced that the institution he is to lead was changing its name. Antioch University McGregor, originally named for the 13th president of Antioch College, management theorist Douglas McGregor, will become Antioch University Midwest on July 1, 2010. That was followed by a great new video that summed up the vision of the institution. (We will provide a link when it is available on-line.)
But in some ways the spirit of the institution brought broad smiles of recognition. Instead of classical pieces echoing Elgar and graduation ceremonies, it was Steppenwolf and its classic anthem.