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New UT leader sees ‘crescendo’ in Toledo

1,200 attend pomp-filled inauguration

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    Sharon Gaber leads trustees and faculty in her inauguration procession from the Student Union to Savage Arena at the University of Toledo, where she was formally installed.

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Sharon Gaber leads trustees and faculty in her inauguration procession from the Student Union to Savage Arena at the University of Toledo, where she was formally installed.

THE BLADE/LORI KING
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Corrected version: Story updated Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 at 9:23 a.m. to correct the spelling of Sharon Gaber’s name in video.

The University of Toledo’s new president on Friday challenged the estimated 1,200 people at her inauguration to achieve a bold vision for UT.

In a ceremony at Savage Arena, Sharon Gaber, 51, issued a call to action that included elevating UT’s national reputation; increasing enrollment, externally funded research, and fund-raising; and making sure tuition is affordable by reducing administrative costs.

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“I see a crescendo of momentum in Toledo, and we must work together to continue accelerating this progress,” she said.

 

The university’s 17th president was formally installed as UT’s 17th president during an 1½-hour ceremony, attended by hundreds of robed faculty, staff, students, and representatives of other schools.

RELATED: Inaugural dress based on tradition

Ms. Gaber took office July 1, but Friday’s pomp and circumstance formally solidified her position. 

The ceremony featured her symbolic acceptance of the university charter’s original articles of incorporation — a gesture met by applause.

Board of Trustees Chairman Sharon Speyer also placed a UT medallion around the new president’s neck as she declared her the university’s president.

“The role of the university president in the 21st century requires a unique set of skills,” Ms. Speyer told the audience. “They must be able to honor the past while managing the challenges facing higher education today and in the future.”

Ms. Gaber, who delivered the main address, took the opportunity to outline her oft-repeated goals for UT. Elevating the university’s reputation is her “top priority,” she said, followed by growing the student body; increasing faculty research; raising more money for student scholarships, professorships, facilities, and initiatives; and cutting administrative costs.

She cautioned she had “no illusions that we will accomplish all of our goals overnight.”

“This call to action is for this next era of our university,” she said.

The president made brief mention of her historic place as Toledo’s first female president, saying she hopes her role encourages more women to seek leadership posts.

A long, colorful processional of academics and dignitaries took nearly 20 minutes to walk slowly to their seats on the arena floor before the start of the ceremony. It featured music from the university’s wind ensemble and concert chorale and a slew of video greetings from across UT’s campuses.

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Earlier Friday, about 85 people attended an academic symposium at the Doermann Theatre in which Ms. Gaber, who has a doctorate in city and regional planning from Cornell University, and several other urban planning experts discussed the future of Toledo and the link between the city and university.

After the ceremony, UT trustee Jeff Cole, who led the planning for the estimated $58,500 worth of events, called the inauguration a success.

“The symbolism is great, but Dr. Gaber’s words and vision and optimism is really what’s important — along with the support that she’s getting from the faculty, staff, and students,” he said.

The cost was covered by private dollars, and Toledo officials pointed out it was less expensive than recent inauguration-related festivities held by the University of Akron or the 2011 Bowling Green State University inauguration of President Mary Ellen Mazey, who walked in the procession for Ms. Gaber.

UT incurred expenses for setting up the venue, renting academic regalia, food, gifts for Ms. Gaber and select participants, invitations, and other odds and ends.

The event drew a couple protesters who stood outside the Student Union, where professors and others gathered before the inauguration, and later made their way inside the arena. Two students held signs, including one that read “Higher tuition, more loans, why the celebration?”

“The whole week’s been a celebration of the administration, and we think the university is really about students and faculty,” said Kyle Novak, who stood with another graduate student.

Ms. Speyer said the board is focused on the need to keep college affordable, and the president committed to lowering administrative costs.

Other students, including UT seniors Ashley Citraro of Cleveland and Alysa Malcolm of Genoa, enjoyed the inauguration festivities. They walked in the procession and joined others at a public reception after the ceremony.

“I think there’s been more Toledo pride than in the past years, which is great,” Ms. Citraro said. “Between this and the football team doing really well, it’s a totally different ... culture on campus right now.”

Their words echoed that of their new president, who ended her speech on a triumphant and proud UT rallying cry.

“Thank you,” Ms. Gaber said. “And Go Rockets.”

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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