Forrest Robinette `16
This past Sunday, Oct. 26, Joanne Berger-Sweeney was inaugurated as the 22nd president of Trinity College. She was elected to the position in March of this year and assumed her office on July 1; however, Sunday’s inauguration marks her formal acceptance of the office of president.
The audience at the inauguration was diverse, including Trinity staff, faculty, parents, and students as well as representatives from many colleges and universities across the country.
The ceremony, held in Trinity’s Koeppel Center, began with a processional led by the Trinity College Samba Ensemble. When President Berger-Sweeney appeared and began her walk to the stage, the crowd erupted with applause. After the processional, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Cornelia Thornburgh ’80, addressed the audience, welcoming everyone to the historic event. The ceremony that followed included speeches from such distinguished guests as the Mayor of Hartford, Pedro Segarra, Governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, two current college presidents and two college presidents emeriti.
The ceremony also included a wide array of musical performances. The first was a rendition of “America the Beautiful,” sung by the combined voices of each of Trinity’s singing groups. Later in the ceremony, John McDonald, Professor of Music at Tufts University, performed a piano piece that he composed in honor of the occasion. After that, Carolyn Wilkins, Professor of Ensembles at the Berklee College of Music, sang a stirring rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
In addition to the musical performances, James Fenton, a renowned poet, journalist, and literary critic, read a poem that he wrote for the ceremony titled, “Those Whom We Admire.”
Speaker after speaker had the same message for the Trinity College community, that we have chosen well. Governor Malloy said that President Berger-Sweeney “complements the history of the College” and that, he believes, “she will be making history herself at this institution.”
President Berger-Sweeney’s colleagues from Wellesley College and Tufts University were extremely enthusiastic in their praise of her character, work ethic, and quality as an individual.
Dr. Lawrence Bacow, President Emeritus at Tufts, recalled that when he and his colleagues recruited Joanne Berger-Sweeney to be the Dean of Arts and Sciences, he told the Tufts Board of Trustees that “Joanne is a president in waiting.” He went on to say that she possesses “that rare combination found in all great leaders: a hard head and soft heart.”
Diana Walsh, President Emerita of Wellesley College, worked with Berger-Sweeney during her time at Wellesley. Walsh said of Berger-Sweeney, “here is a leader who embraces new learning, appreciates conflicting views, fosters collaboration, and inflects her leadership with a taste for adventure and fun. Here is a leader you can trust.”
After Dr. Walsh’s speech, Berger-Sweeney was officially inducted as the College’s new president. Thornburgh ’80 presented her with the symbols of the office. The first was the Owen Morgan Mace, which symbolizes the president’s executive power. After being given the mace, President Berger-Sweeney joked, “It’s heavy, everyone” and her words with met with laughter throughout the audience.
She was then given the Key, which represents the physical properties of the College, the Book, which has been touched by every graduating Trinity student, and the Presidential Collar, a symbol of the president’s high office.
With the conferral of these items, Joanne Berger-Sweeney became the 22nd president of Trinity College. The crowd roared with applause as Berger-Sweeney moved to the podium for her inaugural address. In her speech, she spoke about her personal history and articulated her goals for the future of the College.
She said that she hopes to preserve Trinity’s traditions while also going boldly into the future. “We will try things, and some of them may fail,” she said, but the future of the College “will be based soundly on lessons learned, and we will continue to be a learning network in a very complex environment.”
In her closing words, she said, “Let us go boldly. Let us be engaged… I invite you to join me in making Trinity College’s future the best it can be.” The conclusion of her speech was met with an extended standing ovation.
President Berger-Sweeney’s inauguration was a tremendous success and it instilled a feeling of excitement and hope in the members of the Trinity community for the future to come.