April 14, 2011

Hundreds gather to celebrate the inauguration of President Barry Glassner

Hundreds gathered to celebrate the inauguration of President Barry Glassner as the 24th president of Lewis & Clark April 7-9.

Hundreds gathered from around the country to celebrate the inauguration of President Barry Glassner as the 24th president of Lewis & Clark in events that took place April 7-9. The installation ceremony on Friday, April 8, was the highlight of a series of events that stretched over three days, bringing leaders from the public, business, and higher education sectors to campus with alumni, faculty, students, and staff.

The installation ceremony featured welcoming remarks from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, University of Southern California President C. L. Max Nikias, and members of the Lewis & Clark community. Jonathan Moreno, the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor of Ethics and Professor of Medical Ethics and of History and Sociology of Science at Penn, gave the keynote address.

Highlights include:

  • Keynote address by Jonathan Moreno (37:14)
  • Investiture by Ron Ragen  (59:05)
  • Inaugural address by President Glassner (1:01:39)

President Glassner’s speech used a theme from the Bruce Springsteen song “Thunder Road” to describe the inspiring and transformative act of students and faculty using their chosen instruments to excel in their fields of study and scholarly research.

“Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk.”

In speeches such as this, it is customary to anchor the central theme in a quotation from classical literature or a revered philosopher or scientist. Mine is from Bruce Springsteen, that critically acclaimed bard from Asbury Park, New Jersey—someone I suspect many of our students consider as ancient as Aristotle.

Many times I have found that a line from a poem or a song is as profound as any treatise. Like an elegant mathematical equation, it is at once brilliant and efficient. And this particular line from “Thunder Road,” Springsteen’s song from 1975, captures precisely the point I want to make today.

I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk. The lyric expresses what every student at Lewis and Clark tackles in becoming truly educated, and what every professor faces in preparing a class, devising an experiment, painting a canvas, or mentoring a student. Indeed, the lyric captures the exciting but demanding course we face together in moving Lewis & Clark forward—to take what we know and what we discover, and to go well beyond proficiency, well beyond even that endlessly overused word, “excellence.”

A great liberal arts college or professional school is ultimately not about the learning or teaching of how to play a musical instrument, operate a computer, make a free-throw, write a legal brief, control a class of third graders, or score well on a test.

Those are important skills, and no one can thrive at any of our schools without mastering what we might call the tools of the trade. But we go farther, much farther. In our law school, our graduate school, and our College Arts and Sciences, we make knowledge and learning talk in new and astonishing ways.”

Watch Glassner deliver his remarks.
Download a PDF of Glassner’s speech.