The Inauguration of President Barry Glassner

Photography by Steve Hambuchen
Lewis & Clark officially welcomes its 24th president.

Lewis & Clark officially welcomes its 24th president.  

“Well, I got this guitar, and I learned how to make it talk.”It was an unusual but inspired choice: using a lyric from Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” as the central theme of a presidential inauguration address. And by the time Barry Glassner, Lewis & Clark’s newly minted 24th president, closed his address —and Zein Hassanein CAS ’13 belted out the chorus of the classic rock anthem—the audience was practically ready to dance. (But that would come later at the Inaugural Bash in Portland’s Crystal Ballroom.)

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 ceremony featured welcoming remarks from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown JD ’85, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, University of Southern California President C.L. Max Nikias, and members of the Lewis & Clark community. Jonathan Moreno gave the keynote address. He is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor of Ethics and professor of medical ethics and of history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania.

In his inaugural address, Glassner used the “Thunder Road” lyric 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:

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 & 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 of Arts and Sciences, we make knowledge and learning talk in new and astonishing ways.

Click here for the complete text of Glassner’s address—as well as video of the entire installation ceremony.