By Brent Wilhite
On Saturday, October 19, 2002, Westminster's Board of Trustees, deans, faculty, staff, students, and distinguished public figures gathered on the campus for one of the most significant events in a college's history.
On this day, another milestone in Westminster's 127-year history passed with the inauguration of Westminster's 16th president Dr. Michael S. Bassis.
This stately ceremony attracted college presidents and academicians from across the United States, as well as government officials, business executives, and community leaders. The celebration enabled the new president to publicly articulate his vision for the first time since assuming the mantle of leadership, as he embarks on years of thoughtful discussions with campus constituencies. Westminster's administration and staff spent months ensuring that the installation was just as dignified as the man installed.
At the request of the new president, the entire inaugural celebration, with the exception of a spectacular ball that evening, took place on the college campus. A better locale could not have been selected than the grounds where Dr. Bassis will spend countless hours in what he termed "a labor of love."
Keeping with his reputation as a collaborator and uniter, it seemed fitting that Dr. Bassis' inaugural celebration included as many members of the Westminster community as possible. Associate Professor of Music Christopher Quinn conducted a unique Inaugural Choir, showcasing Westminster students, faculty, and staff. The group sang the national anthem and "Sound of the Trumpet," a special number by John Rutter, one of the world's foremost twentieth-century composers. Of course, an event of this stature would not have been complete without Westminster's Alma Mater.
Several local public figures and key leaders in higher education welcomed the new president to his post. Governor Michael Leavitt represented the state of Utah, and Senator Robert Bennett extended greetings on behalf of both Utah and Washington, D.C. The president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Carol Geary Schneider, extended her welcome, as did President Emeritus Robert Atwell from the American Council on Education, and Nolan Karras, chairman of the Board of Regents from the Utah System of Higher Education.
Other speakers at the inaugural celebration represented the various constituencies of the college community. Representatives from faculty, staff, students, and alumni each had their opportunities to welcome the new president and offer their words of support and encouragement as he begins his new journey.
Accompanied by a fanfare, Ginger Giovale, chair of the Board of Trustees, officially invested Michael Bassis as the sixteenth president of Westminster College by placing the regal President's Medal around his neck.
International leadership guru and Utah resident Stephen Covey gave a brief introduction of Dr. Bassis. He offered his congratulations to the president and shared some insight into the kind of leadership required to achieve true greatness leadership he sees in Westminster's new president. After being introduced, Dr. Bassis stepped to the podium and began offering a glimpse of what Westminster will become while under his leadership. In the onset of his address, he set in motion his vision for the college with some revealing insight, "Let me share with you some things I believe."
I believe I have one of the very best jobs in American higher education.
I do believe that Westminster aspires to be a great college.
I believe that in American higher education, some types of learning have been too long neglected.
I believe we need to pay more attention to helping students develop the capacity to deal productively with people they experience as different, different with respect to such things as gender, religion, ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation.
I believe we do our students, and perhaps our society, a great disservice if we don't help students develop both the wisdom and the skill to overcome the many barriers to cross-cultural understanding.
I believe we need to pay more attention to helping students deepen their ethical and moral sensitivities.
I believe we need to pay more attention to helping students develop the interpersonal skills and orientations that will enable them to be effective in the full range of their interactions with others.
I believe we need to pay more attention to helping students develop their capacities for civic engagement.
I believe that the whole can be greater, much greater, than the sum of its parts.
I believe in Westminster College and I am honored to serve as your 16th president. I pledge to you the best that I have to give.