Professor Laureate Dr. Albert Kipa's Welcome Message to President Helm
Inaugurations of college or university presidents often take place toward the end of their first academic year in office. That always struck me as a somewhat curious practice, coming as it did six to eight months behind reality. I now realize its advantage: one knows more of whom one speaks. So on this occasion I needed and sought help.
Sing in me, Muse, and through me bring greetings from the faculty at Muhlenberg
To the man skilled in academic and worldly ways of contending,
The administrator/teacher/scholar/, wandering for years on end, from the proud stronghold at New Haven
To the realm of Benjamin Franklin's ghost and the province of Mayflower Hill,
Where he encountered the ruminations and idiosyncrasies of many a luminary,
Weathered many a challenge, sparring not only to enhance the treasury,
But also for integrity of character and the primacy of truth, beauty and justice.
Not of those adventures, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
Tell us at this time. Instead, lift the great song in celebration
Invoking common memories and collective hope,
Affirming the full goodness of what is,
Including this ritual, this moment of transition, of renewal -- yet continuity,
As we welcome into our midst, a courageous mortal willing to bear the joys and challenges of a 24/7/365 commitment,
A man concerned with the ethical implications of privilege and knowledge,
Peyton Randolph Helm, descended in name from the president of our first Continental Congress,
Bearing a surname connoting and denoting a position of responsibility and control,
Embarking on his first presidential venture as Muhlenberg's first president of the 21st Century, 11th in succession, inaugurated today, the 111th day of his tenure.
Surely auspicious omens for a man chosen by human agency, yet endowed with many firsts, clearly destined to lead .
Thus spoke the Muse and vanished, leaving me no choice but to abandon the Homeric for the Virgilian mode: Celebrationem virumque cano . Of a celebration and a man I sing.
President Helm: I am privileged to speak on behalf of the faculty -a group you characterized as "gifted and dedicated" [thus making my task more difficult today] - in congratulating you on your inauguration and to extend to you and your family the faculty's warm welcome to our imperfect, but vibrant and evolving site in the world. Cognizant of Plutarch's dictum, that "the mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled," we are eager to join with you in a spirit of collegiality and mutual respect to strengthen our creativity and to strive to provide for our community a liberating, interdisciplinary educational experience promoting critical thinking, rigorous analyses, informed, serious dialogues, tolerance and respect, thus enabling each individual to realize her or his highest potential. To be sure, faculty individualism will give rise to occasions when we will differ, when you or we, or both, will feel misunderstood. That will be the time for all of us to consider -Rudyard Kipling please forgive me- if we can keep our head /when all about us/ are losing theirs,/ it's just possible/ that ours is not the Earth and everything that's in it/ because we have not fully grasped the situation. To quote H.W. Longfellow: Not enjoyment, and not sorrow / Is our destined end or way; / But to act, that each tomorrow / Find us farther than to-day.
President Helm I salute you with joy / As on a new voyage you deploy!
Pursue, achieve, enjoy success sublime / And leave more footprints on the sands of time!
Congratulations and Best Wishes!