John I. Williams, Jr. was officially welcomed as Muhlenberg College’s 12th president at a presidential installation ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 25.
On October 25, Muhlenberg College Board of Trustees Chair Richard Crist, Jr. ’77 presided over John I. Williams, Jr. installation ceremony.
The centerpiece of the ceremony was an address by President Williams, which followed an introduction by Elon Law Professor George Robert Johnson, Jr. and Williams’ official investiture by Crist.
In his speech, Williams connected Muhlenberg’s rich history with his vision for the future of the College.
He praised the accomplishments of members of the Muhlenberg family, as well as their commitment to a practical education and passionate service, adding, “Throughout our history, the Muhlenberg experience has always been more than an opportunity to learn and grow. It is a call to action—to go above and beyond—and extend the power of our spirit and desire to achieve good.”
“And now, going forward from this time and place, our challenge is to preserve the essential elements of their legacy that have endured and combined to make our College great,” he said. “At the same time, we must reinvent residential liberal arts education for a new generation of students, who will go on to leadership roles within a rapidly changing, increasingly diverse and interconnected world.”
Williams continued by lauding Muhlenberg’s liberal arts model, referencing the increasingly interconnected and challenging world we live in. “For this new generation of leaders, the most important skills are integrative and creative thinking, spanning multiple domains of knowledge and frameworks, including the arts, humanities, social sciences, and the natural sciences, all coupled with the ability to formulate cogent arguments and to communicate clearly and powerfully,” he said. “These are the very skills our students are learning here today at Muhlenberg. By blending art and science, today’s Muhlenberg students are forging the new talents that will provide the superstructure for the future.”
To that end, Williams added that Muhlenberg will “remain committed to our special blend of the liberal arts and selected pre-professional programs” while pursuing new initiatives and partnerships that will help students achieve powerful outcomes. Two such partnerships that have already been explored, he noted, include an agreement with the University of Groningen in the Netherlands that will allow students to pursue exchanges and masters programs, and an agreement with Harvard Law School via HarvardX for students to have the opportunity, using the latest digital learning techniques, to take a course in copyright law from one of the world's leading legal scholars.
Williams also said that the College is exploring opportunities to strengthen the already successful pre-med program and the Career Center, and is committed to establishing an alumni and parent mentoring program for students and enhancing diversity on campus, among other things.
The new president concluded his remarks by summing up his vision for the College, “At the same time that we connect with and build upon the strengths of our past, we look ahead and dare to dream of a bold future, one in which Muhlenberg College thrives within a new, more competitive, more innovative landscape for higher education; a future in which our students will graduate even better equipped for a faster-paced, more diverse and dynamic world; one in which we unite as a global network to open doors for one another. Together, we will soar above and beyond!”
Sunday’s installation ceremony was just one event during a weekend of Inauguration-related festivities.
Other Inauguration Weekend events included Friday, Oct. 23’s Celebration of the Liberal Arts. The event began with a celebration of the College’s Liberal Arts mission with an address by Dr. Dan Chambliss, the Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Hamilton College and co-author of “How College Works.” A panel of Muhlenberg faculty members – Eileen McEwan, languages, literatures, and cultures; Michele Deegan, politial science; Jim Peck, theatre and dance; and Bruce Wightman, biology – discussed Dr. Chambliss' address as it relates to a Muhlenberg education. The faculty panel was followed by a panel of alumni – Ms. Dawn Kramlich ’09, Mr. Dennis M. Williams, Jr. ’97, Dr. Kenneth J. Veit ’72 and Ms. Donna Schultz Van Fleet ’68 – who shared their own liberal arts experiences.
On Saturday, community was embraced and student work lauded. The day kicked off with a community fall festival on the College Green, featuring performances, carnival games, a moon bounce, college tours and more.
Saturday morning also saw Muhlenberg alumni in Philadelphia, New York and Boston organizing community service projects, thereby recommitting to Muhlenberg’s mission of lifelong leadership and service.
Back on campus, a Celebration of Student Research, Art and Scholarship was held in the afternoon, and included Muhlenberg students from across the curriculum presenting their research and scholarship in an interdisciplinary poster and video showcase and art exhibition.
On Saturday evening, a Celebration of Student Performance was held in Baker Theatre, and features theatre, music and dance students. A fireworks display sponsored by Davison & McCarthy Professional Corporation capped off the day.
About President John I. Williams, Jr.
Higher education has been a passion of Williams’ since his days as a visible student leader on the Amherst campus. After earning his J.D. and M.B.A. concurrently at Harvard University, he was elected to the Amherst College Board of Trustees in 1984 and has served continuously since—earning an appointment as a Life Trustee in 1996. He has been active in three different capital campaigns, including Amherst’s most recent, which raised more than $500 million. He also spent time as a partner in the higher education practice of The Bridgespan Group, a strategy consulting firm that assists non-profits, and managed the consulting practice at Eduventures, an education-related information services company.
Williams is a strong proponent of the liberal arts education that Muhlenberg College provides. The focus on developing young minds into agile, critically-minded professionals is key to preparing students for a wealth of professional and career options.
“We are moving from the knowledge economy to the creative economy,” says Williams. “Unquestionably, it’s the liberal arts that best prepare you for a multi-dimensional life and career. This is reflected in the curricular choices our Muhlenberg students are making today.”
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential college located in Allentown, Pa., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, sciences, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.