With the following moving remarks, President Jacqueline Liebergott introduced President-elect Lee Pelton to the Emerson community in the Cutler Majestic Theatre on September 8, 2010.
When I think back about becoming president of Emerson College in 1993, after serving many years as a faculty member and academic administrator, I am reminded of Robert Frost’s often-quoted poem “The Road Not Taken.” He wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
The road we took led from the Back Bay to the Theatre District, which was then known as the Combat Zone, instead of moving to the suburban community of Lawrence, as a predecessor of mine sought to do. This decision has made a world of difference. It has given us a vibrant present and future instead of an almost certain slow death.
Thanks to the vision I shared with successive leaders of the Board of Trustees, and, thanks to the skill and tenacity of a guy named Rob Silverman, we bravely took the road less traveled. And thanks to your hard work and support, we have succeeded against all odds, and beyond any reasonable expectation.
While remaining true to our 130-year-old mission, we have reinvented Emerson … enhanced its visibility, stature, and quality and reinvigorated the Theatre District in the process.
I couldn’t have done it without you, and I will forever be indebted to you for all that you have done to help us create the new Emerson College.
There comes a time when change is good for institutions and for individuals, although it can also be accompanied by risk. Last December, I announced I would step down and make room for new leadership to build on the progress we have made and take Emerson to even greater heights.
The Board of Trustees has conducted an extensive national search for our next president. And I am pleased to say they have succeeded in their mission. They have selected a new president who has the experience, skills and vision to take Emerson to even greater heights.
His name is Lee Pelton. He comes to Emerson with a doctoral degree from Harvard and an impressive track record of accomplishment as a teacher and administrator at that University, as the undergraduate dean at both Colgate and Dartmouth, and as the president for the past 12 years of Willamette University in Oregon. He is also the father of a lovely young woman named Clare, who is an Emerson College junior majoring in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and is here with us today.
Lee is active in several educational and cultural organizations and has written extensively on higher education, diversity, and the liberal arts. As I have come to know him, it is clear to me that he also has an instinctive appreciation for the importance of the work we do in communications and the arts, and for the need to ground the study of these fields in a liberal arts perspective.
The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”
As I prepare to end my term as president and pass the mantle of leadership to a new president, I am filled with mixed emotions. I love Emerson and will miss the challenge and satisfaction of being at its helm.
But I am comforted and excited by the appointment of Lee Pelton as president. It is hard to imagine a better leader to build on the progress we have made and propel Emerson to the next level of achievement.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our next president, Dr. Lee Pelton.