Santa Clara University

Presidential Inauguration, Fr. Michael E. Engh, S.J.

What is an Inauguration?

undefined Like the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January, the inauguration of a university president formally installs the institution's highest-ranking member into office, confers upon him the ceremonial accoutrements of office, and gives the larger academic and civic community-everyone with a stake in the university's success-an opportunity to convene and celebrate their shared values.

The word “inauguration” itself comes from the Latin root “augur.'' An augur was originally a member of the official Roman body entrusted with observing and interpreting omens or signs from the gods-such as the flight of birds or the movement of stars-for guidance in public matters.

On Jan. 12, 1977, students, faculty, staff, and guests gathered for mass, celebrating the bicentennial of Mission Santa Clara de Asis, the 125th anniversary of the university, and the inauguration of Fr. William Rewak, S.J.
Divine direction and favor was considered essential for success in governmental or community affairs. And installing a new ruler was felt to be an extremely important event, not only for Rome but the whole world. In general, it was felt that the gods favored new beginnings.

Unlike the U.S. president's inauguration-which typically occurs on his first day in office-universities tend to wait until the president has been in office for several months before holding their august ceremonies. That gives the new president time to get a feel for the university and its many constituencies and to think about the direction he or she would like to take the school.

The inauguration is viewed as an ideal time to communicate the strengths, ideals, and future direction of the university. Leading members of government, society, and academia are invited. In times past, there have also been events during the week focused on themes that are key to the university's future.

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