In his inaugural address, presented in the newly renovated Studley Theater on April 13, President Donald P. Christian relayed a comparison drawn by a colleague between his role as an academic leader and a yeoman farmer. He also referred to the Morrill Land Grant Acts of 1862, which promoted both liberal and practical education—in President Christian’s words, “a view at the heart and soul of New Paltz and our future.” In making an analogy between small-scale, community-based farms, which emphasize hands-on approaches and sustainability, and New Paltz’s approach to high-quality education, he stated, “We imperil the mission and purpose of New Paltz if we also do not attend to high quality and the approaches that yield it. This is our niche, and we must continue to excel in it while we also respond to the imperative to expand access and completion.”
Christian shared his thoughts about student learning and success, his vision for the future of New Paltz, and the essential work to realize those goals. “I am unwavering in my commitment to our now longstanding tradition as a selective, high-quality, residential, public comprehensive college. We value liberal arts and sciences and professional programs; undergraduate and graduate programs; teaching and learning, scholarship, and service; and we are committed to supporting our communities and the region. We will advance by building on the vision points that have served us so well the last seven years,” he said to an audience of some 700 students, faculty, friends of the College, and his family and associates. (The speech can be read in its entirety here.)
The inaugural festivities kicked off on Wednesday evening with a dessert reception for 75 selected student leaders. Due to the success of the evening, President Christian has determined that this reception will now be an annual event. Inaugural activities continued on Thursday with the Distinguished Speaker Series address by Dr. Debra Humphreys, vice president for communications and public affairs at the Association of American Colleges and Universities; a showcase of student research and creative activity in the New Paltz Showcase; and a Faculty Panel Discussion, which highlighted three kinds of “high impact” pedagogic practices that have a long-lasting, beneficial effect on student knowledge and engagement.
Preceding the inauguration ceremony, President Christian was honored at a luncheon attended by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher; members of the SUNY Board of Trustees; state officials; and delegates from local and out-of-state colleges and universities. A benefit concert with Vladimir Feltsman, internationally renowned pianist and founder and artistic director of PianoSummer Institute and Festival, took place in Studley Theater on April 14. On April 15, The Residence Hall Student Association hosted a Student BBQ and Carnival on Hasbrouck Quad. A final inaugural event will be held on April 26 at 3 p.m., when President Christian will be interviewed by Alan Chartock of WAMC in Parker Theatre. A reception will follow at 4 p.m. in the Student Union Multi-Purpose Room lobby, and student ambassadors will be available to provide tours of campus to community members at 4:30 p.m. Tours will include the Dorsky Museum, the academic corridor, a residence hall room, and current and upcoming construction projects.