Morning sunshine beamed on Saturday, Sept. 26 as Westminster College inaugurated its 18th president, Stephen R. Morgan.
The campus buzzed with alumni, faculty, students and Westminster community members who joined together to honor Morgan’s installment as the new face of the college.
The Utah Pipe Band opened the ceremony with bag pipes that pierced through campus from the concrete steps of Giovale Library to the Richer Commons.
The faculty marched in, cloaked in their long black robes, with the honoree Morgan. The ceremony opened with the National Anthem from the Westminster chamber singers and the presenting of the colors by the ROTC Color Guard.
The ceremony lead into an invocation prayer that brought Westminster back to its Presbyterian roots. The prayer was led by Reverend Dr. Michael J. Imperiale, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City.
This year marks the official transition to new leadership, or semi-new leadership. Morgan has been a leader of Westminster for many years now.
“I think I’m overwhelmed by the responsibility and a little embarrassed by the attention—it really isn’t about me,” Morgan said. “Inaugurations are moments in time in an institution’s history. Tomorrow, [the inauguration] will be the 18th moment in the 140 years [of the school’s history] where there’s a presidential change.”
Morgan expressed his excitement about sharing his moment with the community as a whole.
“What is exciting about something like an inauguration is I know a lot of people will be coming tomorrow that care deeply about this school,” Morgan said. “It’s a fun moment to thank them and to connect with them. Over the course of years, I’ve worked with a lot of great staff and faculty. So many of them are honoring me by coming back… that part of it is exciting.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was also there for the celebration and shared his appreciation of President Morgan and the Westminster community.
“I also know him to be a man of vision, integrity and compassion,” Becker said. “He’s used his unique set of talents and experience to the fullest as a vocal passionate proponent of Westminster for over 30 years, and he has much to be passionate about.”
Morgan is valued for his dedication to the college when it faced financial hardships over his tenure prior to becoming president.
“The Board of the Trustees knew he’s somebody the college needed, and we already know 65 percent of what a college president does is raise money, and nobody raises it better than Steve,” said Robert Redon, a three-year member of Westminster’s Board of Trustees, “I really think he’s going to take us to another level.”
One highlight of the ceremony came when ASWC President Costa Lasiy outstretched his arm and took a “selfie” with Morgan.
The student interaction at the end of Lasiy’s speech and taking a “selfie” in front of the entire inauguration showcased Morgan’s relationship with the students.
“I think it went amazing,” Lasiy said. “Everybody seemed to enjoy it there. I think he’s going to do an amazing job. He’s a really good president and it’s nice that the board chose him and I’m really confident that he’s gonna do a good job. He really cares about Westminster College. He is the perfect president for this school.”
Students past and present have praised Morgan’s approachability and genuine understanding of the Westminster community.
“He’s been here a for a really long time,” said Keri Hale, senior arts administration major. “He’s really genuine in person and takes the time to know students. Every time he sees me he says, ‘Hi, Keri’ and knows my name and asks me about something that we’ve talked about before. He’s very personable.”
Hale said that Westminster was in good care for the next few years and even joked that she might stay around to see where Morgan took the college.
Former ASWC Vice President Richel Raich (‘09) also sat on the alumni board while Morgan was in charge of the endowment.
“This morning was beautiful,” Raich said. “I actually teared up a little when former President Michael Bassis put the medallion on.”
Bassis passed the presidential medallion and helped pass on the other presidential roles to Morgan.
“What I love about Steve was [not only] his passion for this university but also his humility,” Raich said. “I’ve heard him on more than one occasion call himself a professional beggar. He is something to aspire to, I think.”
Inauguration day ended with dinner, live music and dancing in the Richer Commons through the night.