A presidential welcome
Dr. Florizone installed as Dal's 11th president
Ryan McNutt - October 7, 2013
“I, Richard Florizone, pledge myself to perform the duties of the president and vice-chancellor of Dalhousie University, as prescribed by law and the statutes of the university, and I promise to defend the rights and to promote the welfare of the university and the members thereof.”
The last time the presidential pledge was spoken at Dal was in 1995, when Tom Traves took to the stage of the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium for his formal installation.
Friday, 18 years later, it was time once again to hear those words.
Of course, Richard Florizone, Dal’s 11th president, has been in his role for more than three months, but that didn’t make his Installation any less significant. The ceremony is a long-standing tradition in the academy: a formal event to mark the start of a president’s time in office, and to give the president a first opportunity to officially address the university community.
"Our world is an increasingly complex, interconnected and interdependent place, and I believe the university’s mission of teaching, research, and service has never been more important," said Dr. Florizone, speaking to the crowd gathered in the Rebecca Cohn and those watching remotely via webcast.
"To take on that mission as the 11th president of this incredible university is a privilege and a humbling honour, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
“Richard and I spent a lot of time together during the presidential transition, and as I got to know Richard, it didn’t take long to understand why he was the unanimous choice of the presidential search committee,” said Dr. Traves, introducing his successor. “He is smart, witty and intuitive. He’s a great listener and he’s a strong advocate for the university and its mission.”
Joining the academic procession were eight university leaders from around the world, on-hand to help celebrate the occasion. The leaders — presidents, former presidents and chancellors — each received honorary degrees for their contributions to global education, helping place the event in an international perspective.
Education’s power to transform
After reciting the presidential pledge, Dr. Florizone made an on-stage wardrobe change, trading in his PhD robes from M.I.T. and donning his new Dal presidential robes for the first time. Before switching academic caps, he playfully tossed his old hat in the direction of his family, seated in the front rows.
With them was Dr. Florizone’s grandmother, Therese Polard. She featured prominently in his Installation address, as he explained how her commitment to life-long learning inspired the spark of discovery within his family.
“That same spark lives in Dal within our outstanding faculty,” said Dr. Florizone, citing several award winners including 3M Fellows like Kim Brooks and Joan Conrod.
“They’re just a few examples of the incredible teachers and support staff who, together, represent the most powerful impact we make as a university: creating a spark, enabling personal discovery, and imbuing a sense of meaning in individuals’ lives.”
That theme — the transformative power of education — was one of five in Dr. Florizone’s address: five ideas that he said have inspired him both personally and professionally as he’s worked through the early days of his presidency and his 100 Days of Listening. These themes, he explained, “define the Dalhousie of today and will guide us as we work together to write this university’s next chapter.”
Another theme was the university as a place for careful pause and reflection: where academic freedom, and the responsibilities it brings, creates a space where researchers like the late Ransom Myers can question orthodoxy and start conversations other sectors of society are unwilling or unable to have. A third theme was the university as a catalyst for communities locally, nationally and globally — from researchers working in the public interest, to economic development initiatives, to student and faculty outreach in areas from dentistry, to health care, to law and others.
Dr. Florizone’s statements on diversity earned cheers from the Cohn crowd as he listed ways in which, over the years, the Dal community has worked to a more inclusive campus: from the Transition Year Program, to South House, to 2+2 partnerships with institutions around the world. While acknowledging that Dal’s record is far from perfect, and there’s much work left to do in these areas, Dr. Florizone made a strong case for diversity being “part of our DNA” at Dal.
“A diverse and global campus is a stronger campus,” he said, with particular reference to the morning’s international panel discussion. “An inclusive and global community is a stronger community. For the Atlantic region to grow and prosper, we need to open our doors to the world. Dalhousie should serve both as an example and a leader in diversity and as a place where the world comes together.”
Dr. Florizone concluded his remarks with a call for partnership, saying “nobody does anything alone.”
“Without public support, without students, without donors, and without research and scholarly collaborations at home and abroad, Dalhousie would simply fail to exist,” he said.
Having seen the Dal community’s “spirit, generosity and talent” during his 100 Days of Listening so far, he said he has no doubt in the university’s ability to rally even more support behind its values.
“The Dalhousie story is your story, with each of you serving as authors and as storytellers. As we work together to write that next chapter, let us continue to be pioneers, guided by the strength of our mission; inspired by the values that shaped it; supported by those who share it. I truly believe that Dalhousie has more great accomplishments — your great accomplishments — in the unwritten pages ahead.”
“There’s a fresh Atlantic wind in Nova Scotia. It blows almost continuously, and it is filled with tremendous energy and potential. Let it inspire us together to strive for bold new achievements for Dalhousie, for our region, and for the world.”
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