It’s Official — Washington College Has a New President!

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Kurt Landgraf is sworn in by Larry Culp, chair of Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors

Kurt Landgraf is now officially Washington College’s new president.

In ceremonies on Martha Washington Square on the college campus, Landgraf was sworn in on Saturday, Sept. 23, on the college’s Fall Family Weekend. He is now the college’s 29th president, in a line stretching back to William Smith in 1782.

A tent was erected in event of showers, but the weather was close to ideal as the academic procession filed in, led by members of the Chesapeake Caledonian Pipes and Drums.  When all were in their places, the Rev. Darcy Williams of Emmanuel Episcopal Church spoke the benediction and WACapella sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Patrice DiQuinzio, provost and dean of Washington College

After a welcome by Lawrence Culp, chair of the Board of Visitors and Governors, Provost Patrice DiQuinzio introduced a series of greeters beginning with Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino. Cerino said he looked forward to the college’s extensive projects along the Chester River waterfront, and to a new era of cooperation between the college and the town. “In three to five years, it will be a different place – a win-win for Washington College and Chestertown,” he said.

Joe Holt, director of Institutional Giving

Arian Ravanvakhsh, chairman of Alumni board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe Holt, director of institutional giving, and Arian Ravanbakhsh, chairman of the alumni board, greeted Landgraf on behalf of the college staff and alumni, pledging their support and cooperation. And May Kiros, president of the student government association, told how he responded within an hour to an email welcoming him to the college , saying he would love to meet with her. WACapella then returned with a spirited performance of “Come Join the Family,” with solo bits by several members.

May Kiros, class of 2018 and president of the WC Student Government Association Association

WACapella Choir

Richard Guarasci, president of Wagner College, Landgraf’s alma mater, greeted him on behalf of the academic community. He praised the college’s tradition of liberal arts studies as a key to nurturing the critical thinking that is essential in an age of information overload. He noted the emergence of new demographic groups, many previously neglected, in the academic world, calling liberal arts colleges “a beachhead for continuing opportunity.” He praised Landgraf’s honesty, openness and directness, and his willingness to solicit ideas from all segments of the community. “Kurt Landgraf is up to the task; he relishes the challenge,” Guarasci said. He ended by urging the new president to become the agent of positive change.

James Allen Hall, director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, read a newly-composed inaugural poem, inspired by a letter to George Washington from the college’s first president, William Smith. Echoing the letter’s phrases, Hall described the college as a “monument” to Washington, “only half-built,” but inspiring the nation’s youth to live up to the ideals he embodied. The audience responded with a standing ovation.

Culp then administered the oath of office to Landgraf, and draped the chain of office over his shoulders.

Washington College faculty procede to inaugural tent.

Landgraf began his inaugural address by noting how fortunate he has been, giving much of the credit to the liberal arts education he gained at Wagner College and the influence of one professor who took him under his wing. He thanked the Board, the faculty and the community for choosing “to honor a man from very humble beginnings who understands how powerful liberal arts education actually is.Washington College is one of the finest representations of what liberal arts education can be and can achieve in our great country.”

“The best scientists, the best businessmen, and the best policymakers are grounded in liberal arts education,” he said. “The reason is, they have a sense of history, philosophy, and international affairs. They know how to approach problems critically and analytically. They know how to communicate effectively. And fundamentally, they learn the difference between right and wrong.” He told the assembled faculty, “You teach them how to do that.”

Landgraf went on to outline the “three pillars” of society that a liberal arts education helps nurture: capitalism, democracy, and the rule of law. Capitalism, he said, needs “a strong moral compass” — the kind imparted by a liberal arts education — if it is to truly serve the whole of society and not just the richest segment.

Democracy is at the very foundation of Washington College, Landgraf said, noting that the school was “established for the singular purpose of educating responsible citizens who could lead this country in its new democracy.” By teaching the lessons of history and philosophy, Washington College gives its students the tools to make decisions based on a sense of right and wrong.

As for the rule of law, he said, “For those who serve to protect the law — police officers, attorneys, judges, juries and, yes, even business leaders —having a moral compass is not just incidental, it is imperative.” To accomplish that goal, he said, “everyone associated with this college has a critical responsibility to maintain the sustainability of this institution so that we can ensure that this country will get a moral compass and travel the high road for every citizen.”

Landgraf gave two examples of decisions he made because of the moral compass he gained at Wagner College: pulling the Dupont Company out of South Africa in protest of its apartheid policy, and withdrawing a drug from the market in response to learning it was toxic. He made these decisions, he said,, “because I remembered the moral compass that said above all, do what is right, not what is convenient.”

Landgraf concluded by telling the audience, “I promise you this, I will give you my heart and my soul. I will do everything that I can to make sure that the values of this school, that the faculty of this school, and the alumni of this school, and the board of visitors and governors of this school, know that this place will be sustainable for generations to come, because I want to conclude by saying, I love this place.”

The audience responded with a prolonged ovation.

The ceremonies concluded with WACapella singing the alma mater, “Old Washington,” and a benediction by the Rev Darcy Williams. Attendees then partook of a buffet lunch on Hodson Commons.

Chesapeake Caledonian Pipes and Drums led the procession.

Richard Gillin, Inauguration Marshal,  director of Humanities Program and professor of English Literature at Washington College

James Allen Hall, director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House

Chris Cerino, mayor of Chestertown

“I love this place,” – Kurt Landgraf, president of Washington College

Photography by Peter Heck

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Letters to Editor

  1. Marty Stetson says:

    I was there and was very impressed with the ceremony. Our Mayor, Chris Cerino, did a great job in welcoming him and pledging cooperation between the town and the college. President Landgraft’s speech was thoughtful and very well presented. I believe The Board of Visitors and Governors were very wise in their choice of Washington College’s new President .

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