November 14, 2010

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By Julia Ferrante

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University President John Bravman stood before an audience of hundreds of Bucknellians at the Weis Center for Performing Arts during his inauguration Nov. 14 and challenged them to answer one question: "Who are we becoming?" || Slideshow  || Video

The question, which Bravman also posed to the incoming Class of 2014 at Convocation, is one that faculty, staff, students, alumni and other stewards of the University should continually ask as they seek to preserve Bucknell's traditions while evolving with the times, he said.

"It is a question we inherit and answer not only for ourselves but also to those who shall inherit Bucknell from us," Bravman said.

"As you may have heard me say before, a university is one of the few institutions that we expect to endure in perpetuity. Our part in Bucknell's life can only be brief against the backdrop of its continual re-creation, already 164 years in progress."

Week of events
Bravman addressed the group on the day of his inauguration as the 17th president of Bucknell. The celebration of the University's academic excellence began on Wednesday with a series of academic talks and performances to highlight the creative and technical talents of Bucknell students, faculty and professional staff.

During the ceremony, which also was webcast live, Bravman stood with his wife, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Wendy Wright, their son, Cole, and other family members and pledged to "preserve, protect and abide by" the charter and bylaws of the University.

Ken Freeman, Class of '72 and chairman of the Board of Trustees, formally welcomed Bravman into the Bucknell community.

"There is no doubt he will lead Bucknell in such a way that it advances as a strong and significant contributor to the lives of our students and the quality of society," Freeman said.

Several other speakers expressed their confidence in Bravman as the University's new leader, including Nancy Weiss Malkiel, dean of the college at Princeton University; Leslie Hume, chair of the Board of Trustees at Stanford University, where Bravman spent 35 years of his education and career; Bucknell Professor of English John Rickard; Charlie Kreitler, Class of '12 and president of Bucknell Student Government; and Lewisburg Mayor Judy Wagner.

Honoring the past
Associate Professor of English Shara McCallum, the director of the Stadler Center for Poetry, read a poem, "Susquehanna," which she composed for the occasion, about the history and endurance of the Susquehanna River, the scenic backdrop of the Bucknell campus.

"This is a meditation on the Susquehanna River, its history and the history of the region," McCallum said of her poem. "All of these I see inextricably linked to our region's past, present and future."

That sense of history and the passing of time was reflected in such lines as, "Everywhere I look the river is present, a scrim for history," and, "In this watershed, time is a pendulum, swinging back and forward as the mind directs."

After the poem, a video demonstrating the connections among Bucknellians over time was shown, and later, Bucknell's five a cappella groups gathered to sing the Alma Mater in an unprecedented collective rendition.

Ensuring the future
The president encouraged the audience to consider Bucknell's past as it contemplates its future. Ensuring the University remains a leader in higher education means anticipating and responding to changes in the economy, information technology, global connections and demography while remaining open to new ideas, he said. It means meeting the goals of the University's ongoing comprehensive campaign, carrying out the campus master plan and continually examining the curriculum to ensure it is relevant and appropriate.

"Having looked back a bit on the life of Bucknell, I am intrigued by how we have answered this question already," Bravman said. "I see a university that has moved with the times, and often ahead of them; that has had some of the proudest moments in its openness to new ideas; and that has demonstrated its capacity to lead where leadership is required."

Bravman recounted some of those moments, including the arrival of the University's first international student, Maung Shaw Loo of Burma. That led to an enduring relationship with Burma and the enrollment of students from nearly 60 countries. Bucknell was also ahead of many other universities when it introduced co-education in 1884.

Meeting world's needs
Building on that tradition, Bucknell continues to anticipate change and to prepare students to make a difference in an evolving world, in part by bringing in students from varying backgrounds through the Posse Scholars and Bucknell Community College Scholars programs and through civic engagement experiences such as the Bucknell Brigade to Nicaragua and the Katrina relief trip to New Orleans, Bravman noted.

In the past, University officials have made brave and unusual decisions to meet the needs of the world around it, he said. During World War II, Bucknell revised its academic calendar to allow students to finish their degrees in three years instead of four so that they could serve in the military. When the G.I. Bill was enacted, Bucknell allowed students whose education had been interrupted by war to complete their degrees at the University. As a result, in 1946, enrollment nearly doubled to 2,000 students, 1,200 of whom were veterans.

Bucknell consistently has expanded its curriculum to meet changing needs, Bravman noted. During the Industrial Revolution, engineering programs were expanded. More recently, neuroscience and biomedical engineering programs were added and centers for environmental studies and civic engagement were established. The University currently is implementing a new College Core Curriculum in the arts and sciences.

Continued commitment
Bravman commended Bucknell's faculty members for their commitment to teaching and scholarship and for embodying "scholarly habits of mind" that require integrity, civility, fairness and honesty.

"We will set our sights high, and we will achieve the critical practical objectives that will shape the Bucknell of today and tomorrow, just as did those who came before us," Bravman said. "Mostly, in the spirit of the University, I hope we will continue asking, 'Who are we becoming?' I hope we will aim to answer it in one way: by being together the Bucknellians that we most aspire to become." || Office of the President

President Bravman, Bucknell's 17th president, addresses the Weis Center audience.

Contact: Division of Communications