WVU plans for weeklong ‘homecoming’ of new president

CHARLESTON W.Va.

West Virginia University is thinking big $100,000 big as it prepares to formally mark Mike Garrison’s journey from graduate to 22nd president this month.

The weeklong celebration features activities ranging from an open house at the Garrisons’ home to a blessing by the Roman Catholic bishop of West Virginia, and event planners have budgeted $100,000 for it all half of which will come from private funds.

The festivities will culminate in a formal inauguration ceremony on Friday, Oct. 19. Afternoon classes that day will be canceled, which also occurred when outgoing president David C. Hardesty was inaugurated in 1995.

WVU spokesman Bill Nevin said Monday the inauguration was planned to coincide with Homecoming Week and Diversity Week because a large number of people would be headed to the Morgantown campus, where more than 27,000 attend class.

“I think President Garrison wanted to make this a weeklong celebration so that people could mark it on their calendars,” Nevin said. “If they can’t make it at the beginning of the week, there are events that really go all the way to Sunday.”

Garrison, 38, was chosen in April to replace Hardesty after a selection process that drew criticism from the faculty senate. While student body leaders backed Garrison, former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Wise, the faculty senate endorsed Kansas State University Provost and former WVU dean M. Duane Nellis.

Garrison began a transition period as president-elect on July 1 and took over as president on Sept. 1.

Before Hardesty’s inauguration 12 years ago, the university budgeted $10,000 for the inauguration.

This year, WVU has budgeted $50,000 for the event, with another $50,000 pledged by the private West Virginia University Foundation, Nevin said.

The Friday inauguration ceremony at Woodburn Circle could cost $40,000, which includes the cost of setting up a sound system and the stage, Nevin said, while the printing budget including invitations and programs is $15,000.

Cost was one factor in scheduling the inauguration, Nevin said. Some of the money would have been spent anyway on activities for Homecoming and Diversity Week.

Such weeklong inaugural celebrations aren’t rare at public universities, said Susan Chilcott, spokeswoman for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

“Schools use it as an opportunity to bring attention to the campus, not necessarily just the inauguration of the president,” she said.

Events at WVU during the week include presentations of student research, guest speakers and a forum for faculty, staff and students to discuss the university.

“A lot of these events are tied in with the coming home theme,” Nevin said. “President Garrison wants to get out there and talk to as many people as he can.”

Some other large public universities with new presidents this fall have taken slightly more low-key approaches to the inaugural festivities.

At the University of Iowa, President Sally Mason, who started in August, marked her inauguration with a small reception at a performing arts center on campus, spokesman Steve Pradarelli said.

“In light of the budget situation in general, I don’t think she was interested in a lavish ceremony,” he said.

The Ohio State University and the University of Connecticut both have new presidents, but neither has immediate plans for an inaugural ceremony, according to officials at both schools.

Michael Hogan, the new president of UConn, may have a celebration next year, spokeswoman Karen Grava said.

“The decisions about inaugurations are up to the president,” she said. “Usually there’s a little ceremony, something similar to commencement.”

On the Net: http://inauguration.wvu.edu/

–Associated Press



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