Blog Higher Education

Momentous reflections on inauguration

Andrew D. Martin walking through the Brookings Quad with Stephanie and Olive Martin

It’s hard to believe that October 3 has come and gone — and what a terrific day it was celebrating our WashU Momentum with the entire community and our guests who traveled from both near and far.  Stephanie, Olive, and I have been absolutely blown away by the support we’ve received. However, it’s all of you who made the day truly special and all of you who continue to make Washington University a place of distinction through your work, support, leadership, and service.  To that end, I’ve tried to capture as many of the highlights and moments of gratitude as I could, in the order they happened chronologically. Though knowing there were undoubtedly many more, I hope this gives you a small glimpse into what it was like to experience the day from my perspective (and a little help from Public Affairs for the amazing photographs).  Here we go!  

Momentum — the coordination of communications, event planning, and logistics that went into the inauguration festivities.  We owe a lot of gratitude to the entire Inauguration Steering Committee and the subcommittees for their support. Special thanks go especially to our subcommittee chairs — Pam Henson who oversaw special events and registration; Dedric Carter who chaired the logistics, transportation, and parking subcommittee; Julie Flory who chaired media, website, and printed materials; Rob Wild who led student engagement and student events; and Lee Epstein who chaired the symposium subcommittee.  Going above and beyond, four significant and important shout-outs go especially to Rebecca Brown, Nicole Hudson, Ralph Dacey, and again to Lee Epstein who served as co-chairs of the Inauguration Steering Committee. They, along with the entire committee, did the significant heavy lifting to make the day a success. Words cannot express how grateful Stephanie, Olive, and I are for all of their efforts. Thank you! 

Momentum — the sudden change in temperature from unbearable the day prior to a comfortable, fall-like state.  Thank you to anyone who gave up good thoughts and wishes about the weather. It couldn’t have been more perfect! 

Momentum — a beautifully landscaped and well-maintained campus that looked as stunning as ever.  A giant thank you and shout-out goes to our custodial and facilities staff who worked diligently and round the clock to make last week a special one for our entire community and guests.  And, of course, for the vital role you play year-round in giving our visitors, supporters, and prospective families the best possible first impression of Washington University. 

Momentum — a thoughtful and historic Inaugural exhibition held in Olin Library, featuring some of the original drawings, materials, and history of the Eads Bridge as well as moments throughout history that help elucidate the inaugural key priorities. Thank you to Sonya Rooney and her team for their hard work putting the exhibit together. And if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s still time! It runs through December 15. 

Momentum — members of the community who were willing to trek from the Muny Lot and other surrounding neighborhoods for the sake of the festivities. To those faculty, staff, and students — thank you.  Not just last week, but every single day, you remind me of our communal values and commitment to make sacrifices for the sake of the whole. 

Momentum — hundreds of faculty, staff, and student volunteers driving golf carts, directing traffic, giving directions, and working behind the scenes to ensure our guests had a safe, enjoyable, and comfortable inauguration experience.  Thank you especially to Alumni & Development Programs, the Washington University Police Department, Parking, and Operations for organizing the crews of volunteers, arranging traffic patterns, and deploying various resources as needed. And a big thank you to all of you who volunteered in some capacity.  You were incredible! 

Momentum — the individual voices of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and members of the community who shared their own personal definitions — from “fast moving energy, rolling like a river” to “the production of new knowledge” to “the previous hard work of many people and the future aspirations of many more.”  Thank you to those who shared your Momentum quotes, greetings, letters, photos, Facebook posts, Tweets, Insta stories, and all the other ways you supported the day both near and far!

Momentum — a handful of faculty speakers across the disciplines who participated in the Inaugural Symposium.  Those speakers and the event gave us a window into some of the transformative research happening across our campuses and a chance to celebrate some of our renowned faculty who help make that research possible. Thank you to those who participated, and to Professor Lee Epstein and the entire symposium sub-committee for your hard work in planning the event. 

Momentum — hundreds of faculty, staff, and students on the Medical Campus who enthusiastically celebrated our #WashUMomentum with selfies, t-shirts, and, as Olive would say “Dad’s face on a stick.”  What’s more — an incredible conversation with Dean Perlmutter with the reminder that “Washington University would not exist without St. Louis.” Thank you to Dean Perlmutter (who makes an excellent Terry Gross), Chris Fuhler, and everyone on the Medical Campus who made that event so special for both Olive and me. We were absolutely surprised and blown away by the energy and support. 

Momentum — family, friends, members of the university community, and university delegates gathered together for lunch and conversation prior to the ceremony.  Thank you especially to our distinguished guests from the St. Louis region and the university delegates who represented their institutions of world-renowned stature.  Thank you also to Pam Lokken, Pam Henson, and Susan Cohen and their teams for helping coordinate the logistics for our representatives and guests. A significant shout-out also goes to Gina Tramelli and her collaboration with so many colleagues in Alumni and Development Programs to make all of our special events (and big surprises!) throughout the day so memorable.   

Momentum — a beautifully produced and well-executed pre-ceremony show.  Thank you to Todd Decker, Adrienne Davis, all of our guest appearances, and the team in Public Affairs for all of the hard work you put into that segment.  I can’t wait to re-watch the whole thing! (and poke fun at Olive and Stephanie, who made an appearance).

Momentum — the ability to send a text message or make a phone call INSIDE the Quad!  Special thanks goes to Craig Hager and the IT team for adding resources to our wifi capabilities so our guests could have the best possible experience and find their colleagues and friends.  And of course, for all of your other support on that day! 

Momentum — an incredible and time-honored ceremony that touched on so many of our Washington University traditions while re-imagining others.  A special thanks goes to Ida Early, Jennifer Kraus-Smith, and Tammie Davidson and their teams, and to our production companies, Spot and Ironman, for putting on such a fantastic event.  And for Anne Davis Cleary and the multimedia team in Public Affairs for the wonderful tribute video. Thank you so much!

Momentum — speaking of the ceremony. Did you know that the tam I wore was designed right here in house by our very own faculty member and student from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts?!  Many thanks to Mary Ruppert-Stroescu and fashion design major Meredith Liu for your work. What a fun and special take on the regalia! 

Momentum — the Washington University Wind Ensemble, the Washington University Choir, the Washington University Concert and Chamber Choirs, and the John Ford Pipe Band for their performances during the procession, America the Beautiful, the Alma Mater, and the recession. Thank you to Nicole Aldrich and Jennifer Gartley for their leadership and for all those who participated in the ceremony in this way!

Momentum — the insightful and thought-provoking words given by our speakers — Board Chairman Andy Newman, Jenny Lodge, Marina Gross, Tyrin Truong, Wesley Brooks, and Alan Swimmer. Thank you for representing your respective facets of the Washington University community and for sharing your well-wishes.  Indeed, as Wesley put it, we are one big “family!” 

Momentum — a marvelous spoken word poem by Paul Tran — from the engineering of birds to traveling across rivers, streams, hardships, and more, and proclaiming “I AM Momentum!”  Paul, your words resounded throughout the Quad and throughout the community. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiration and wisdom with all of us.

Momentum — the tremendous honor of sharing the stage and receiving the University Charter along with Chancellors Emeriti Bill Danforth and Mark Wrighton. Bill and Mark — Washington University is a globally renowned institution because of your vision and leadership, and it has been an honor getting to know both of you better and coming to fully appreciate the impact you’ve had across this great university.  I’m also humbled that both of you signed my doctoral diploma back in 1998, Bill as Chairman of the Board and Mark as Chancellor.

Momentum — having the opportunity to announce the WashU Pledge, a financial aid initiative that, starting next fall, will provide free tuition, room, and board to any admitted undergraduate student from Missouri or the southern portion of Illinois who is Pell-eligible or with the household income less than $75,000.  Thank you to Ronné Turner and the Admissions team as well as Jill Friedman and the team in Public Affairs for helping make that announcement happen.  I am thrilled to see where this will take us as we build on our momentum from here and continue to provide increased access to any student with talent who wishes to receive a WashU education. 

Momentum — having the chance to see my closest family and friends supporting Stephanie, Olive, and me throughout the day.  And of course, to Stephanie and Olive for being incredible partners on this journey. I love you very much! 

Momentum — seriously, a visit from the Stanley Cup?!  Wow! Thank you to everyone who helped put together the post-ceremony reception and to Tom and Mary Stillman for coordinating the “glorious” surprise. #PlayGloria

Momentum — performances throughout the day from student groups such as our Washington University Student Jazz Ensemble and other well-known local talent at the reception, dinner, and the post-inauguration student event.  I’m extremely grateful to all our performers who helped make the day extra-special. 

Momentum — various original pieces of art created to capture the day by Sam Fox faculty and students, led by Art Professors Doug Dowd and Shreyas Ravikrishnan. The posters and drawings from Fox in the Field were terrific.  What a wonderful memento!

Momentum — various outstanding student events held throughout the week — from the lighting of Brookings Hall to the post-inauguration student concert and the TedX event the day after.  Thanks especially to Inauguration Steering Committee member Steven Kish, Leslie Heusted, Rob Wild, Lori White, and everyone else who helped plan the student festivities. The fireworks were a terrific end to the evening as well as the announcement of the WILD entertainment.  

And of course, thank you to ALL OF YOU for the time and energy you put into making this university such a special place and for making the day one we’ll never forget. There are so many more people I want to thank. This is only a start, and along the way I know I’ll remember dozens more people.  Ultimately, what I really want to say is that you’ve all been incredibly integral in my success, the success of this day, and the success of the university in your own special way, and words cannot even begin to express my and my family’s gratitude.

Thank you again, and now it’s time to increase our #WashUMomentum and “to build even more bridges!”