On September 20, Shimer College officially inaugurated our fourteenth president, Susan Henking. The inauguration ceremony, which took place at the Standard Club in the loop, was a way of formally recognizing Susan Henking as president although she has worked at Shimer College since early 2012 following an exhaustive national search. The ceremony began with four VanderCook music students playing as a procession of robed representatives of colleges and universities, past presidents of the college, members of the Shimer board of trustees, Shimer faculty, four student representatives, each representing a current Shimer class, representatives from city and state legislatures, the Chair of the board of trustees, and the President herself entered the room.
Following the processional, Dean of the College, Barabara Stone, was the first to speak. She began by thanking various parties for being present including Shimer’s past presidents Don Moon, Bill Rice, and Ed Noonan. She gave President Henking the promise that “we will make sure you continue to be challenged.” Next, Nancy Nickel, President of the Shimer College Alumni Association spoke of the joy felt when Susan Henking became president of Shimer, “if walls could talk, they would have shouted for joy,” she said. Glendalyn Booker, Bursar and Business Office Manager of Shimer, recalled one morning in which President Henking approached her, notebook in hand, asking “What can I do to help the business office?” To Ms. Booker, this moment embodied the Shimer motto Non Ministrari Sed Ministrare or “Not to be served but to serve.”
Brenton Stewart, member of the class of ’14, drew on his own experience with President Henking in the early days of her presidency; he spoke of an instance in which she toasted to student workers and “really made us feel like equals.” Following Brenton’s speech, which ended with a remark that caused our dear President to go scarlet in the face and would be indecent to repeat in front of our more modest readers, Margaret M. Mitchell, Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, spoke. President Henking received her master’s degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and Dean Mitchell spoke of the pride that U of C had towards its alumna for receiving the presidency position. John Anderson, President of IIT, or as he refers to himself “Shimer’s Landlord” spoke of how the presence of VanderCook College of Music and Shimer College on IIT’s campus allows provides students with an “intellectually rich menu of opportunities” that one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the US. Pat Dowell, the alderman of the third Ward of Chicago, spoke of how Shimer’s goals are similar to that of a great democracy in that Shimer seeks to have an active citizenry that engages everyone in the process of change. Next, Chuck Middleton, President of Roosevelt University, proclaimed that the selection of Susan Henking as the fourteenth president speaks not only of the quality of the leader but also the integrity of the institution that selected her. Finally Sally Brown, Chair of the Board and member of the Shimer College class of ’63, spoke of Shimer’s history of being “dangerously optimistic” and the certainty of the board that Susan Henking should be our president, as she would continue that tradition. The Oath of Office was then administered by Sally Brown and followed by Susan Henking’s own Inaugural Address entitled, “Because Our Lives Depend Upon It” in which she talked about how “like all of us, Shimer is a work-in-progress.”
As a Shimer student, this event allowed me to examine how lucky we are to have so many different parties involved in the development and maintenance of our incredible school. We are lucky to have an amazing president who is so committed to improving our educational experience and affirming Shimer communal values. We are also lucky to have staff, faculty, and a board of trustees equally committed to these goals. During the reception in the Grand Ballroom following the ceremony, the Assistant Director of Admissions, Adrian Nelson said, “It’s this kind of event that reminds me why I love where I work.” As the various speakers who participated in the greetings to the president during the ceremony show, Susan Henking’s presidency is meaningful not only to the student community but also to the IIT, Chicago, and academic communities. I am extremely proud to have a president who is able to connect not only with politicians and administrators but also able to have meaningful interactions with the students of her institution.