The University of St. Francis community gathered on the Feast of St. Francis Day, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 for the inauguration of the institution’s ninth president Arvid C. Johnson.
The inauguration ceremony was opened by the university’s founders and sponsors, the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. They were represented by their president, Sr. Dolores Zemont, who gave the invocation.
More than 100 students participated in an opening ritual depicting “The Canticle of the Creatures,” a poem by the university’s patron saint. They literally set the stage for the newest chapter in the university’s more than 90-year history by processing before the crowd with chairs, cloths, candles, banners and flowers and gracefully transforming a barren presentation platform into a colorful inauguration stage.
Three past University of St. Francis presidents—John C. Orr, James A. Doppke and Michael J. Vinciguerra—were present to “entrust the chain of office” to Johnson. Representatives from some 40 higher education institutions were part of the procession, along with many elected officials.
Alumni carrying flags that displayed their class year processed in to welcome the new president; almost every graduation year from 1939 to the present was represented.
Greetings to the new president were voiced by members of the university community. The USF Board of Trustees was represented by J.D. Ross, immediate past chair; the Sisters of St. Francis were represented by Sr. Rose Marie Surwilo, an alumna and professor emeritus; faculty was represented by William Bromer, professor of biology and environmental science; the administration and staff were represented by Regina Stevens, an alumna and online program support specialist who also serves as president of the USF Administration and Staff Council. Students were represented by Student Government Association President Nicholas Bond, Class of 2015. Alumni were represented by Shawn T. Walsh, president-elect to the Alumni Association Board, and the community was represented by Illinois State Sen. Pat McGuire, 43rd District who is also a USF alumnus.
John Gambro, dean of USF’s College of Education and Anthony Zordan, professor of accounting, recounted numerous service-oriented projects and initiatives that faculty and student groups in the university’s four colleges have recently completed. They talked about a commitment to helping USF students find not merely careers, but “vocations,” through learning and service to others in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.
Johnson, who dedicated the inauguration and his presidency to the theme “Called to Serve…Called to Lead,” spoke of a university poised to meet the challenges of the future. He encouraged the university community to continue to lead in serving the needs of students. The new president promised to “work hard every day to earn the trust” placed in him as leader of the Catholic, Franciscan university.
The inauguration ceremony concluded with the Prayer of St. Francis recited in the languages of English, Spanish, Potawatomi, Chinese, Italian, Polish and French. The Most Rev. R. Daniel Conlon, bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, gave the benediction.