[lit-ideas] Re: inaguration

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 07 May 2004 17:06:49 -0700

I'm sending an account of my day to reassure you that any local madness you
are experiencing is but one manifestation of the whimsy that whips round the
world like a wind. 

We were sent a memo about regalia and our college's new president's
inauguration, so I e-mailed the secretary to ask what one does when one's
cummerbund clashes with one's tiara.  She, being a sport, replied,

Please refer to section 8, article 5 in "Perkin's Guide to Coordinating
Ceremonial Accoutrements," 3rd ed.

My advice: clashing is the new matching.

Today I inaugurated a president.  I had help, but it was I who did much of
the vital clapping and sitting and listening and staring into space.  Oh,
and I ate lunch and schmoozed with members of the board.  A pretty important
contribution, I'm sure you'll agree.  When St. Peter--or whomever that job
has now been outsourced to-- comes forward with the scales and the book, I
shall say, "Well for one thing, on Friday, May 7, I inagurated a president."

The highlights were the opera singer and the Chinese dragons--that's what
Emily's teacher used to call "foreshadowing," which is a trick writers
use--but let me begin at the beginning.  Weeks ago, a dean had asked me to
don the whole academic outfit.  I said that I'd never bought the gear, what
with the art college being so interested in casualness and artiness and all.
He said that "stoles" were being made.

I arrived in the robing room to find...all the faculty disguised as
civilians, and all the administrators and members of the board, dressed as
faculty!  I felt relieved that I'd accidentally made the right choice.
Imagine trooping in a parade with all your fellow faculty members dressed
casually and you the only peacock in the full fanciness.

The "stoles" turned out to be brown versions of the dangly down bits that
ministers wear.  I asked a colleague, "What has brown done for you lately?"
She replied, "brown is the new black."

So, led by our administrative scholars, we trooped in.  There was a speech
"from the faculty," which was given by a dean.  If I hadn't been in such a
calm and sabbatical mood, I might have been annoyed that the faculty weren't
speaking for themselves and speaking up and speaking out.  But I am become
an calm and smooth person.

Then there was a brief speech and a reading of a letter from the mayor--who
is divorced from one of our fair city's most famous artists-- by a man I
admire, ex-president of one college, and ex-president of an Institute, and
currently interim president of yet another college.  (We were on the search
committee together.)  Then the student rep said a few words.  And then,
opera, an excerpt from "Carmen," in fact the most famous aria from "Carmen."
Fabulous.  The woman, a huge soprano, opened her mouth and shook the tent,
my spine, many surrounding buildings.  She used every inch of her body--and
there were, as I have mentioned, a good many inches--to produce beautiful

Then there was a statement that the president was officially inaugurated,
but no crowning or waving of magic wands.  And then he gave a speech about
how hopeful he is and how we're going to get faculty development monies and
how we're going to have connections with a college in Germany, and how Mrs.
Fullbright--yes, wife of--has agreed to sit on a committee and help.  It was
all good stuff.  

The recessional was a mere matter of following Chinese dragon dancers down
the aisle, with a brass band taking up when the drumming left off.

I imagine this is pretty much how all college presidents are inaugurated.

David Ritchie
enjoying the local color in
Portland, Oregon

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