In his keynote address at Temple University President Jason Wingard’s investiture ceremony Friday, New Jersey United States Senator Cory Booker recalled the beginning of his friendship with Wingard at Stanford University, where they both played football.
“I was the big man on campus at Stanford University,” Booker said. “He was some punk freshman that came in, but immediately he distinguishes himself because he runs faster than me, he jumps higher than me and back then, you may find this hard to believe, but we both had afros and his looked so much better than mine.”
Friday’s ceremony at The Liacouras Center, which was part of Temple’s Homecoming and Family Weekend programming, signified the official inauguration of Temple’s first Black president in its 137-year history.
Wingard was selected as Temple’s president-elect in June 2021 and officially began his tenure in July 2021 after the university completed its nationwide search for former President Richard Englert’s successor.
Joining Wingard at his inauguration were television host and 1992 broadcast journalism alumna Tamron Hall, who hosted the event, university administrators, family members, including his father Levi Wingard who gave a speech, and community leaders.
Hall opened the ceremony before introducing Reverend Alexander Houston, who led the invocation prayer.
“I am honored to be Temple made and I am honored to celebrate with you this new chapter of leadership,” Hall said.
Throughout the ceremony, university leaders, administrators and faculty, including Board of Trustees Chairman Mitchell Morgan, Imam Quaiser Abdullah, a communication and social influence professor, and Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, a religion professor, delivered remarks celebrating Wingard’s inauguration.
Provost Gregory Mandel discussed how Temple handled unprecedented health, economic and social challenges the past several years.
“Navigating these challenges will require a collaborative and committed effort,” Mandel said. “Grounded in compassion and humility, President Wingard, with your guidance and under your leadership we will confront these challenges head-on, building on the innovative research, rigorous scholarship and creative expression of our faculty.”
Prior to Faculty Senate President Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon delivering remarks on behalf of Temple faculty, Student Body President Gianni Quattrocchi spoke for students, applauding Wingard for his ability to engage students and listen to their concerns and ideas.
Wingard often utilizes Instagram, along with other social media platforms, to engage the student body and further Temple’s brand.
“The true hallmark of a leader that he has exhibited is that he listens,” Quattrocchi said. “When he meets students, he shares their plans, their concerns, he asks how their classes and clubs are going and he asks what they want to see this university be.”
Booker compared the founding of Temple, which started in 1884 in a church basement, to the country’s grassroots beginnings.
“We founded this nation with folks that were in taverns and, yes, in basements,” Booker said. “We fought great battles where people went to the basement from a church basement during the civil rights movement, from the basement that the suffragettes met and planned in, to even the greatest infrastructure project this nation has ever seen. Those folks met in basements and barns to plan the Underground Railroad.”
Booker is excited to see a longtime friend lead the university as Temple’s first Black president, he wrote in a statement to The Temple News prior to the inauguration.
“He will have a big impact on the Temple community and lead the university to even greater heights,” Booker wrote.
In his speech, Wingard outlined 10 initiatives aimed at ushering in a “new era” at Temple. The goals come after Wingard published two books — one published last month called “The College Devaluation Crisis” — that question the value of higher education.
“The data says that college enrollment in the U.S. is plummeting,” Wingard said. “The data says that investments in colleges across the United States are failing. The data says that employers are finding college graduates not prepared for work.”
Wingard’s goals encompass five pillars — “access, educational value, thought leadership, community engagement and reputational excellence.”
Temple established the Temple Access Fund to raise scholarship money for students who can’t afford to go to Temple, and a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Hub, Wingard said. The university will also be starting the Institute for the Future of Work, which will conduct research on providing students with a valuable liberal arts education, and expanding campuses in Los Angeles, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Additionally, Temple will implement a professorship that advocates for interdisciplinary initiatives, community partnerships to help local students attend Temple, an arts and culture center and a new brand campaign while continuing to put anti-violence initiatives in place.
Temple has already started working on each initiative, Wingard told The Temple News after the ceremony.
In his inauguration speech, Wingard, with the gold chain of office around his neck, thanked the teachers, coaches and mentors who helped him throughout his education, career and personal life.
Wingard believes that through his leadership Temple can weather the devaluation of a college education.
“Temple will lead the education revolution,” Wingard said. “The future of work is disruption, the future of learning is change, the future of Temple University is bright.”