After nearly 10 months in office, President Neil Theobald will be inaugurated Friday through an investiture ceremony at the Baptist Temple, which is expected to draw attendees from Gov. Tom Corbett to as many as 13 other university presidents.
Along with investiture, the university is hosting a concert and academic symposia, all of which coincide with Homecoming weekend.
Preparation for the event is run by a 42-member planning committee that has been working for months to make sure the inauguration of Temple’s 10th president goes flawlessly.
The planning committee, chaired by Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications Karen Clarke, has been gearing up for this weekend since planning committee appointments were sent out in early June. The committee also set up subcommittees on various aspects of the inauguration, including communications and publicity, the investiture itself and student events.
At the final planning committee meeting Thursday on the second floor of Sullivan Hall, reports from the subcommittee chairs showed the depth of the preparation for inauguration by providing updates on everything from the schedule of events, to the design of the disk covers that will be given to attendees after footage from the inauguration is put on CDs.
“If we had to do this tomorrow, we’d be ready,” said Theresa Powell, vice president of student affairs, who co-chairs the student events subcommittee with Temple Student Government Student Body President Darin Bartholomew.
The inauguration events begin on Thursday with the opening of the academic symposia, which will feature lectures and discussions on various topics including financing higher education, the future of libraries and health care challenges. Theobald will also attend many of the events during the symposium in short, 15-minute stops.
“We’re kind of convening people around areas and conversations that we’re really good at,” Clarke said. “From computational science to understanding and debating the future of libraries and their role in higher education going forward, those kinds of debates are the kinds of things we want to be known for.”
The investiture ceremony begins on Friday morning at the Baptist Temple with performances from university’s Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the slew of university presidents and remarks from Gov. Corbett, City Council President Darrell Clarke, whose 5th District includes Temple, and Pastor Kevin Johnson of Bright Hope Baptist Church will speak.
Though Theobald said in the past that his inaugural address will not deviate much from the goals he has set out for Temple previously – an affordable and high quality education – he said in an interview at the start of the semester that he will also discuss Temple’s role in the city.
“There are generic issues: affordability, research, competency,” Theobald said. “What I need to do in the inaugural is figure out what Temple’s role is specifically. We’re not Penn, we’re not Villanova, we’re not St. Joseph’s. We’re Temple. We’re Philadelphia’s public university.”
Though the event centers on inaugurating Temple’s 10th president, Clarke said it’s also a way to showcase the university’s accomplishments.
“It’s an academic and historic moment to inaugurate a president like this,” Clarke said. “It’s a wonderful celebration about what makes Temple great and that’s what the president wanted it to be. He didn’t want it to be all about him, he wanted it to be about really holding up Temple and giving people a reason to celebrate Temple.”
As the planning committee enters its final days of planning, Betsy Leebron Tutelman, co-chair of the subcommittee concerning the academic symposia, said they would be working up until the last day to make sure the event goes off without a hitch.
“I think we plan on sleeping here to make sure it all goes smoothly,” Tutelman said.
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.