Presidential Inauguration

Investiture Address

President Gayle E. Hutchinson – Investiture Remarks, March 3, 2017

Members of the Board of Trustees, Chancellor White, members of the platform party, distinguished guests, students, faculty, staff, family, and friends, good morning and welcome! I begin with a moment of personal privilege by offering thanks. To my extended family and close friends who encouraged me to realize my dreams, thank you for making long treks to celebrate this memorable occasion with us. Thank you to my wonderful spouse and partner of 17 ½ years, Linda, whose love and support has been unwavering.

Thank you to the extraordinary team who planned and carried out every detail of this magnificent event. Finally, I thank all of you for your daily contributions that enable our students to succeed and our communities to thrive.

The presidential investiture is an academic tradition dating back centuries.

The colorful regalia displayed in the processional represents the academy rich with diversity of discipline, thought, and people. The gonfalons announce the colleges with confidence and pride. The presidential medallion represents the authority and responsibilities bestowed upon me by the chancellor and the CSU Board of Trustees, and it is a symbolic reminder to all of us that as president, I must use this authority wisely, judiciously, and inclusively.

On this celebratory day, let us remember the successful endeavors, initiatives, and achievements that have shaped this outstanding institution of higher learning and defined its graduates for 130 years! Today begins a new era at Chico State. I invite all of you to join me in reimagining our future in ways that serve our students better and enhance our communities.

The purpose of the academic mace is to shine light onto darkness and replace ignorance with knowledge. Many believe that those who follow the academic mace seek higher learning and betterment of self. At Chico State, the chair of the Academic Senate is the faculty leader chosen to carry the mace at all formal academic celebrations.

Every mace has a more intimate story to tell. Our mace, although newly created, has a story rooted in community and place. The handcrafted staff is made of claro walnut, cherry, and valley oak. The valley oak honors our Native American communities, especially the Mechoopda people, upon whose ancestral lands our University sits. The claro walnut and cherry woods honor our agricultural communities both past and present. Together, the woods of the staff remind us to stay rooted in our past as we grow and cultivate more meaningful relationships with the diverse communities of our region, the North State. These selected woods also express our connectedness with and reliance upon the physical environment, a complement of fragile ecosystems. It is our collective responsibility to improve and maintain the health of these ecosystems today and for future generations.

The hand-blown ribbon glass, a blend of eight distinct colors toward the top of the mace, is representative of our academic disciplines and programs. It signifies that primacy of learning stands at the core of our University mission—where we place students at the center of all that we do. And when light shines through the glass, the swirl and integration of colors inspire us to consider learning, scholarship, and service absent of barriers.

The University emblem, an eternal flame, sits proudly at the top as our promise to Chico State students that we will provide them with a high-quality education and meaningful experience, and as our promise to regional and global communities that we will serve, collaborate and lead in ways that positively impact education, community health, economic development, and the environment. We view this noble mission as an essential and everlasting public good.

“Education matters” is a statement my parents used to drill into the heads of us kids. It turns out my parents were right. A college education has opened doors for many individuals, especially those who are first in their families to attend. Two of our speakers and I share a common link that we were first in our families to attend college.

It warms my heart to have Dr. Lynn Gangone on stage with me today. She is a dear friend. I’m not willing to say old friend, although we are getting closer in age to that adjective. Lynn and I both grew up in families with modest economic means. We did not realize how modest those means were until we left home and observed more of the world around us. As high school buddies, we dreamed of going to college for no other reason than our parents and teachers, especially our high school coach, Dr. Carol Pratt (who is in the audience today), encouraged us to go. It was a common belief then, as it is evidenced by research today, that a college education would lead us to better lives for our families and ourselves. Lynn and I, along with our siblings, were first in our families to attend college.

An athletic scholarship helped my parents and me pay for my undergraduate education. My college experience cultivated my desire to be a teacher. It also released my unquenchable thirst for learning and passion for lending a helping hand to those wishing to better themselves and strive toward their potential.

Lynn and I started dreaming about the possibilities life had to offer once we started attending college. Today, each of us has a remarkable life journey and career path that began when we earned our bachelor’s degrees. Frankly, our stories are not that unusual. I am confident that many of you in the audience today have your own remarkable life story and career path to share. I know our Chico State students and alumni do.  

Mr. Durell Siplin, a two-time Chico State alum by earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, was first in his family to attend college. In my opinion, he is shining example of how the Chico Experience transforms lives!

I remember clearly the day I met Durell. During that first office hour together, he explained his dream to have a successful life for himself and his family. Durell said then, as he is doing now as an elementary school teacher, that what he most wanted to do was teach and coach young people, helping them articulate their aspirations and one day realize their dreams. Many to most of Durell’s students will one day be first in their families to attend college.

Strong faculty- and staff-to-student relationships are an essential ingredient to what we call the Chico Experience. Our campus understands that these intentional bonds are the hallmark to student success at Chico State. These relationships establish a foundation upon which we engage students in rigorous, inclusive, diverse, and engaged learning experiences inside and outside of the classroom. It is our collaborative campus approach that enhances students’ experiences in ways that impact their lives long after they graduate. Durell, I am proud of you, son.

I am proud of all of our Chico State students and alumni. And I am proud of and grateful for the people who forge these meaningful relationships and deliver inclusive pedagogy and meaningful support to our students; those people are our talented faculty and staff!

Throughout our lives, we interact with individuals who have a profound impact on us. I had the opportunity to work recently with one such individual whose leadership approach renewed my hope in building egalitarian communities in higher education. That person is President Emeritus Richard Rush. Dr. Rush was the founding president of CSU, Channel Islands in 2001 and recently retired from his post. We worked well together. I would describe him as a servant leader who approached all challenges as opportunities and who reminded me that humor and laughter not only soothe the soul but build community. He honored us today with a poem by John Masefield that was written, and I quote “at an unsettled time more than a century ago.”

We often look to history so as not to forget about human and social struggles. We examine history in hopes of understanding current events. We reference history when we need to gain strength from those who demonstrated courage and resilience in times of unrest. We study history to see how individuals and governments approached social challenges and worked toward resolving them. We observe through history how events of the time bring communities together often making them stronger. And, we learn from history that human civilizations are never without challenges, understanding that it is courage, resilience, and perseverance that carry people forward.

The history of American colleges and universities dates back to Colonial times. Many of these institutions of higher learning were patterned after Britain’s Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Earliest campuses were made available most often to the male social elite. Through time, colleges and universities revised their missions to serve a broader American people, as witnessed through the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, President Truman’s Commission on Higher Education report of 1948, and our own California Master Plan for Higher Education resulting in the Donahoe Higher Education Act of 1960. The purpose of this legislation was to “create a [higher education] system of exceptional quality with broad access for students.” Those who work and support California institutions of higher learning bond together for a noble cause. Even today, the California higher education system composed of 23 sister campuses is touted as the best system in the world!

Established in 1887, Chico State began as a state normal school located on a portion of John Bidwell’s cherry orchard. The normal school’s charge was preparing future teachers. Over time, Chico State evolved from a normal school to a state college to what we are today—a comprehensive state university always leading in teaching, scholarship, and service, and always keeping pace with the diverse higher education needs of the public. With an eye toward the future, we know that “Today Decides Tomorrow!”

As expressed by this investiture, it is a new day on campus. We turn a page in our history and begin a fresh chapter that will expand upon a healthy legacy of achievement and service. Today, we renew our pledge to California and the North State that we will continue to provide high quality and affordable education and services that are both demanding and sustainable.

Together, we will continue to embrace learning as our core mission, with high expectations for student achievement.

Together, we will model an egalitarian campus—community built upon a collaborative culture where we value trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, respect, benevolence, open-mindedness, fairness, communication, self-discipline, and civility.

Together, we will work as one University; breaking down silos, removing institutional barriers, and encouraging innovations so that we serve our students better and promote their success through applied instruction and engaged learning, community service and civic engagement, and global and multicultural education. And, we will improve upon and make sustainable the means by which we provide support for students’ personal well-being.

Together, we will embrace diversity in all its forms through inclusive pedagogy that will foster intellectual and social growth that is the essence of democratic principles and essential to community health.

Together, we will serve as humble stewards of our resources and leaders of our region, reaching out to and welcoming communities as partners in shaping a vibrant future for the North State.

Together, we will

Together, we will transform tomorrow! Thank you.