Reporter’s Notebook: Pomp and Circumstance(s)

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Pacific University inaugurates 18th President Dr. Jenny Coyle

Huzzah! Huzzah! All yee of Pacific University welcome our new president. It’s official now, but President Coyle has already been crushing it in her new job since July—I hope she gets paid for all that work!

   The ceremony kicked off on a bittersweet note as Director of Student Activities Steve Klein took the stage to welcome the audience of faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, Grovers, and students to “celebrate this auspicious day in Pacific’s rich history.” Having served many roles through multiple presidencies, Klein’s career at Pacific will end in retirement this spring.

   As a humanities student, the day truly felt auspicious as Klein passed the stage to Trevyn Dobashi and Noah Yamashiro to perform the traditional Hawaiian Pu Kani. The shirtless men beamed as they blew the welcome conches. They were followed by the Symphonic Woodwind Ensemble’s classic Pomp and Circumstance, ushering in the audience, the new president, and a focal point of the ceremony: the musical and literary arts.

   I think few were prepared for the knock-your-socks-off performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by alumnus (now software engineer) Bob Stevens ‘21, whose sonorous voice soared through the rafters of the Stoller Center. The audience was regaled later in the ceremony by the Pacific University Chamber Singers’ rendition of the rousing “We Shall Overcome,” and the Pacific Dance Ensemble Group’s immaculately choreographed “Uncornered.”

   Provost and VP Ann Barr-Gillespie gave a heartfelt land acknowledgement of the Tualatin Kalapuya, or the Atfalati, and their land that Pacific has occupied since 1849. She continued the literary theme of the night by invoking the words of Robin Wall-Kimmerer, the sensational Potawatomi author of Braiding Sweetgrass.

   President Coyle’s chosen theme for her speech was Dwell in Possibilities—inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem. While the connection between the famously reclusive Dickinson and President Coyle’s ebullience wasn’t immediately apparent, we did learn that President Coyle once lived in a log cabin without running water.

   In all seriousness though, President Coyle chose this poem because of how, in her reading, it speaks to creativity and observation. She has embodied observation in the last few months through her near-constant presence on campus and conversations with groups representing every identity and interest among the community. Her creativity will be essential in the coming strategic planning for the university.

   In her speech, President Coyle reiterated her commitment to increase the recruitment and retention of BIPOC staff and faculty, funding for international travel opportunities (wahoo!), and the accessibility, liveability, and sustainability of our campus—among other goals. Welcoming new Forest Grove Mayor (and new friend) Malynda Wenzl, President Coyle chuckled and added, “And yes, for those of you wondering, we’ve already talked about parking.”

   Our new president ended with: “Together we will always dwell in possibility because those possibilities can then become splendidly audacious realities. That’s what we do here at Pacific. I am living proof. Thank you, God, and thank you all.”

   Congratulations and officially welcome, President Jenny Coyle! — Lane Johnson and Nick Potts


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