UPS swears in new president

The News Tribune
April 24, 2004

President Ron Thomas called the University of Puget Sound to local, national and global leadership at his official inauguration Friday.

Recounting the university's long history in Tacoma and acknowledging - though indirectly - the campus' sometimes strained relations with the community, he pledged a future in which UPS would achieve its national ambitions through service to the local community.

"We will not choose between the path of local leadership and the road to national prominence," Thomas told hundreds of people gathered at Memorial Fieldhouse for his inauguration. "We will show that the first journey maps the way to the second."

Though he started last summer, the campus formally welcomed Thomas as its 13th president with all the pomp and circumstance a university can muster.

The ceremony began with a procession of some 300 faculty, alumni, students and civic leaders. It continued with an invocation sung by a Puyallup Tribe family. And it included greetings from university officials, community leaders and Thomas' own academic mentors.

"This is a day of celebration, a celebration of liberal education and good citizenship and the relation between the two," said Deanna Oppenheimer, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees and a 1980 UPS graduate.

Many speakers praised Thomas for the leadership he has already shown during nine months in office.

"Ron Thomas strikes me as a transformational leader with a vision for change," said Thomas Dixon, president emeritus of the Tacoma Urban League and a 1971 UPS graduate.

Thomas himself used Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" as a starting point for a discussion of the value of civic engagement. He urged the UPS community to remain engaged in the local area and the world.

"We will seek common cause, rather than promulgate a private plan," Thomas said. "We will learn as well as teach. We will listen as much as speak."

Thomas spoke of UPS' history of contributions to local arts and education, and the university's past was much in evidence at the inauguration. Alumni from nearly every class dating back to 1933 attended the event, as did retired faculty and trustees.

Former President Susan Resneck Pierce, who retired last summer after 11 years, gave Thomas a medallion she had received from former President Phil Phibbs. Afterward, Oppenheimer formally invested Thomas with his new title.

Thomas came to UPS from Trinity College in Hartford , Conn. , where he was vice president. He is a scholar of Victorian literature and culture.

David Wickert: 253.274.7341

(Published 1:30AM, April 24th, 2004)