Tom Rochon's Inauguration

The College’s eighth president is officially installed in office. by Keith Davis

Thomas Rochon’s April 17 inauguration inspired an academic symposium, concerts, presentations, celebratory remarks, and visits from dozens of dignitaries. The defining moment, though, took place during the ceremony in Ben Light Gymnasium, when members of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees presented the new president with the College’s charter, mace, and presidential medallion. These symbols of trust signify the president’s commitment to academic excellence and the College’s accomplished history. Passing them to Thomas Rochon officially invested him as the College’s eighth president and conferred the authority to lead.

“The responsibilities of presidential leadership and stewardship have been fulfilled with courage and distinction throughout the history of the institution,” board president William Schwab ’68 told the new president. “The trustees, in our role as guardians of the College, have chosen you to carry on that tradition.”

After accepting leadership of the College, the president picked up on the keynote address by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, who’d spoken about the far-reaching consequences of the decline of civic engagement in America. The challenge, Putnam said, is to reweave the fabric of American society, and Rochon continued on the theme, affirming that the College’s mission is to uphold a social compact.

“It is understood that colleges are not in business for themselves, or even solely for their students, but rather for the public good,” Rochon said. “The creation and dissemination of new knowledge is an important function of higher education, but I think we have lost our way if we state the creation of new knowledge is our core purpose. . . . We have an abundance of facts at our fingertips. The challenge is to transform those facts into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into action.”

The president cited three key experiences that spur students to action: active or experiential learning, service and outreach in the wider community, and cross-disciplinary study.

“To be successful, students must understand how different perspectives and analyses can contribute to seeing a problem in its entirety,” he said. “They do not need to become expert in multiple fields, but they do need to understand how multiple fields contribute to solving a particular problem.”

To that end, the president outlined his strategic vision, an initiative he began last fall with a series of brainstorming sessions involving all members of the campus community. Entitled “Integrated Curriculum for Ithaca College” or (IC)2, the effort will create faculty partnerships across the various schools and divisions as well as involve staff in cocurricular activities and residential life.

“Ithaca College is very strong — a national leader in applied learning and in the engagement of community,” Rochon said. “We have just begun to transform the education experience at IC so as to become equally strong in offering problem-centered educational experiences that span diverse fields of study. I believe that the steps we have taken this year, combined with our 117-year commitment to excellence, will put us on the road to leadership in this area as well.”