The New Dawn Blooms
By Jared Fairfield- Staff writer
On October 12th, Dr. Jacqueline Edmonson was inaugurated as the 14th president of the University of Southern Maine (USM). The ceremony took place in Hannaford Hall with many speeches of praise, hope, and even friendly affection filling the auditorium. The ceremony began with the Osher School of Music string quartet and later they performed a Mozart interlude with the Osher School of Music Chamber Singers.
President Edmonson stood alone and applauded the performance and this seemed symbolic of her commitment to the arts at the center of her vision for USM. Alumni Tony Shalhoub gave the keynote speech, saying “I am convinced that under your leadership,this institution will continue to thrive and set an example for the transformative potential of the arts.”
Many of the speakers remarked on President Edmonson’s character, primarily as a caring friend whose presence makes them feel welcome. Dr. Jonathan White, an associate teaching professor of history at Penn State Greater Allegheny, spoke charismatically of President Edmonson as a colleague, an inspiration to him, and even as a friend, referring to her affectionately as Jackie. Dr. White said that “there is a spirit of excellence that Jackie possesses. She would not allow our campus to be anything less than our potential. She would do the same for you and USM”.
After the formal investiture by Chancellor David P. Malloy, President Edmonson spoke of her inauguration with a positive vision for the university itself, saying “Today we officially mark the beginning of a new chapter, one that extends our rich history and is filled with hope, determination, and the promise of a bright future.” More than distant hope though, President Edmonson spoke in affirmatives, saying that USM is great, important, and excellent, echoing Dr. White’s statement that she would not allow USM to be anything less than its potential.
President Edmonson also spoke of her priorities as president with what she referred to as the ‘ABCs’: academic excellence, belonging, and community. Part of academic excellence, in her vision of USM, is a commitment to polymathy, “which means we will work intentionally across disciplines as we apply new perspectives to problems our society faces”. On belonging, President Edmonson said “we work to ensure USM is a place where everyone matters and everyone can thrive and do their very best work”. Finally, on community, President Edmonson said that she feels “the embrace of our community in the physical spaces that bear the names of extraordinary people like the Wishcampers, the McGoldricks and Dan Crewe.”
President Edmonson ended her speech with the words of the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman:
When day comes, we step out of the shade
Aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it,
For there is always light
If we’re brave enough to see it,
If we’re brave enough to be it.