October 31, 2006

University rings in Zimmer presidency

[img id="80093" align="alignleft"] In a day of University celebration, Robert Zimmer was inaugurated as the 13th president of the U of C at a convocation ceremony held Friday in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

Zimmer, a U of C mathematics professor for more than two decades and the former provost of Brown University, was honored with a procession through campus, speeches praising his accomplishments, and a luncheon on the quads.

Though Zimmer technically began his duties as president on July 1 after being elected March 10, the events of the day ceremonially marked the start of his era at the helm.

The inauguration was meant “to stand for something serious and important” without being an “official swearing in,” said James S. Crown, chair of the Board of Trustees, who performed Zimmer’s induction.

The events of the day began with a procession of faculty, alumni, trustee delegates, and Student Marshals—undergraduates with the highest possible academic honor—marching from Henry Crown Field House to the Chapel. The delegates wore symbolic gowns and hats, colored and designed to indicate their degrees and areas of study.

The Millar Brass Ensemble accompanied the processional with performances of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks and Water Music.

University Marshal Lorna P. Straus welcomed the audience and introduced Alison L. Boden, dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Boden gave the invocation address, a speech meant to call upon the University’s history and mission at the start of the convocation.

In his introduction of Zimmer, Crown highlighted the new president’s many achievements as a mathematician, administrator, and intellectual. Zimmer taught at the U of C for more than two decades before leaving to serve as provost at Brown University for four years.

Zimmer focused his inaugural address on his desire to preserve and oversee the “boldness, imagination, and discipline” of the University, while creatively advancing its role as a world-class educational institution.

Zimmer said warding off “ease, accommodation, and complacency” would be his “greatest long-term challenge.”

“The University of Chicago from its very inception has been focused on one thing: inquiry,” he added.

Zimmer outlined some of his main goals, which included advancing the arts and sciences on campus, connecting the University to the city, improving the University-run charter schools, and enhancing research and clinical care opportunities.

Zimmer concluded his address with an analogy to the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who emphasized long-lasting success over momentary achievement.

Following his speech, Zimmer conferred honorary degrees on seven scholars and professors from around the country.

The University of Chicago Motet Choir, Rockefeller Chapel Choir, and the Inauguration Festival Orchestra performed Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture.

Speeches were given by Ian Muhlhauser, a Divinity School graduate student and president of Student Government; Robert B. Pippin, professor and chairman of the Committee on Social Thought and chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Presidential Search Committee; and John McGinn, A.B. ’90, MBA ’93, president of the Alumni Association Board of Governors.

The afternoon celebration was open to the public, and the University community enjoyed a catered picnic held in tents on the main quadrangles. Student groups and community ensembles provided entertainment.