Augustana’s new president, Andrea Kathryn Talentino, used her inaugural address Saturday to encourage the college to preserve its ability to transform lives and combat the notion that education is only for the elite.
“We must show that an Augustana education is precisely the opposite, the training ground of the non-elite, a place where people of great ability confront all that they can be,” she told the audience of students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Her inauguration, held under a brilliant October sky against a backdrop of bright autumn colors on the campus Quad, was only the ninth in Augustana’s 162-year history.
Before joining Augustana, she was the provost of Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. She has a B.A. in political science from Yale University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from UCLA.
Different from other places
President Talentino, who has been on campus since July, said the most common story she has heard from alumni is their transformation through Augustana.
“Many alumni have told me stories of how they arrived at Augustana, not sure of their abilities or their dreams, and they found curiosity and courage in their time here,” she said.
The new president said that “transformation is something that Augustana creates at a higher level than any institution I have known.”
“While many places might have similar courses or co-curricular programs, the combination at Augustana, the closeness of the community, and the opportunity and support to try anything, coupled with the advice of all of you, the employees, create a result that is different from other places,” she said.
But these are not easy times for higher education, particularly for schools of the size and focus of Augustana that rest proudly on the liberal arts tradition, she acknowledged.
“I have said before that an Augustana education is about becoming. That is the essence of transformation. You arrive as a child, at least in a figurative sense. You leave as a developed person ready to achieve your dreams.
“That does not, I will tell you, happen everywhere. It does happen here. And that is where both our pride and our creativity need to focus, so that we can continue that same quality of experience and becoming for new generations of students.”
Messages of welcome
Angie Mitchum '08 Sharp and Ryan Jenkins '18 served as masters of ceremony. Both recounted how their Augustana faculty and mentors contributed to their career success.
Dr. Mariano J. Magalhães, professor of political science and a member of the presidential selection committee, welcomed President Talentino on behalf of the faculty.
“Your passion for teaching is equal to the deep devotion and commitment of the Augustana faculty to their craft as teachers,” he said.
Senior Isabelle Jordan, president of the Student Government Association, welcomed the new president on behalf of students, and the Rev. Kyle Severson ’09 offered congratulations from alumni. The Rev. Stacie Fidlar ’91 represented the good wishes of the ELCA, and Wiley Adams ’82, vice chairman of Augustana's Board of Trustees, spoke for trustees.
“She is the right person in the right job at the right time and in precisely the right place,” Adams said. "And her family is now part of our family. She and they represent a new and exciting beginning.”
In addition to the more than 800 people who watched the ceremony on the Quad, several hundred also watched the livestream and sent their congratulations as well.
Bruce H. Nelson '57 was excited to watch online from his home in Severna Park, Md. "It was a great coronation, and I am confident that Augie is in great hands with the first woman president!" said Nelson, who added that he was fortunate to have been good friends with Tom Tredway '57 long before he became Augustana's seventh president. (Nelson credits Dr. Tredway for getting him through philosophy.)
The roots of leadership
Dr. Bill Dorfman, former director of Camp Walt Whitman in New Hampshire, where Andrea Talentino worked for several years as a young woman, described her emerging leadership skills as a counselor and later manager there.
“What you now have here is someone who does not get rattled by adversity or by difficult situations," he said. “Even though everyone around may be flailing in despair, rather, she maintains a calm, thoughtful demeanor exuding complete control of any situation.”
After the president’s father, Dr. Arnold Talentino, read a poem he had written for the occasion, "Divination," John M. Murabito ’80, chair of the board, rose for the investiture.
“As is the time-honored tradition of Augustana, the president serves as the administrative head of the college, with the responsibility, and the authority, for the administrative, financial and academic operations of the college,” he said, adding with a smile. “And in this case and for the first time in our history, she.
“This ceremony today makes official the trust and confidence the board of trustees and this community have invested in you as an individual. This ceremony also symbolizes the importance of the role of president as Augustana. So, Andrea Kathryn Talentino, let me officially announce you are the ninth president of our beautiful 162-year-old private liberal arts college.”
Nicole Lauer, 309-794-7645