Missouri Western State University is set to celebrate a historic moment; the first-ever formal Presidential Inauguration in Western’s history.
On Oct. 17, Robert A. Vartabedian will be officially installed as the new president of Missouri Western. The installation ceremony will be held in the M.O. Looney Complex at 1:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. This event is considered the centerpiece of a series of events that have been planned for this momentous occasion. Said events include a student town hall meeting with the President in the Nelle Blum Student Union on Oct.16, at 4:00 p.m.; an 11:30 a.m. luncheon for delegates from regional and non-regional universities alike on Oct. 17; and a post-ceremony reception with refreshments.
Dan Nicoson, vice president for university advancement, is the chairman of the inauguration steering committee that has been working closely with faculty, staff and the administration in planning the inauguration. He considers the timing of the inauguration to be of particular significance for Missouri Western.
“I think the major significance is [that] it’s just another demonstration of Western’s maturity as an academic institution,” Nicoson said. “It’s kind of exciting to see it happening…this is just more evidence that we’re at that point.”
One of Nicoson’s tasks was to send out invitations to universities across the country, as well as the community, students, staff, faculty, and the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce.
“We sent…over a thousand invitations to other institutions to send a delegate, which is also part of the tradition,” Nicoson said. “We have several universities [that] are sending people to march in the processional as their delegate at this inauguration. We also invited a student delegation, an alumni delegation, primarily from the list of past winners of the distinguished alumni award, to march in the processional…”
According to Roger Swafford, the director of the public relations and marketing department, 90 universities from around the United States have sent their congratulations and a total of 57 universities will be represented by a delegate in full academic regalia as of Oct. 6.
Swafford is quick to credit not only the committee, but also nearly every department on campus that has been intricately involved in the planning of the inauguration ceremony.
“It’s been amazing, all of these people coming together and doing a…year-long project in three months,” Swafford said. “The cohesion of seeing people come together to get this launched is amazing and very impressive.”
One of the more specific aspects of the inaugural ceremony is the Inaugural Ball, which is being held at the St. Joseph Country Club starting with a reception at 6:00 p.m., followed by dinner at 7:00 p.m.; music and a dance will also take place.
“…The other events are early day events and they [the committee] thought, ‘well we need to have some kind of evening event,’” Vartabedian said. “Our folks in the Advancement Office have a flair for entertaining well and in an interesting way; they thought it would be a great way to cap off the day of events. I think they thought anything else would seem anti-climatic.”
While the event is sure to be entertaining, the $75 per person price tag sounds anything but pleasant in such faltering economic times. Such concerns are not at all lost on administration.
“The ball itself is planned to be self-supporting and use no institutional funds of any kind to support it,” Nicoson said. “In order for it to be self-supportive, the admission charge has to be at approximately that level.”
Vartabedian is particularly sympathetic on the subject.
“That was something that I was aware of and talked to people about in terms of is this the right thing to do,” Vartabedian said. “…Their feeling was the expenses were considerable and we’re a state-funded institution; we can only go so far and not charge for these kinds of events. I share…the concerns of others, but we’d hoped that we’d offer something for everyone if they didn’t want to spend that kind of money or [couldn’t] afford to spend that kind of money.”
Nevertheless, any issues over the formality of the Presidential Inauguration ceremony are easily overshadowed by the long-term effects such as historical event in Missouri Western’s rich history can have on the university and the community.
“I would hope that because of its academic nature and because of the interest expressed by faculty members in having one, that it will be a source of new pride,” Nicoson said. “I would hope this is just one more reason for us to be proud of our institution and show that it is maturing and becoming a reputable, very high-quality university.”
Vartabedian echoes these statements; having spent more than 20 years in teaching and administrative roles at distinguished universities such as: Wichita State University, West Texas A&M University and Eastern New Mexico University. He sees his time at Missouri Western as the best of his career and the ceremony as a milestone for both himself and the university.
“It’s the capstone [of] a long career for me and it’s a meaningful time in the University’s history as well,” Vartabedian said.
It’s obvious to anyone who has been part of Missouri Western for the past few years that there have been changes for the better. Whether it’s gaining the status of a university or the continued growth of the student body, this institution has earned its reputation and this inauguration ceremony is not only another feather in Western’s top hat but a symbol of its astonishing prosperity that should make students, staff, faculty, administration, and the community of St. Joseph all proud of Missouri Western State University.
For more information on the Presidential Inauguration please visit http://www.missouriwestern.edu/inauguration/. For more information on Vartabedian, please visit Western’s library in the Hearnes Center where a display of his career is available.