Jenifer K. Ward inaugurated as President of Luther College

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Jenifer K. Ward inaugurated as President of Luther College

Jenifer K. Ward addresses the community at the inauguration ceremony on Nov.1.

Jenifer K. Ward addresses the community at the inauguration ceremony on Nov.1.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Jenifer K. Ward addresses the community at the inauguration ceremony on Nov.1.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Jenifer K. Ward addresses the community at the inauguration ceremony on Nov.1.

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On Saturday, Nov. 2, President Jenifer K. Ward was inaugurated as the 11th president of Luther College. The ceremony included performances from Concert Band, Aurora, Norskkor, and Nordic Choir. The inaugural hymn, “Draw Us, O God,” was commissioned by President Ward and debuted during the ceremony. Ward was welcomed with words from various members of the Decorah community and with an inaugural reflection from Reverend Brian T. Johnson of Valparaiso University.

The theme of Ward’s inauguration was “Always Becoming.” Ward explained that the theme was meant to prompt an exploration of how Luther has changed throughout its history and to provide inspiration for future changes.

“What I was trying to signal with that theme is that there’s no point in Luther’s history where the college said, ‘Now we’re done – no more adaptation, no more evolution’,” Ward said. “I wanted to signal that we’re at at time with a new presidency and a new era in Luther’s history where we have to ask again: Who are we? What are we going to be in the future? What is the mission of this college? How do we live it out?”

Ward wanted the inauguration ceremony and related events to highlight the sense of community between Luther and Decorah. The inauguration celebration spanned from Friday, Nov. 1 to Sunday, Nov. 3 and included musical performances, a research symposium called Luther Agora, and an “Inaugural Night on the Town” with events at local businesses in Decorah.

“I wanted to make sure that there were going to be events that were in town as well as on campus,” Ward said. “I wanted to make sure that someone from the community would be one of the people bringing greetings during the ceremony.”

Sandee Joppa (‘87), the chair of the presidential transition committee and member of the Board of Regents, further explained “Always Becoming” and the reasoning behind the extensive set of activities surrounding the inauguration. According to Joppa, the committee attempted to highlight as many aspects of Luther’s community as possible and to provide inspiration for the college’s path forward.

“The notion behind [the theme] is the fact that we’re always in a state of change,” Joppa said. “We’re always evolving, we’re always growing, and we’re always developing.”

The groups who planned the inauguration program were part of a transition committee created for the transition between President Carlson and President Ward. The committee was made up of Decorah community members, regents emeriti, faculty, faculty emeriti, students, and staff. The committee planned the transition in two phases.

“The first phase was the celebration of the previous president and the events that would transition to new leadership,” Chairperson of the Board of Regents Wendy Davidson (‘92) said. “Then, [the second phase was] the onboarding of the next president and ensuring that they were connected in community both on campus and off in the best way possible.”

During the planning process, this committee also looked into Luther’s past inaugurations for inspiration. Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Kevin Kraus said Luther Agora was one of the new ideas for Ward’s inauguration program. He emphasized the importance of the combination of tradition and change that was embodied in Ward’s inauguration.

“The Agora symposium is meaningful in that it involves a lot of different people, and it’s an exchange of ideas,” Kraus said. “That’s a great thing at an academic institution, but the more traditional installation is also important. Tradition is important and ceremonies that mark beginnings and endings are important in our lives and for our institutions.”

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Members of the stage party lay a hand on President Ward during the Prayers of Intercession.

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