When Alison R. Byerly is inaugurated as the 17th president of Lafayette College on Friday, Oct. 4, there will be more on display than the rich history and tradition of academia.

Higher education is at a crossroad – rising costs and emerging technologies threaten “business as usual.”  A nationally known commentator on the role of technology in higher education, Byerly plans to use the occasion not only to celebrate the College and its community but to talk about Lafayette’s place in the world and the future of higher education.

To facilitate discussion, she is hosting what may be the first of its kind virtual conference on the Lafayette Inauguration website. Byerly invited presidential colleagues at national liberal arts colleges to share their insights and thoughts on the myriad of challenges facing higher education today.

“An inauguration is a moment when you really think about yourself in the company of peer presidents and want to hear their wisdom and advice,” Byerly says. “Recognizing that many presidents are too busy to attend each other’s inaugurations, I wanted to use technology to create an opportunity for substantive dialogue. I thought it would be great to reach out to fellow presidents and was delighted that so many responded. It shows that we all are eager to engage these issues.”

The result? Thoughtful and pithy essays from over 30 presidents that provide a fascinating snapshot of what college leaders see as the critical issues facing them today. Byerly also sees the forum as a follow-up to a 2012 conference at Lafayette titled, “The Future of the Liberal Arts College in America and Its Leadership Role in Education Around the World,” which drew more than 200 college administrators, including about 50 college presidents to the Easton campus.

In addition, inauguration events include a panel discussion featuring prominent leaders in higher education on “New Models for Higher Education.”

Moderated by Provost Wendy Hill, it takes place at 1:45 p.m. in the Williams Center for the Arts. Panelists include Elizabeth S. Boylan, director of STEM Education Programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Steven G. Poskanzer, president of Carleton College and Jeffrey J. Selingo, editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education and author of College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students.

“It’s not just about me, it’s about the College. And it’s not just about the College, it’s about the future of the college and higher education. I’m hoping a lot of this programming will reinforce that context and get us all thinking as broadly as possible about where Lafayette is headed,” she says.

Another interactive element of the inauguration is a student video contest, in which Byerly invited students to help her learn about the College by making videos on the theme, “What Makes Lafayette…Lafayette?” Students will vote via Facebook and the winning entry will be screened at inauguration events.

The main convocation ceremony, at which Byerly will be officially installed as president, begins at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 on the Quad of the campus. The rain location is Kirby Sports Center. The ceremony will also be streamed live on Lafayette’s website starting at 3:45 p.m.

Other festivities commemorating this Lafayette milestone include a luncheon, dinner, and an Inaugural Ball. In addition, students will receive a gift that may come in handy if they plan to sit on the grassy Quad to watch the Inauguration: Commemorative beach towels that Byerly hopes will be displayed on shorelines around the globe for years to come.

Byerly was also the surprise recipient of a gift earlier this month bestowed by an alumnus in celebration of her upcoming Inauguration. Bob Jones ’42 donated the seedling of a rare rose to the college that had been planted at the Wyck House in Philadelphia in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette’s return visit to America in 1825. As a surprise for Byerly, the College planted the mystery rose, known as “Lafayette” and only available at Wyck, in the garden of the President’s House, where she lives with her husband and two children.

Byerly officially began her term as president on July 1. Before then, she served in leadership positions at Middlebury College in Vermont for 13 years, most recently as provost and executive vice president, and was a member of the Middlebury faculty since 1989.

Byerly will present her inaugural address following her installation as president by Edward A. Ahart ’69, chair of the Board of Trustees; Stephen D. Pryor ’71, vice chair; and Nancy J. Kuenstner ’75, board secretary.

John M. McCardell Jr., vice-chancellor and president of Sewanee: The University of the South, will deliver remarks, and Ahart will provide welcoming remarks. Several speakers representing various constituencies inside and outside the Lafayette community will offer greetings to the new president:

  • Rose Marie L. Bukics, acting clerk of the faculty and Jones Professor of Economics, will speak for the faculty.
  • Arthur J. Rothkopf ’55, president emeritus of Lafayette, will represent the presidents emeriti.
  • Salvatore J. Panto Jr., mayor of the City of Easton, will serve as the local community representative.
  • Michael E. Prisco ’14, president of Student Government, will be the student speaker.
  • Daniel H. Weiss, president of Haverford College and former Lafayette president, will represent the colleges and universities.
  • David A. Reif ’68, president of the Alumni Association, will be the alumni representative.
  • John F. McKnight, dean of Intercultural Development, will speak for the administration and staff.
  • Jay Parini ’70, D.E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College, will speak at the luncheon.
  • Kim Hall, Lucyle Hook Professor of English and Director of Africana Studies, Barnard College, will be the dinner speaker.

Follow the conversation on Twitter @LafCol #LafInaug17 before, during and after the event. Join the panel discussion @LafCol #NMHE13.
Lafayette is a highly selective, national liberal arts college in Easton, Pa. with 2,400 students and 215 full-time faculty, offering a wide variety of undergraduate degree programs including engineering.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lafayette College; higher res available online, http://flic.kr/p/dMj2xL
Kathleen Parrish
Associate Director of Media Relations
Lafayette College
Communications Division
Easton, PA 18042