The Valdosta Daily Times
Students, faculty, community members, family and friends, gathered in the P.E. Complex on Friday to welcome Valdosta State University’s ninth president, Dr. William J. McKinney.
Even though McKinney has held the title as president for nine months, April 5 marked the day he was given complete control over the university’s academic duties and responsibilities.
McKinney’s inauguration has been celebrated all week with events leading up to the actual investiture. Events included a student art exhibition, theatrical production of Pippin, showcase of innovative performances from faculty and students, as well as a battle of the bands competition.
The community also had the opportunity to participate in “Mixing it up with the President and First Lady”, a fundraiser where participants learned how to blend signature cocktails created by the president for the inauguration; a blood drive sponsored by Southeastern Community Blood Center; and “Zumba with the First Lady,” which will be held today at 9 a.m. on the front lawn of VSU.
The ceremony began with a procession of VSU’s noble scholars, accompanied by a beautiful melody performed by the VSU Wind Ensemble. The platform party was led by Dr. Tracy Woodard-Meyers, President of the VSU Faculty Senate, and as they took their seats, the attention was then focused on Dr. James LaPlant, Dean of the Graduate School.
“Valdosta State University is seeking exceptional global workers,” LaPlant said. “Students are essential to the university. The staff at Valdosta State University does everything they can to make sure students find their fire, their passion.”
LaPlant then turned his attention to President McKinney and focused on the meaning of inauguration. He acknowledged and admired the president’s achievements to date, praised his loyalty and excitement to be a leader and introduced other
influential community figures to speak on McKinney’s behalf.
“I take great pride and welcome you (Bill McKinney and Dacia Charlesworth) to Valdosta State University,” said Sen. Tim Golden, a 1977 VSU graduate.
LaPlant proceeded to introduce another graduate of Valdosta State University, who was honored to be a participant and passionate in speaking about McKinney’s leadership, Valdosta Mayor John Gayle.
“I am very proud to be here and proud to be a graduate of Valdosta State University,” Gayle said. “I am proud to be a graduate of a university with a $400 million impact on the community.”
After his statements on VSU as a whole, Gayle began to speak about his appreciation for President McKinney and First Lady Charlesworth.
“I’ve gotten to know Dr. McKinney and Dacia,” Gayle said. “I am proud to see the energy they both have. Dr. McKinney has mine and the city’s support.”
Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter also spoke at the investiture, expressing his gratitude for what McKinney has accomplished this far.
“Valdosta State University is one of the pillars our community is built upon,” Slaughter said. “Valdosta State University has been blessed with some great presidents. First time I met Dr. McKinney, I thought, he’s excited and going to be fun to work with.”
One of the last speakers to honor McKinney’s leadership was Dr. Karla Hull, Acting Vice President of Academic Affairs.
“I am honored to be representing the division of Academic Affairs at Valdosta State University,” Hull said. “I am so proud to be a part of this faculty and community. This faculty welcomes your leadership.”
After the speeches, a performance was given by the VSU Mass Choir, who sang “Bright Sun Shiny Day” and “One Moment in Time,” which received a standing ovation.
Once the performance was over, LaPlant introduced the keynote speaker of the inauguration, Dr. George L. Mehaffy, the Vice President of Academic Leadership at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Pres. McKinney and Mehaffy have worked together on several higher education issues including economic costs, certainty in the world of higher education and the AASCU’s Red Balloon Project.
Mehaffy closed his speech with a word of appreciation for Pres. McKinney.
“I am honored to be a part of this ceremony and the journey forward,” Mehaffy said.
Henry M. Huckaby, Chancellor, then called upon McKinney to step forward as he handed over the official duties and responsibilities of the university.
“This is a great day of celebration, not only for Dr. McKinney but for the university,” Huckaby said. “He has a unique blend of knowledge and leadership. I have confidence he will lead this institution to even greater success.”
Once the investiture was complete. McKinney approached the podium and delivered his inaugural address.
“To the Valdosta State University Faculty and Staff, you are VSU,” McKinney said. “To Valdosta State University Students, I am always proud of you and amazed by your accomplishments. You are truly the ambassadors of this university.”
Through the duration of his speech, McKinney carried himself with a sense of gratitude. He made it known that without the help of his family, friends, fellow colleagues and students, he would not be the man he is today.
“To my family, your unconditional support, boundless faith, I thank you so much,” McKinney said. “Dacia, Dr. Charlesworth, or Madame First Lady, you are the love of my life and in your eyes anything is possible. Your sacrifice, your endless support, there is not enough I can say. I thank you and I love you.”
As McKinney thanked the most important people in his life, he proceeded to discuss the topic of fortune. The intention of his speech was to inform VSU that it needs to become more of a bold institution and that its fortunes will be good or bad, depending on how they are created.
“The bold Valdosta State University will promote social justice as we fulfill our obligations,” McKinney said. “Let this be the time that we build and maintain an open system. Higher education is not an economic cost but rather an investment. ”
As his address came to a close, McKinney expressed his compassion and appreciation to everyone that attended the ceremony.