Early Thursday morning, Wittenberg students trudged to class as the sun rose up above Hollenbeck Hall. This morning was different from others, though; the walk up the hill toward Hollenbeck housed only two cars while the inside of Weaver Chapel resounded with the sound of ringing church bells.
This bright and sunny Thursday was Michael Frandsen’s presidential inauguration, which would officially begin his term as Wittenberg’s fifteenth president.
Leading up until 4:45 p.m. on that Thursday afternoon service, Frandsen made appearances at different Wittenberg events throughout the prior week, including a pep rally on Monday, popcorn with the president on Tuesday and the Leadership Awards on Wednesday.
There’s no doubt that this week has been hectic for Frandsen, but he still managed to take some time out of his busy schedule to film different video segments for university publication. These segments included remakes of James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke with various Wittenberg clubs and organizations, as well as being asked who his favorite Disney princess was by sophomore Rachael Fink.
But, by the time the clock hit 6:28 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Frandsen was no longer anxiously awaiting his inauguration: he was officially Wittenberg’s fifteenth president.
“There have been highs and lows,” Frandsen shared to the crowd gathered in Weaver Chapel for the ceremony. “Among my great memories are a glorious homecoming weekend, a celebration for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, student performances of theater, dance and music, and eating in the Central Dining Room.”
Many students audibly gasped and whispered amongst themselves following Frandsen’s proclamation of willfully eating in the CDR, but he responded with a simple, “Yes. Really.”
Among the variety of both faculty, students, church members and members of the community, Frandsen was welcomed by them all, most referring back to Wittenberg’s motto, “Having light we pass it on to others.”
Addressing Frandsen, Director of Donor Relations Sophia Vandiford said, “Today, we share our individual and collective light with you so your wisdom and light can be illuminated for the betterment of this university.”
Assistant professors of psychology Nancy Woehrle continued this welcoming, speaking to both Frandsen and the collective Wittenberg community.
“Today we inaugurate a president and the significance of this moment in time cannot be overstated,” Woehrle said. “We must look back to inform tomorrow, hold tightly to our mission and carefully navigate this new landscape in higher education.”
Junior Rachel Wallace shared that she had never felt more welcomed in her three years at Wittenberg than when Frandsen arrived on campus. Current Alma Mater and Alma Lux, seniors Mecca Abdul-Aziz and Lucas George, agreed with Wallace’s claims, and continued to recite the Wittenberg motto as their way of inviting Frandsen to fully become a part of the community.
“We trust this institution with you, Dr. Frandsen,” George said. “And now, the students pass it on to Dr. Michael Frandsen, our fifteenth president, and our new light at Wittenberg.”
Following other introductions and welcomes to the community, Frandsen finally took the podium around 7 p.m., listing off a variety of thank yous for those in attendance, specifically for those that helped out with this historic event.
After thanking the crowd for all of the welcomes he received during his family’s first nine months on campus, Frandsen acknowledged some plans that he hopes to place in his upcoming time at Wittenberg.
“We are close to announcing a major gift that will enounce our abilities,” Frandsen said.
He then continued to share bits of his plans for the betterment of Wittenberg, including what he referred to as the three R’s: retention, recruitment and resources.
Frandsen wasn’t all business in his inauguration address, however. He made sure to thank both the community and the students for their grateful welcome to the Wittenberg community.
“The best way for me to reenergize is to spend time with our students,” Frandsen said. “They are why I am here; why Wittenberg exists.”