MARIETTA - In accepting the charge to lead Marietta College into the future while staying true to its past excellence and present goals, Joseph Bruno invited those attending, employed by and supporting the school to join him.
"It's a daunting task for one person, but it is easily within reach for this Marietta family," Bruno said to a crowd of approximately 700 faculty, staff, alumni, students and others at his inauguration Friday afternoon in the college's Dyson Baudo Recreation Center.
Although Bruno went to work as Marietta's 18th president on July 1, the celebration was held in the fall, on the college's homecoming weekend, so the full spectrum of that Marietta family could be involved, said Gama Perruci, interim provost, in his welcoming remarks.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Marietta College Board of Trustees Chairwoman Barbara Perry Fitzgerald, left, hands the college charter to President Joseph Bruno during his inauguration Friday in the college’s Dyson Baudo Recreation Center.
"The arrival of a new president is a significant moment in the life and history of any institution of higher learning," he said. Friday's celebration offered a chance for students, alumni and employees to "reunite in our common purpose, draw strength and energy from our proud tradition."
Bruno invoked that tradition frequently in his acceptance speech, titled "Engaging Our Resources."
One of the first resources he acknowledged was the faculty, which he said has a tradition of supporting students and delivering quality academic programs.
About Joseph Bruno
Family: Wife, Diane; daughter, Lisa.
Occupation: Became the 18th president of Marietta College on July 1; officially inaugurated Friday.
Experience: 28 years in various positions at Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.), including chairman of the chemistry department and provost and vice president for academic affairs.
"While quality has been a constant, the Marietta curriculum changes frequently as a result of the creativity of our faculty," Bruno said.
He referenced two programs in the planning stages that combine multiple disciplines - land management, involving geography, business and ethics, and early American studies, uniting history and literature while taking advantage of the resources of the college's extensive special collections and its historic setting in Marietta.
Bruno recalled the story of an early Marietta student named Samuel Hall, who in the late 1830s organized anti-slavery prayer meetings for students and cared for a tutor dying of smallpox.
"In neither case does he wait for another to do what is right," Bruno said.
Hall's concern for issues of a national scale and individuals is modeled today by students who serve the Marietta community, the new president said.
Alumni and parents of students are vital to the college as well, Bruno said, announcing the establishment of a Marietta Parents Organization. Along with alumni, the group will be called on to help provide internship opportunities for students, play host to and mentor students in those internships and spread the word about the college to new students.
"All of these are crucial to our success, so consider yourselves on the job," Bruno said.
Bruno also paid homage to his predecessor, Jean Scott, who led the college from a time of financial difficulty to one of growth and success over her 12-year tenure.
"It's easy to follow a poor leader, but it's better to follow a good one," he said.
Prior to his speech, college board of trustees chairwoman Barbara Perry Fitzgerald presented Bruno with a copy of the college's charter. She said the selection of the new president was the most important task board members would face.
"We felt at the time of his election that he was indeed the superior candidate to lead this institution today and into the future," she said, adding that his engagement with the community and respect for the college's goals and traditions have proven them right.
Bruno comes to Marietta from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where he spent 28 years as a chemistry professor, department chairman and provost and vice president for academic affairs.
"We know from your personal journey as a scholar, teacher and provost, you share our commitment" to education, said Marietta faculty council chairwoman Debora Lazorik as she welcomed Bruno on behalf of her colleagues. "We also take great pleasure in knowing that you come to us as an accomplished administrator."
Remarks were also delivered by Judith Brown, emerita professor of history at Wesleyan and a friend and mentor of Bruno's, having preceded him as provost and vice president of academic affairs. She spoke about two of the main challenges facing liberal arts colleges - funding a proper education and students lagging behind those in other countries in terms of critical thinking.
Explanations offered for the latter have included the fact that more students go to college in the United States and it isn't just those considered the elite. Whatever the reasons, Brown said liberal arts colleges - and Bruno - are uniquely qualified to overcome them.
"Under-performing should not be acceptable to us, and I know it is certainly not to (Joe) Bruno," she said.
Also taking the stage was Bruno's adult daughter, Lisa, of New York. Lisa Bruno said she was used to having her parents brag about their only child but she was glad to have the opportunity to turn the tables on her father.
"He was my first teacher, my first best friend, my first role model," she said, briefly fighting back tears. "I can honestly say I couldn't have done any better."
Among the other dignitaries officially greeting Bruno as part of the ceremony were Hui Liu, president of China's University of International Relations, with which Marietta has worked cooperatively for years; John Churchill, national secretary for Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest academic honor society; Heidelberg University President Robert Huntington; MC Student Senate President Connor Walters; physical plant director Fred Smith; Paula King Pitasky, chairwoman of the Marietta College Alumni Association board, and Marietta City Council President Walt Brothers.