President's Blog

Archive for September 2009

Inaugural Address Posted


The text of my Inaugural address has been posted. You can also find comments from Mary Patterson McPherson, former president of Bryn Mawr and my long time colleague and friend.

Rick, Playing Keyboards

On Friday night, Rick played with the FaST (Faculty and Staff) Band.  Big fun! Students, faculty, staff, faculty children, all dancing away to tunes played by chemist Rob Granger, mathematician Steve Wassell, dancer Mark Magruder, technologist Tom Marcais, and chaplain Adam White. My favorite, perhaps — a Magruder composed tune called “Outsourcing Blues:” Rick did a wicked solo on that one.

Here’s a wonderful shot, taken by Aaron Mahler, of Rick’s hands during that performance.

Rick playing, courtesy Aaron Mahler

Rick playing, courtesy Aaron Mahler

Press Release on the Inauguration

The College has issued its press release on the Inauguration. I’ve grabbed this picture from the web site.   Pipers

I can’t say enough about how terrific the Albemarle Pipes and Drums were! One of my most cherished memories of this weekend’s festivities will surely be marching out of the ceremony behind them. When the planning committee first asked what would make the ceremony really special for me, the first word out of my mouth was “bagpipes.” They found a first rate corps which piped us in and out of the Field House to the strains of “Scotland the Brave.” (And yes, I got a little verklempt.) My McHargue and Graham ancestors would surely have been pleased and proud.

And here’s me, in my regalia, with the medal of office:


Lynchburg News-Advance Article

Good article on the Inauguration in the Lynchburg News Advance, including an interview.

I like the photo — that’s me, with Faculty Senate chair Rob Alexander, and in the row behind us you can see President Emerita Betsy Muhlenfeld, who honored us by being part of the Presidential party yesterday.

Keystone Society Luncheon

Yesterday the afternoon’s events were kicked off by a Keystone Society lunch.  It was delightful to get to meet many of Sweet Briar’s staunchest supporters; some of them were people I’ve had a chance to get to know, at least a little bit, but several were people I was meeting for the first time. Sweet Briar women are always impressive, both in what they have accomplished in their lives and in their affection and loyalty for their college, and this group was certainly no exception!

I’ll admit though that my favorite thing about the event yesterday was that it gave me an opportunity to announce one special gift to Sweet Briar that means a great deal to me.

Readers probably know that Indiana Williams Associates are people who have included Sweet Briar in their estate plans. I am proud to be a Williams Associate myself, and to note that several new Associates have joined the group this year.

One of whom is my mother, Justine Johnson, who was able to be here with many of my relatives for the Inauguration. Her Inauguration gift to me was to include Sweet Briar in her estate plans and join me as a Williams Associate. What could be more appropriate? Indiana Williams’ founding gift was a mother’s tribute to a daughter. My mother’s desire to pay tribute to me by following Miss Indie’s example (albeit of course at a MUCH more modest level!) was one of the nicest commemorations of the Inauguration I could have hoped for.

And it was lovely to announce it at the luncheon so that Mom’s thougtfulness could be recognized.

Best. Party. Ever.

A fisheye lens shot from last night’s Homecoming/Inauguration Dance party in the Upchurch Field House. Amazing party!

Fisheye Inauguration Dance

Photo courtesy of Paul Davies.

The Weekend Begins

Hard to believe it, but the Homecoming/Inauguration weekend is here.

Yesterday afternoon my mother, sister, nephew, and stepdaughter arrived.  They have never visited campus before and in fact have never visited central Virginia. The beauty of the Blue Ridge and of the campus made its usual breathtaking impression.

So many alums and friends of Sweet Briar — people I am eager to meet — are arriving today! Athough the schedule is a bit of a whirlwind, I’ll try to blog some of the key events and interesting discussions each night. I expect though that it will take a few days for me to post all the comments and pictures I’d like to share, so please be patient if I fall behind.

As my stepdaughter would say, I think this is going to be the Best. Party. Ever.

Cardboard Boat Regatta

Emerald Epiphany and Daisy's Pearl battle it out

Emerald Epiphany and Daisy's Pearl battle it out

Today was the 6th annual Cardboard Boat regatta! This is a class project of Professor Dorsa Sanadgol‘s Engineering 110; the event and the prizes are courtesy of the Boxwood Circle Society. Students build boats from cardboard and duct tape and “race” them in the Boathouse Lake. (If by “race” you mean see who can stay dry the longest. Moving forward at any rate of speed is gravy.)

After I welcomed the crowd, Dean Jonathan Green introduced the boats and teams. In this picture you see Emerald Epiphany and Daisy’s Pearl battling it out, with Reckless Abandon hanging in right behind them.

There are some videos of previous regattas on YouTube: check out 2007, for example.

Great fun, on a sunny afternoon at the lake, to watch students bring energy and imagination and a sense of humor to trying to solve real-world engineering problems like, uh, buoyancy.

Technology and Tradition

How cool is this blog entry by Sarah Jones, ’11, who is studying abroad this semester? Step singing via the internet!

Here’s a quote:

“All the study-abroad students’ facebook statuses were ‘missing step singing’ or ‘go class of 2011′, so it was great that my friend Caitlin brought her laptop and webcam to the actual event! Using the new campus wifi we were able to set up video chat so I could watch everything. Even if everyone was singing so loud I couldn’t really understand the words, it was a great way to see some friendly faces and feel included.”

And an image:


An Interesting Experiment

Thought you all might enjoy reading about an interesting project underway in Professor Tom Scott‘s business class.

Professor Scott has assigned  a book, the central thesis of which is “that empirical rules are more valuable than the training or experience of traditional judgment-based managers when constructing a stock portfolio.”  In order to test this thesis, the students are going to construct rules-based portfolio selection models and then track the performance of their model portfolios against the actual returns of various Wall Street managers.

Will the students of Sweet Briar beat Wall Street? I’ll let you know!

(This is just one more example of the innovative teaching that’s taking place all over campus. By constructing a problem-based exercise for his students, and testing the results against real-world measures, Professor Scott is giving them a kind of “investment laboratory” in which to experiment.)