President Ayers’ Inauguration Weekend

By Maria

Dr. Edward L. Ayers, the ninth president of the University of Richmond, began what has proven to be a very exciting presidency last July. The University community officially welcomed and installed Dr. Ayers this past Friday.

The inauguration events began on Thursday evening with an exciting symposium entitled “New Perspectives on the American Civil War.” Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard University; Dr. Gary W. Gallagher, Professor in the History of the American Civil War at University of Virginia; and President Edward Ayers were the featured speakers.

Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University

Dr. Faust opened the symposium with a riveting speech about life and death during the Civil War. Her remarks highlighted an area of the Civil War that is rarely touched on.

Dr. Ayers focused his talk on the war’s effect on African Americans, including the search for lost family members, new found freedom and the pursuit of education, and the failure of the majority to recognize black soldiers as Civil War heroes. Ayers discussed the life of black Americans after the war and illustrated his passion for an understanding of the experiences of “real people” in addition to the giants of history.

Dr. Gary W. Gallagher, John L. Nau, III Professor in the History of the American Civil War

Dr. Gallagher provided a lighthearted discussion of Hollywood’s portrayal of the Civil War. He discussed the ebb and flow of four key methods of depicting the Civil War within Hollywood. Dr. Gallagher opened our eyes to mass media’s effect on our collective conscious and understanding of past events.

On Friday, the entire University closed from 11:30- 2:30 p.m. for the inauguration ceremony. Representatives from across campus including faculty, staff, and students were present; the audience also included the mayor, university presidents, alumni, professors, and distinguished members of university communities across the world. It truly was a site!

Following the ceremony, everyone gathered under a large tent for great food, bluegrass music, and fellowship.

Friday evening the campus gathered under the tents once again to celebrate. Dr. Ayers provided spirited entertainment acting as the DJ. What a refreshing experience: it’s not often that a university president rolls up his sleeves and kicks off his shoes. The crowd was cheering, people were dancing, and everyone was wrapped up in the promise that Ayers brings to this institution for a bright future.

It was truly a big day…

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