A tangible sense of awe and excitement might be true for any new president, but to be asked to lead this institution, at this time, is truly a privilege.” So began the inaugural remarks of Mark R. Nemec, PhD, as he was officially installed as the ninth President of Fairfield University on Oct. 20, 2017.

A tangible sense of awe and excitement might be true for any new president, but to be asked to lead this institution, at this time, is truly a privilege.”  So began the inaugural remarks of Mark R. Nemec, PhD, as he was officially installed as the ninth President of Fairfield University on Oct. 20, 2017.

In keeping with the formal traditions of the investiture of a university president, President Nemec’s inauguration was attended by representatives of over 75 institutions of higher learning from around the world and the United States, including Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Fordham, Stanford, Princeton, Northwestern, and New York universities; the universities of Chicago and Michigan, Loyola University Maryland and Loyola University Chicago, as well as Dartmouth, Williams, Middlebury, and Trinity colleges, to name but a few. Joining these university representatives were members of the Fairfield University student body, faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees.

The ceremony began with an invocation by the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, who said the mission of Fairfield University was “to open young minds to the truths of our world,” and asked for God’s blessing for the new President: “As he assumes this office, guide him and all those who will collaborate with him, to conduct the affairs of this University in the ways of righteousness and truth.”
Following a missioning from Rev. James Miracky, S.J., Provincial Assistant for Higher Education of the Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus, the Rev. Michael J.L. Sheeran, S.J., President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities presented President Nemec with a medal of St. Ignatius, blessed by Pope Francis. Rabbi James Prosnit of Congregation B’nai Israel then offered a blessing, saying, “I pray, that under the leadership of Dr. Nemec, Fairfield may continue to be a place that according to its mission statement celebrates the God-given dignity of every human person.”

After further greetings from Michael Tetreau, first selectman of the Town of Fairfield, and Kimberly M. Goff-Crews of Yale University who represented Connecticut’s colleges and universities, President Nemec was greeted by representatives from the Fairfield Jesuit community, Fairfield Preparatory School, the University faculty and staff, and representatives from the alumni, graduate, and undergraduate communities.
On hand to bestow the symbols of office on President Nemec – the University mace and chain of office – were former University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., and former Interim President Lynn Babington, PhD, RN. “This mace symbolizes the President’s authority and responsibility to support and encourage the seeking of knowledge by students and faculty,” Fr. von Arx said. “We present this mace to you this day to emphasize this higher calling: as the Jesuit motto inscribed here states, the University exists, and the President leads… for ‘the greater glory of God.’”

Frank Carroll, lll ’89, chairman of the Board of Trustees, then presented President Nemec with the University Charter and Presidential Privileges and Responsibilities. “I and my fellow Board members are confident that our University will flourish under your guidance,” he said.
In his inaugural address, President Nemec said that institutions of higher education face significant challenges as the culture evolves, and called for a “deliberate evolution” that would allow Fairfield to address those challenges. He also called for a more international collaboration, and for a greater embrace of the educational potential of new technologies.

“I have hypothesized – and none of the Jesuit community here at Fairfield have disagreed – that if the Internet were available in St. Ignatius Loyola’s day, you know he would have used it.”

“As steward of this great University,” he concluded, “this is my one ask, my one prayer for all of us: that we as an institution, we as a community, we as a family continue to uphold our core values and commitments while embracing the challenge of being a model for the 21st century, so we may make the most of our blessings and so we may continue our rise, and that we do so for the greater glory of God.”

The installation ceremony was part of a greater Fairfield University community series of celebrations. On Wednesday, October 18, students packed the new Tully Dining Commons as President Nemec, along with Fairfield University Student Association president, Cara Gibbons ’18 and FUSA vice president Molly Strang ’18, visited the tables of excited Stags. During the dinner, Gibbons took the stage to discuss her experience working with President Nemec since the start of the academic year.

“Dr. Nemec’s vision of a modern Jesuit campus will enable Fairfield to grow and diversify, embodying a society that constantly cultivates itself.”
On Thursday, October 19, a spirit of excitement filled the newly renovated Oak Room when University staff shared a breakfast, led with a prayer of gratitude and a blessing for the new President from Rev. Charles Allen, S.J.

“Just as each day begins with a prayer on our lips and food on our plate, so we ask that on this day we might be filled with a prayer of thanksgiving for this smooth transition from our eighth to ninth President, and a prayer of hope for the continued growth and prosperity of Fairfield University,” Fr. Allen said.

Later that afternoon, faculty filled the Dolan School of Business Dining Room for a conversation with President Nemec on the history and future of higher education nationally, and how Fairfield will be a leader in its evolution. “We have to recognize that our enterprise is about lifelong learning,” he said. “We have to look beyond our four walls; beyond not just academic boundaries but university boundaries.”

Following Friday’s installation ceremony, inauguration festivities continued on Saturday, October 21, including a Stags Rugby Club game in which President Nemec played. An all-Ivy League rugby player while at Yale, President Nemec joined the Red Ruggers at the University’s Grauert Field. There, consistent with the weekend’s focus on the future while honoring the past, the Grauert family presented Fairfield with a check for $50,000 in honor of both Hans Grauert, for whom the rugby field is named, and his brother Chris Grauert ’68, a dedicated four-year Fairfield Rugger.

The celebrations came to a close with a Stagfest pep rally at Rafferty Field, attended by exuberant students with high hopes for the future of Fairfield.