President McConnell speaks from the heart at inauguration ceremony

Video by Ron Bend

As Joyce McConnell spoke Thursday, Nov. 14, during her investiture ceremony and saw her 93-year-old mother, Bessie, and 90-year-old father, Harvey, sitting in the audience, she couldn’t help but think about her journey to become CSU’s 15th president.

The granddaughter of immigrants, McConnell’s passion for education – and commitment to access to it – was formed early and reinforced by family throughout her life.

“My grandparents emigrated to the United States from Greece speaking only Greek and with little schooling,” she said. “But they valued education above all else because they understood its transformative power. They had 10 children who were forbidden to drop out of school, even when the family needed money.

“(My aunts) tell me I am the fulfillment of my grandfather’s dream, because I am now in a position to see that transformative power of education is available to a whole new generation of students.”

The inauguration ceremony ended with a Native blessing song performed by the Iron Family Singers and a recessional flanked by the CSU Marching Band. Photos by William A. Cotton and John Eisele

Friends from far and wide

McConnell’s investiture in the Griffin Concert Hall at the University Center for the Arts was the showcase event of a three-day celebration of the inauguration of CSU’s first woman president. The 90-minute ceremony included diverse music and solemn ceremony, and was attended by McConnell’s executive leadership team, deans, faculty, staff, students and friends and family from across the country.

A contingent of 20-plus people from West Virginia University, where McConnell had served as provost prior to being named last spring to replace Tony Frank as CSU’s president, made the cross-country trek to see their colleague officially assume the leadership of one of the nation’s premier land-grant institutions. Included in the entourage was WVU President Gordon Gee, who proudly proclaimed that McConnell is the 23rd person he has mentored who has served as a college president.

“Joyce did a tremendous job at West Virginia, and I believe she’ll do a tremendous job at Colorado State,” said Gee, sporting one of his signature bow ties. “I’m very fond of Joyce and very proud of what she’s accomplished. She understands and embraces the land-grant mission.”

Frank, who became full-time chancellor of the CSU System after stepping down as president, said he knew shortly after the search to find his replacement began that McConnell was the right person for the job.

He told the Board of Governors “to find someone with a love for the land-grant mission, and they found it in Joyce,” he said.

Students, staff and faculty viewed McConnell’s inauguration ceremony live at watch parties held in the the Lory Student Center and the Iris & Michael Smith Alumni Center. Photos by Esmeralda Garfio

On the job since July 1

While McConnell was officially passed CSU’s mace of leadership during the ceremony, she’s been hard at work as president since July 1. She’s faced several challenges in her early tenure but already is building and enhancing important relationships.

“I have really enjoyed working with Joyce,” said Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell. “Joyce is really interested in expanding the role CSU plays in Fort Collins.”

McConnell, who famously accepted the job as president last spring without ever having visited Fort Collins, said she already has learned much about the city and the job but still has much to learn. She thanked Frank for his 11 years of leadership, which included unprecedented campus expansion, enrollment growth and student success toward graduation.

She added, however, that resting on previous laurels would be a mistake.

“We can choose to transform Colorado State University, and to do so with the urgency that we know is warranted,” she said. “We can be bold, we can be curious and we can be courageous. I believe this what we must do, and it is what we will do, to continue to fulfill our promises to our students, faculty, staff and the state of Colorado for another 150 years.”

Scenes from the Nov. 14 block party celebrating McConnell’s inauguration, held at the Corbett Hall courtyard, lobby and The Foundry Dining Center. Photos by Joe Mendoza

Accessible, inclusive, affordable

She said CSU must continue to serve all citizens of Colorado, making education accessible, inclusive and affordable.

“Every single member of our community deserves to know that they are welcomed and valued for every aspect of their identity, for their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, immigrant status, socio-economic status, disability status, age or veteran status,” she said. “They deserve a place where there’s no question – theirs or anyone else’s – whether they belong, because they do.”

The inauguration of CSU’s first female president in 150 years included a number of other events, including a student-focused “block party” that included several of McConnell’s favorite foods – including macaroni and cheese, lemon cake and caramel corn. She hosted the annual President’s Gala on Friday night, and was guest cannoneer Saturday when the CSU football team took on Air Force.