Although he has been with Eastern University since July 2013, Eastern celebrated the official inauguration of Robert Duffett as Eastern’s ninth president on Friday, April 4. The multi-day event celebrated the formal integration of President Duffett as part of the university family.
The inauguration was celebrated across Eastern’s various campuses and schools throughout the week. Eastern’s St. Davids location began the celebration with chapel on Wednesday April 2, which was dedicated to President Duffett and his wife, Connie. The theme of chapel was blessings, chosen to represent President Duffett’s undertaking to be a blessing here at Eastern. University Chaplain Joseph Modica opened chapel with scripture, stating that blessings are saturated in the scripture, particularly through the eight beatitudes in Matthew.
Throughout the service, Eastern representatives including staff, faculty, and students read the eight beatitudes and offered blessings to Mr. and Mrs. Duffett. Executive Board President of the Student Government Associate Shaina Rajan was ecstatic at the chance to take part in the celebration. “Words cannot express how honored, privileged and excited I was to be speaking on behalf of all students from all five schools associated with Eastern University, for Inauguration Chapel as well as the Inauguration Ceremony in the Kimmel Center, to welcome our 9th President Dr. Duffett, into our home that is Eastern University!,” says Rajan. “I would like to extend my thank you for President Duffett’s generous demonstration of love to the students. Also, for his bold leadership. We are excited about the great legacy he is and will continue to build with us day after day.”
Many of Eastern’s performing arts groups, including Eastern’s dance ministry, University Choir, Turning Point, Precious Movements, Angels of Harmony and the chapel worship team, participated in the celebration through song and dance.
Before the closing of the service, Eastern blessed President and Mrs. Duffett with three gifts. The first was a silver chalice, which represents unity. Second, the Duffett’s were given a figure of Jesus washing Peter’s feet, for the spirit of servant-hood. Finally was a Risen Christ Crucifix, given as a symbol for embracing humanity and the hope we have in Jesus. Turning Point closed chapel with a benediction in song.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, a Windows on the World presentation to be given by President Duffett’s personal friend Roger E. Olson, was cancelled on Friday April 4. Olson, a Christian Theology and Ethics professor at Baylor University, was to speak on the Evangelical church and was greatly missed during Friday’s celebrations.
President Duffett’s induction to the university culminated in his inauguration ceremony at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater on Friday at 4 PM, an event that was years in the making. While the ceremony was invitation-only, students and faculty were invited to watch a live stream of the inauguration in McInnis Auditorium or via computer. The ceremony began with a processional of chaplains, faculty, and delegates to the stage, followed by the National Anthem, sung by Eastern University’s Turning Point. University Chaplain Modica read a call to worship, mentioning those on the board of trustees that have passed away during the year. Following was violinist David Kim, artist in residence at Eastern University, performing a moving selection with Dr. Ronald Matthews on piano.
Various Eastern affiliates as well as members of the surrounding community and the city of Philadelphia offered President Duffett congratulations and blessings throughout the ceremony. Senator Anthony H. Williams of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania contributed kind words, stating that “Eastern University is an extraordinary jewel,” and that President Duffett is that such a great man to lead the university in its next steps into the future. He closed his speech by saying, “I am glad, grateful, and appreciative he has chosen us.” Also present for the ceremony was Charles E. Ryan, a representative of Eastern’s Radnor community. In his speech, he quoted poet Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” stating “good fences make good neighbors.” As a child, Ryan had frolicked through Eastern’s fields and encouraged President Duffett to keep the gates of Eastern open for the community’s children in the future. Ryan closed by stating that the gates of Radnor are always open to Eastern’s students as well.
The remainder of the ceremony consisted of thoughts, words of wisdom and kind remarks to President Duffett from the Board of Trustees, Esperanza College, faculty and staff, delegates and representatives of Eastern’s student body. An installation ceremony took place where President Duffett was welcomed into the arms of Eastern and was presented with a presidential medallion. President Duffett followed his installation with an address to the crowd titled “Awakening Our Destiny.” The ceremony closed with Eastern hymn, “Let Justice and Mercy Flow,” followed by a benediction and recessional out of the theater. A reception was held in President Duffett’s honor after the ceremony in the Kimmel Center’s Hamilton Garden and 3rd Tier Lounge and Balcony.
With regard to his inaugural celebrations, President Duffett states, “I am honored to be the president of Eastern University. I was touched by the out-pouring of support. From the Wednesday chapel and the gifts from the students. To the international chapel at Palmer, to the prayer and anointing of oil at Esperanza, to the concert and inauguration ceremony itself at the Kimmel [Center]. The purpose of all activities was not about me, but about us. We wanted to throw light on our mission, ministry of Christian higher education and our Philadelphia roots. I was deeply touched and will appreciate this the rest of my life!”
Eastern University welcomes President Duffett into his presidency and wishes him all the best as he guides the university into its bright future.