Friday will be a big day for Winona State University’s 15th president.
Near the end of his first academic year at the helm of the university, President Scott Olson will be sworn in during an inauguration ceremony Friday afternoon. He will outline some of his visions for the future of WSU and meet with members of the community during a public reception.
“It’s the formal installation of the leader of the campus,” said WSU’s vice president for university advancement Jim Schmidt. “There are a number of historical and formal symbols involved.”
Olson, along with many faculty and invited guests from the academic world, will be in their formal gowns for the event. The university mace, a symbol of WSU’s authority, will make an appearance, and when the inauguration is complete, the presidential medallion will be placed around Olson’s neck.
Schmidt said the medallion is a piece of both jewelry and art. The gold was donated by the WSU class of 1967 to help create the medallion for Robert DuFresne’s inauguration. The jewels were donated by members of the community. The medallion was designed by WSU
alumna and long-time art professor Floretta Murray and crafted by Morgan’s Jewelers.
“It’s a great reminder in the trust and confidence people in the community have put in this leader,” Schmidt said.
That feeling of community is echoed in the thoughts of past WSU presidents on their inaugurations. For most, the strongest memories they have are those of family and community.
“I remember the dance, the ceremony, the tradition of faculty marching in; I remember all of that,” said past president Darrell Krueger. “But for me the people and the relationships are what defined my time at Winona State, and my inauguration is no exception.”
Schmidt is no stranger to WSU inaugurations, having attended both Thomas Stark’s inauguration as a student and Judith Ramaley’s as a vice president.
Schmidt said each president gets to put their own touch on the ceremony. For example, Ramaley didn’t want an inaugural ball, as had been done in the past. Instead, WSU held a music performance.
This will also be a time for Olson to show his own voice and personality. Schmidt said presidents tend to be more open and off-the-cuff during the inauguration when they speak about their own hopes and dreams for the university.
“Even as a cabinet-level officer, I tend to learn something new at inaugurations,” Schmidt said. “The president tends to reveal something of himself and his vision of the future in that venue.”