This month Presbyterian College celebrates the inauguration of our seventeenth president, Dr. Claude C. Lilly. A variety of activities will take place across the campus during the week of April 15th, culminating in the Inauguration on Friday the 19th in Belk Auditorium. In conjunction with this event, the Archives & Special Collections is providing a short biography for each of the previous sixteen PC Presidents. You can also find this information in the bar below the Blue Notes heading above.
On the Presbyterian College campus the faculty and staff are accustomed to Opening Convocation and Commencement ceremonies that usher in and close out each academic year. Inaugural celebrations are infrequent occasions during which a new leader is welcomed to the campus–these celebrations have not always been observed in years past as they are today.
During the first ten years of the operation of Presbyterian College, William Plumer Jacobs and the college trustees appointed three presidents. In those days, a leader was chosen from the very small faculty of the fledgling college. These early leaders held Dr. Jacobs’ trust and his shared vision for the college. Not only were these men responsible for teaching their classes and achieving their administrative goals, but initially these faculty members also lived on the campus with their families and had oversight of the day-to-day activities of the students. By 1895, the administrative duties of the faculty members in the photo at right included serving as Librarian, Bursar, Gymnasium Director, Clerk, Book-Agent, and Superintendent of Dormitory, Building and Grounds.
As the student body grew, the faculty and staff of the college grew as well. However, due to limited college financial resources, world wars, and the Great Depression, inaugural celebrations were modest or non-existent.
Kirsten Witry, our intern in the archives this semester, is preparing PC Inaugurations, an exhibit to be placed in the Patrick Center this month. She has discovered that the first Inaugural celebration we have on record at the college was held in honor of our 10th president, Burney L. Parkinson in 1927. Unfortunately, Dr. Parkinson submitted his resignation during the Commencement ceremony of 1928, just nine months after his arrival on campus. **
When PC gathered to celebrate the inauguration of Dr. Marc C. Weersing in 1963, times were good and the campus was growing. The inauguration of Dr. Kenneth B. Orr was held in conjunction with the Centennial Celebration of the college in the spring of 1980. Eighteen years later, a week of lectures and performances led up to the inauguration of Dr. John V. Griffith during Homecoming 1998 festivities.
Dr. John Elrod ’62 led the Delegates from Colleges and Universities in the Griffith Inaugural procession. In the photo on the right, he wears the traditional light blue gown of Columbia University where he earned Masters and Ph.D. degrees. His dark blue hood represents the Ph.D. in Philosophy. Mr. John Moylan ’84 follows wearing the scarlet gown of Harvard University where he received his J.D. in 1987. At Harvard, the crows-foot lapel emblem represents the school within the university which granted the degree, rather than the color of the hood.
If you have questions about the history of academic regalia, the colors represented on the gowns and hoods, or the order of the academic procession, the American Council on Education has information about these topics on their website.
As we gather this month for the Inauguration of Dr. Claude C. Lilly, the bagpipe music, the pageantry of the procession, and the colors represented in academic costume are only a part of what makes the celebration a memorable event. Each inauguration honors the past of Presbyterian College and proclaims our hope and faith in the future of the college.
** [Recently discovered information in the March 1905 issue of Our Monthly, states, "Among other features (of the 1905 Commencement) will be the inauguration of President Neville." We have checked our programs file here in the Archives and have found the 1905 Commencement program verifying that Dr. William G. Neville was indeed inaugurated on June 7, 1905, during the Quarter Centennial of Presbyterian College.]