LEXINGTON, Ky.—R. Owen Williams was inaugurated as Transylvania University’s 25th president on the steps of historic Old Morrison this morning.
Before an audience of students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and guests, including Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Williams was presented with the presidential medallion and the university’s mace.
In his inaugural address, “Question Everything, Accomplish Anything,” Williams invoked Transylvania’s history as a “lamp in the forest” in the early days of the American republic. Reflecting on the meaning of Transylvania’s liberal arts philosophy, Williams stated that the liberal arts could be better called “the liberating arts,” because “they liberate us from the limits of our own experience, from prejudice, ideology and impetuousness, but most of all, from the inclination toward hubris instead of analysis.”
Williams challenged students to ask questions and have big ambitions. “Dare to change your surroundings,” he said. “Embrace the world’s ailments as your opportunities. Transylvania will help you find your passion, but to be successful, you must clothe that passion with perseverance.”
Gray and Beshear expressed their optimism about Williams and the university’s future. “In the nine months he’s been president,” Beshear said in his remarks, “he’s made it very clear that his mind is focused in a laser-like fashion on not only what Transylvania has been, but on what it can be in the future.” Gray stated that Transylvania “represents the best of [Lexington’s] purpose and promise.”
David W. Blight, professor of American history at Yale University, and Annette Gordon-Reed, professor of law and history at Harvard University, were presented with honorary degrees.
Speaking of his vision for Transylvania’s future, Williams said, “Building upon our resilience and reflection, we here today resolve to do even more for Transylvanians still to come than our predecessors have done for us, to make this one of America’s very best liberal arts colleges.”