Southern inaugurates 12th president

Josh LaBellaGeneral Assignment Reporter

Hundreds of people filled the Lyman Center to observe the inauguration of Southern Connecticut State University President Joe Bertolino on Friday.

Among the crowd was a delegation of students and faculty from President Joe’s previous universities and colleges. President Joe was “late” for the ceremony and through a Skype video was seen singing “Don’t Stop Believing” via carpool karaoke.

The invocation was presented by Imam Zakir Ahmed, who said he gave many thanks to Bertolino for all he has done and will continue to do. He then said a prayer, first in Arabic and then in English.

“We ask the almighty to grant President Joe wisdom and guidance,” said Ahmed.   

Lawrence DeNardis, a member of the Board of Regents, said it was very challenging to pick a new president for the university. He said they interviewed over 100 applicants from all around the country but, in the end, President Joe was the best choice.

“We chose wise and well,” said DeNardis. “Dr. Joe has boundless energy and a great sense of purpose.”

One of the next speakers, Kalie Menders, the president of the Student Government Association, said the day marked the beginning of the next chapter in Southern’s 124 year history. According to Menders, President Joe has already made a mark on the university since he began working there.

“In the eight short months he’s been working here,” said Menders, “I think President Joe knows more students than I do.”

Jordan Jones and Maria Diamantis, from the administrative faculty and the faculty Senate respectively, gave their remarks together.

“We are here together, working in our community to bring students the resources they need to be successful,” said Jones.

According to Diamantis, when it comes to President Joe, one thing is clear: students come first. She said she asked previous students of his to describe him with three adjectives.

“Caring, sincere, proactive, humorous, loving, compassionate,” said Diamantis, “These are the adjectives that kept coming up.”

The inaugural presentation was given by Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. Before swearing Joe in, he said when looking for a president for SCSU, there was really no other option than President Joe.

“It has struck me how much he really wants to learn,” said Ojakian. “He has taken his time to understand what this institution is all about. I could not be more confident that the president, who will be standing before you in a minute, is the right president for this institution at this time in its history.”

President Joe, with his newly official title, stood in front of the crowd with a student musician and sang “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. He thanked everyone for coming and invited President Ojakian to look out to the crowd.

“Southern is here,” said Bertolino, “and Southern is here to lead.”

In his speech, President Joe said he was happy to be invited to lead the “wonderful” institution. He said many challenges face higher education in Connecticut, but now is not the time to be afraid or play it safe.

“Nothing brings a community together like a little adversity,” said Bertolino.

According to Bertolino, Southern is a working class college with students drawn from all different types of backgrounds.

“These students truly have to strive and sacrifice to get here,” said Bertolino. “Every week I have been inspired by student’s stories.”

After the ceremony President Joe followed the SCSU drum line out onto the academic quad for a picnic-style celebration.

Ronahi Musa, an incoming freshman, said the day’s events went well.

“It was diverse and fun,” said Musa.

Jared Rhodes, another incoming freshman, said he enjoyed the inauguration and President Joe.

“He seems so funny and nice,” said Rhodes. “I can’t wait to get to know him better in the fall.”

Delonna Morris, a freshman nursing major, performed with the Caribbean Students Association dance team during the inauguration and said it went differently than a traditional ceremony.

“President Joe is different and way more fun,” said Morris.

Devin Lynch, a sophomore elementary education major, said he the inauguration was “just awesome.”

“It was very well organized, said Lynch. “To see and entire community come together was a great experience and I’m glad to have taken part in it.”

President Joe spent time in the quad standing by the “cuppa Joe” coffee mug tent, taking pictures with students and faculty, and receiving congratulations. He said he was feeling great and proud of Southern.

“It was a spirited event,” said Bertolino, “and I hope it showed the pride of Southern. I am grateful to all the people who put it together.”

Photo Credit: Palmer Piana

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