Blomberg officially became the 17th President of Ursinus College Friday Oct. 16, in the Floy Lewis Bakes field house, a ceremony punctuated with references to the Ursinus commitment to the liberal arts and opportunity, under the theme of “inquiry and innovation.”
Ursinus students have the opportunity to “participate, to act and to excel in a way that allows them to realize their dreams,” Blomberg said in his inaugural address. He referenced Codey Young ’14, who, with a Watson Fellowship, spent a year of extensive research abroad exploring how black men’s artistic expressions are used to help create a sense of identity.
He cited a renewed commitment to the greater community, including both Collegeville and Philadelphia, and spoke of a proposed initiative that would allow Ursinus students the opportunity to work, study and live in Philadelphia.
Blomberg also spoke of experiential learning and the importance of making a liberal arts education accessible to all. Noting that many Ursinus students are the first in their families to attend college—and that he was the first to pursue a traditional undergraduate education—Blomberg encouraged the Ursinus community to find strength in its economic and cultural diversity.
“That [students]chose Ursinus is a testament to our sense of community and a supportive, accepting campus climate that views its socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural diversity as a treasure, not a hindrance or an obstacle or something to be ‘solved.’
“We must pursue this mission with candor and confidence,” he said. “We must embrace these beliefs unapologetically, wholeheartedly and without compromise.”
An Enduring Mission
Although forward-looking, Blomberg reinforced his commitment to the Ursinus values and a mission that enables “students to become independent, responsible and thoughtful individuals through a program of liberal education.”
Those sentiments were shared by Gregory Hess, president of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., who introduced Blomberg at the ceremony. He used the occasion to not only promote Blomberg’s credentials, but to “serve notice that the liberal arts are alive and well.”
“Navigating these trying times will take vision, energy and leadership. I cannot think of a stronger steward, a braver champion, or a better spokesperson of the transformative power for the liberal arts and education than Brock Blomberg,” said Hess.
“Most important to everyone gathered here today is that Brock is someone who understands the narrative of Ursinus and realizes that this is an institution of opportunity,” Hess added. “He knows about your long history of educating young people with a highly personalized education where words like ‘rigor,’ ‘ambition,’ ‘judgment,’ and ‘consequence’ still have meaning. It is a narrative, as he has shared, that personally resonates with his own journey.”
Each member of the platform committee presented Blomberg with a book that represented their community, in honor of liberal education and the academic nature of the occasion. Selections ranged from the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” from student government president Abigail Wood ’16, to CIE favorite “The epic of Gilgamesh” from alumnus Aakash Shah ’10 and “First, Break All the Rules” from Missy Bryant, assistant dean of student affairs.
A Spirited Occasion
Quoting Apple’s brand manifesto, Blomberg was hopeful that Ursinus students, and the greater Ursinus community,with their motivation, drive and enthusiasm, could change the world. The ceremony ended with an upbeat Mummers’strut, welcoming Blomberg to Philadelphia.
Earlier in the day, a symposium on Inquiry and Innovation, cited as “fundamental components of the Ursinus College experience,” was held in the Lenfest Theater. The program featured guests Jamaica Kincaid, an award-winning Caribbean American writer, and Abhi Nemani, writer speaker, organizer and technologist who currently serves as the first chief Data Officer for the City of Los Angeles.
Kincaid spoke on human traits of curiosity, which she feels come just before innovation.
Nemani, a former student of Blomberg’s, spoke of the “simplicity” that is at the core of innovation, and asked the audience to “be comfortable with trying new things.”
Faculty members Susanna Throop, Joel Bish, Lisa Grossbauer and Ed Onaci and students Dorinda Ma and Ed Malandro, both seniors, spoke on the importance of unasked questions and how liberal education stimulates innovation and inquiry.
Throop spoke on “the need to ask the questions that no one else is asking.” Bish said his students were the impetus for his current work on concussion safety because they helped him see his purely scientific work in terms of civic engagement.