The Montclair State University community gathered together on Thursday, Sept. 15, to honor the ninth president of the institution, Jonathan Koppell, with an official presidential investiture. The main goal of the traditional ceremony was to celebrate and acknowledge the president’s first year leading the university and his achievements.
The day started with a series of events including a campus festival with musical performances and speakers at the Amphitheater. An open reception for students, alumni, faculty and staff followed the ceremony outside of the Memorial Auditorium.
As part of the official installation, the university welcomed distinguished attendees, among them former presidents Susan Cole and Irvin Reid, presidents and representatives of other universities as well as local and county elected officials.
According to the university’s spokesperson, Andrew Mees, the presidential investiture is a historical and traditional event at Montclair State. Cole’s investiture took place in 1998.
“Virtually every university in the world has a ceremony to inaugurate a new president or chancellor,” Mees said. “Sometimes they were called inaugurations and sometimes investitures.”
The Amphitheater section of the investiture began with opening remarks from Faith Victor, a former student member of the Board of Trustees, followed by remarks from previous Montclair State presidents.
Reid, who was president of Montclair State from 1989 to 1997, acknowledged the transformation of the institution and congratulated Koppell on his most recent successes.
“Your vision of an inclusive campus will broaden the mandate of Montclair [State], to become New Jersey’s premier public serving university and to earn national recognition as a model of 21st century higher education,” Reid said. “You should be congratulated for giving such a prominent role to your students as a part of your investiture today.”
Similarly to Reid, Cole also shared a few words to honor her successor and highlighted the importance of this day.
“First and foremost, today’s ceremony is about the importance of higher education, and what the establishment and growth of universities across the world and over hundreds of years have contributed to the progress of humanity,” Cole said. “Every member of this university community is individually and personally part of that history and heritage.”
Hannah Cox, the assistant news director of the university’s radio station, WMSC, interviewed Cole after the ceremony. Cole said she is confident in her successor’s leadership and shared some guidance she gave him last year.
“A particular piece of advice that I gave him that would be that no president can do it alone,” Cole said. “You have to build a strong team of talented people who know more than you do about a whole lot of things and give them room to develop their potential and their ideas.”
The Amphitheater portion of the program concluded with a brief greeting from Koppell followed by honor guards leading the academic session to Memorial Auditorium, where Koppell was officially invested.
In his investiture address, Koppell thanked the Montclair State community for their trust and unconditional support throughout this past year.
“It’s been an incredible 12 months and an incredibly warm reception from day one,” Koppell said. “And I’m incredibility grateful for the confidence that all of you have so foolishly placed in me.”
Koppell further explained the purpose of the investiture ceremony.
“This ceremony is a celebration of a vital institution that has been ambitious and pugnacious, confident and sometimes underestimated but always focused on its public purpose,” Koppell said. “Today is a celebration of our power to do great things when we work collectively, remembering that our destinies are intertwined.”
In his presidential speech, Koppell also shared his vision and plans for this institution.
“My goal is ultimately that every Montclair [State] student will have a public service experience as part of their education here and we will become [New Jersey’s] premier public service university,” Koppell said.
Classes were officially canceled and the event was live-streamed at a Watch Party hosted at the Student Center to allow all students and faculty to be part of this iconic day.
Luciano Zeoli, a senior music education major, decided to attend the event to hear some of the plans Koppell has for the future.
“I just want to hear what [Koppell] has to say,” Zeoli said. “I want to hear what changes he is going to make for the school and I want to see how he can better the school.”
Victoria Severino, a sophomore elementary education major, explained why it was important to participate in the investiture ceremony.
“I like how we [are] all coming together today to show support,” Severino said. “I feel that [canceling classes] is a great way to get everyone, as a community, together.”
Lorraine Thierry, a program assistant in the office of residential life, said students play a big role in the evolution of the university and should be attending the presidential investiture.
“It’s a new era in the university, so I believe that students should be a part of the change that is taking place and to be supportive of the new president,” Thierry said.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy sent a video message where he expressed the impact of the university and recognized that Koppell is a great leader for Montclair State.
“Montclair [State] has become an important resource for the State of New Jersey and beyond, providing a strong education for its students, the opportunity for social and economic mobility and promoting the ideals of public service,” Murphy said. “I am confident that [Koppell] is the right person to lead Montclair State at this moment and to continue its upward trajectory.”