Countdown to the inauguration

Barack Obama may have had a parade, a star-studded concert and 10 balls to mark his inauguration, but Tech knows how to roll out the red carpet for its new leader too.

Preparations are already underway for the installation ceremony and inaugural activities that will officially celebrate George P. “Bud” Peterson as Tech’s 11th president.

“A new president is a landmark in an institution’s history…. An inauguration is, therefore, a time to recall the past, celebrate the present and serve as a harbinger of the future,” said Lisa Ray Grovenstein, director of Public Relations.

The Special Committee on the Presidential Transition, a student group formed by SGA, will meet with representatives of the President’s Office in the coming weeks to discuss plans for the inauguration and how to involve students as much as possible.

Traditionally, the inauguration includes an installation ceremony steeped in academic tradition and much pomp and circumstance. At this ceremony, Peterson will be formally endowed with the powers and responsibilities of the presidency.

“I strongly expect that the ceremony will be open to the whole campus, especially students,” said Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president.

In addition to the campus community, state and local dignitaries and other university presidents are expected to attend. Erroll Davis, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, will conduct the investiture, and the new president will make an inaugural speech.

Beyond the installation ceremony, there will be ancillary inaugural events customized to the new president’s wishes.

These events have yet to be planned, but organizers may take their cues from the last inauguration in Tech history—that of former president G. Wayne Clough.

Clough’s installation ceremony was preceded by a grand processional from campus to the Fox Theater, at which the ceremony was held. Over 200 hundred people from the campus community participated in “Wayne’s Walk,” marching behind the Ramblin’ Reck that carried Clough and his wife to the theater.

The ceremony itself included a processional of guests from other universities and Tech’s own faculty in formal robes, as well as speeches by then governor Zell Miller and Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell.

Other inaugural festivities for Clough included a luncheon for invited guests at the Georgian Terrace after the ceremony, a “Masterworks Concert” at the Ferst Center featuring Tech’s symphonic band, chorale, concert band and jazz ensemble, a campus-wide festival by Grant Field that included games, student organization booths, Varsity hotdogs and door prizes, a special Library exhibit of dorm life at Tech throughout history and a black-tie dinner in honor of the Cloughs at Fernbank Museum for donors and special guests.

The festivities spanned the course of a week, with Tech traditions playing an important role throughout. According to Amelia Gambino, assistant vice president for Communications and Marketing, Buzz attended everything, the Cloughs were driven to many events in the Reck, and George P. Burdell was even listed in the inaugural program.

Students also played a key role in the celebrations, not only attending but helping to plan the inauguration. Three students sat on the inaugural committee, which also included faculty and staff representatives and was chaired by the late Tom Galloway, dean of the College of Architecture.

However, Peterson’s inauguration will likely not take place for several months, which is not unusual. Clough began work as Tech president six months before his inauguration.

“A great deal of time is needed for planning, booking locations and in general learning what the new president and his spouse may want to include in the event,” Gambino said.

The delay in the inaugural ceremonies will also give the new president time to familiarize himself with the Institute. “Leading up to the inauguration will be a time of intense orientation for the new president,” Grovenstein said. “He will spend a lot of time ‘getting to know the lay of the land’ by meeting key faculty and student leadership on campus, local and state leaders and representatives from related organizations, etc.”

Despite the wait, the upcoming inauguration of a new Tech president promises to be both memorable and historic.

“No matter what the final [inauguration] plan is, it will be worth attending,” Gambino said. “And for many people in the Tech community, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”