On Monday, Oct. 28, Ángel Cabrera, the twelfth president of the Institute and the first Spanish-born president of an American university, was officially invested in a ceremony at Ferst Theater.
The ceremony, known as an investiture, marked the ceremonial start of Cabrera’s tenure at the institute, although he has been in the job since Sept. 3, almost two months ago. It was attended by more than 100 specially-invited guests, who represented sister educational institutions, such as Harvard, Duke and Emory, and came from as far away as Charles III University of Madrid in Spain.
Before the actual investiture took place, various stakeholders in the campus community had the opportunity to deliver speeches addressed to both the incoming president and the Institute’s community in a packed theater filled with students, alumni and special guests.
The first speaker was Undergraduate Student Government Association President Pooja Juvekar, fourth-year ISyE, followed by Dean of the Scheller College of Business Dr. Maryam Alavi on behalf of the faculty, Chair of Staff Council David Brown on behalf of the staff and David Brown (IM ‘79) on behalf of the alumni.
Following the Institute’s representatives were speeches by the special guests, namely Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Valdosta State University President Margaret Venable and George Mason University (GMU) professor Gregory Unruh. Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, who represents Georgia’s fifth district, was scheduled to speak at the ceremony as well; however, due to a conflict, his remarks were instead read by the event’s master of ceremonies, Dean of the College of Computing Charles Isbell.
Unruh’s speech revolved around his long friendship with Cabrera, starting at the IE Business School in Spain, where Cabrera took on his first administrative position, and moving on to Cabrera’s previous job from 2012 until 2019 as the president of GMU, Virginia’s fastest growing public university in terms of enrollment.
The investiture itself was conducted by University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley, and went relatively quickly. After brief remarks, Wrigley invested Cabrera and placed the Institute’s presidential medallion around his neck.
After his investiture, Cabrera made his grand entrance onto the stage, riding the Reck out onto the Ferst stage, a sight which was heralded by the sound of the Reck’s iconic horn from off stage.
Outside of associating Cabrera with the visual symbology of Tech, the automotive entrance also had the effect of making the entire auditorium smell of exhaust.
Cabrera, wearing a suit instead of his formal academic attire, delivered his speech not from behind a podium, instead choosing to walk around the stage. The speech was intended to be casual and friendly, highlighting Cabrera’s long-term familiarity with Tech.
He thanked his family and spoke about research occurring at the Institute, before going briefly into his story and stating that, “America is prosperous because it built great universities.”
He also took the opportunity to address the Institute’s enrollment statistics, especially among women and people of color, noting that although they were good among engineering schools, they were, in his estimation, not yet good enough, and that he intended to raise them during his tenure.
Cabrera also devoted time to his predecessors, the eleven previous presidents of the Institute. He calculated the average term length to be eleven years and three months, and referenced the longest serving president, Marrion Brittain, as well as the shortest serving, Arthur Hansen, before going on to say that he wished for a “fruitful term of average length”.
Following Cabrera’s inaugural address, members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) performed a step routine.
The dance was one of the most energetic moments in a serious and lengthy ceremony, providing a welcome change of pace.
The ceremony itself was punctuated by student performances, with the national anthem sung by the treble choir, the alma mater sung by the Glee Club and music provided by the marching band for the procession of the special guests onto the stage, as well as their procession off after the end of the ceremony. Unexpectedly, the band played a version of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” during the latter procession.
Cabrera, his wife Elizabeth Cabrera and his son Alex, are all alumni of the Institute, and Cabrera served on the Georgia Tech Advisory Board, including a term as its chair in 2011. Cabrera received an M.S. and Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, in addition to a B.S. and M.S. in computer and electrical engineering from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.