Inauguration of President Mildred García Marked by Celebrations and Tributes
The inauguration of Dr. Mildred García as the seventh president of California State University, Dominguez Hills on Friday, May 2, which some remarked was unlike any presidential inauguration they had seen at a university, concluded a week of events showcasing the mission, talent, and commitment to education of the campus community. The theme, “Transforming Lives: Our Heritage, Our Future,” was brought to life by the efforts of students, faculty, staff and alumni who highlighted the history of the campus while focusing on the future with a new leader at the helm.
The celebration kicked off on Friday, April 25, with the Inaugural Student Formal in the Loker Student Union Dominguez Ballroom, sponsored by Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), the Loker Student Union, and the Office of Student Life. During the evening, President García was honored by students in an unofficial “inauguration” ceremony.
Don Manning, who serves as vice chair for the Loker Student Union board of directors, described García’s efforts in relating to students and how it has earned her the welcome that they have given her since she took office last August.
“Dr. García has respect for [the students] and asks for our opinions and advice,” said the business administration major. “We can relate to her because she is warm and friendly to us. We have welcomed President García by asking her to be involved with our various activities, such as attending the students’ Inaugural Ball, and participating as a guest speaker for the Toro Leadership Challenge workshop series, ASI's Annual Awards Banquet, and other events.”
Erick Garcia, chair of the LSU board of directors, echoed Manning’s sentiments by saying, “[Students] like the fact that Dr. Garcia has a background, a life that they can relate too. Many of our students are first-generation students just as she was and feel that she portrays all that you can become if you put some real effort in achieving your goals. She demonstrates that anyone, with hard work, can achieve what they set their dreams to, and if you put enough effort into doing what you do with a passion, you can be a pioneer for change.”
On April 29, a Town Hall highlighting the campus’s achievements toward reaffirmation of accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) took place in the Loker Student Union, sponsored by the Division of Academic Affairs.
“This is one of the most glowing reports I’ve seen in my entire career,” enthused President García. “We have a lot to be thankful for. [We have] shown evidence of the kind of progress that we should be making. Thank you for really showing off CSUDH. Dominguez Hills does have many, many things to be proud of. Congratulations to everyone for being a part of the process.”
The next day, the Dominguez Heritage Project, an installation of historic photographs and documents in the lobby of the Dominguez Ballroom, was “unveiled." Representatives from the Carson Companies and Watson Land Company, both of which funded the project, greeted the assembled guests, including members of the Emeritus Faculty Association which sponsored the event.
On May 1, the Transformational Leaders Luncheon, sponsored by the Office of Student Life and the Women’s Resource Center, highlighted role models among Dominguez Hills faculty, staff, and students. Dr. Irene Vasquez , chair and professor of Chicana/o studies, received the Transformational Leadership through Culture and Exploration of Culture Award and Dr. Sofia Pappatheodorou, associate professor of chemistry, was given the Transformational Leadership through Education Award. Requel Cameron Thurman, a health care sciences major, was awarded for Transformational Leadership through Personal Community Action. In addition, nominees for the awards were presented with certificates. The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Catherine Crow, vice president for Employee and Clinician Services at Healthcare Partners Medical Group in southern California. Crow is a strong advocate and community partner to the CSUDH College of Health and Human Services, and served on the Inauguration Community Committee. Her luncheon address took the guests on her personal journey to discover what it means to be a “transformational leader” and how the leadership traits that bring about transformation in the lives of others might apply to not only those who were honored, but everyone in attendance.
That evening, an Inauguration Donor and Friends Reception was held in the Dominguez Ballroom to thank the university’s numerous supporters. The inauguration, which has been a fundraising opportunity for the university, raised more than $180,000 for scholarships, according to Ann Camp, director of development, University Advancement.
The reception was opened by Del Huff, chair of the CSUDH Foundation Board and senior deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. Huff spoke glowingly of Dr. García’s arrival on campus and introduced the president to attendees. President García acknowledged the donors and supporters of the inauguration who were in attendance, and also had students who were recipients of presidential scholarships stand and be acknowledged.
Dr. Scott Morris, director of classical guitar studies, performed “L.A. Nocturne,” composed by the late Dr. Rod Butler who served as chair of the Inauguration Steering Committee until his untimely passing in November 2007. Vocalist and alumnus Greg Walker spoke of his time at CSU Dominguez Hills as a student, how happy he was to be back on the campus, and how impressed he is with the new student union. He inspired the attendees with a beautiful tribute to García as he sang Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings,” one of her favorite songs. Jazz pianist and alumnus Danny Grissett spoke of visiting Dr. Butler in the fall right before his death and honored the late professor and President García with three jazz pieces.
Greg Saks, interim vice president of University Advancement gave a special thanks to all at the reception who generously supported the inauguration and those who came from across the country to attend. The event was opened and closed with music provided by Hugo Aguayo, guitarist, and Michael Lloyd, percussionist.
The investiture ceremony on Friday, May 2, began with a performance of “El Capotin,” a Puerto Rican folk song, in tribute to President García’s heritage, by Jacqueline Estrada, a senior music major who was accompanied by guitarist Marcos Loya and violinist Miguel Guttierrez, who are both lecturers in the Chicana/o studies department. The processional was performed by the Carson-Dominguez Hills Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Richard Kravchak, acting chair and associate professor of music. Their program for the inauguration included “Fanfare,” composed by associate professor of music, Dr. Jonathon Grasse.
Former CSUDH interim president and California State University trustee Dr. Herbert Carter presided over the inaugural ceremony, which included the presentation of the flag by the Dominguez Hills ROTC, the national anthem sung by Michael Smith, assistant director of University Outreach and Information Services, and a dramatic reading by Charles Walker, lecturer of theatre arts, of President García’s favorite poem, “Ode to the Diasporican (pa’ mi gente)” by Boricuan poet Mariposa (a.k.a. Maria Teresa Fernandez).
The invocation and benediction were given, respectively, by Rev. Jose Belen Ortiz of the Foursquare Church of Montebello and Rabbi Jason Weiner of Young Israel of Century City.
Carter introduced Dr. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, as the keynote speaker for the inauguration. A longtime friend and colleague of García’s, Hu-DeHart drew comparisons between the 2008 presidential elections and the university’s distinction of being led by the first Latina president in the CSU system, whom she called, “a symbol of the transformation and who will lead us toward the future we can all clearly envision now and enthusiastically embrace.”
“At the end of this year, we will have the historic opportunity to elect a woman or an African American, a person of color, as our next president,” said Hu-DeHart in her keynote address. “It is a moment of such immense proportions that some of us gathered here today probably never thought we would see the day in our lifetime. But you at Cal State Dominguez Hills have already made history.”
Hu-DeHart, who speaks several languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and her native Chinese, closed her address with her rendition of “De Colores,” a traditional folk song in many Spanish-speaking countries. Another tribute in song was offered by the CSU Dominguez Hills Inaugural Choir, directed by Dr. Hansonia Caldwell, professor emeritus of music.
After her installation by Chancellor Charles B. Reed, García addressed the audience of well-wishers, including numerous Dominguez Hills students and community members. Recounting her humble beginnings in Brooklyn and her journey through a successful academic career, the new president of ten months expressed her desire to “be at a vibrant institution that accepts students from every walk of life – regardless of their economic standing – and provide them an opportunity to re-imagine themselves and recreate a new reality for their life and the future generations of their families.”
President García offered as testimony several stories of students who inspired her by the circumstances they had to overcome to get an education, and announced her gift of $25,000 over the next five years toward scholarships, in honor of her parents, Lucia and Leopoldo García. In closing, she gave her pledge to further the mission of Dominguez Hills, a university that she called “a microcosm of our nation.”
“With this rich diversity we have the fortune of providing an educational laboratory that truly deepens the student learning,” she said. “We are at a place where our students will reach their potential and we in turn will learn so much from them...I vow to you that I will work alongside you to ensure that we can become all that we can be and that Dominguez Hills reaches that next horizon... I invite all of you to join us in this new direction for success, because from our strongest supporters to our sharpest critics … the success of Dominguez Hills lies in each and everyone one of us.”
- Joanie Harmon and Brenda Knepper
Photos above: Mildred García, the seventh president of CSU Dominguez Hills, was inaugurated on May 2. The platform party included (L-R) Dr. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University; CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed; and Dr. Herbert Carter (at podium). Photo by GK
President García is "inaugurated" by Joy Masha, student activities coordinator, ASI and Ifeanyi Ebigbo, president, ASI. Photo by Roberto Vazquez
The Transformational Leaders Luncheon highlighted role models among
Dominguez Hills faculty, staff, and students. L-R: Dr. Irene Vasquez, chair
and professor of Chicana/o studies, Transformational Leadership
through Culture and Exploration of Culture Award; health sciences student Requel Cameron Thurman,
Transformational Leadership through Personal Community Action; CSUDH President Mildred García
and Dr. Sofia Pappatheodorou, associate professor of chemistry, Transformational Leadership
through Education Award. Photo by GK
Alumnus Greg Walker, former vocalist with Santana, serenaded President García at the Inauguration Donor and Friends Reception. Photo by GK
Longtime Dominguez Hills friend and supporter, Katherine B. Loker with President García. Photo by GK
The members of Phi Sigma Sigma with President García in front of the Dominguez Heritage Project installation in the lobby of the Dominguez Ballroom. Photo by Joanie Harmon