October 16, 2003

Anticipating Thursday's Festivities

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4000 seats. 750 student groups. Approximately 70 officials from other schools. 1000 dinners for visiting dignitaries. Hundreds of volunteers. Two past Cornell Presidents. One United States Supreme Court Justice.

These numbers are just a few of the figures involved in the inauguration of Cornell’s 11th President, Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77. While most Cornellians have heard about the festivities involved with the celebration, many are not aware of the planning and preparation that has gone into this event. A large number of administrators, faculty, students and staff have been working for several months behind the scenes to ensure that this important day and its related festivities are flawlessly executed.

According to Inge Reichenbach, vice president of alumni affairs and development, planning for the event started in July.

One of the main goals of the preparatory activities was to encourage attendance. In order to do so, a publicity committee of staff and students headed by Peggy Beach, director of campus information and visitor relations, was created. “I was asked to create publicity to create interest among the students,” Beach said, “there is a real desire on [the administration’s] part that students know about it and desire to be a part of it.”

According to Beach, the goal of posters hung around campus was to “key in on the idea that [Lehman] went here” by placing pictures of the president as a student next to present-day pictures. The fact that Lehman is the first alumnus president of the University is an important fact to celebrate, according to Reichenbach.

Funa Maduka ’04, student-elected trustee and member of the inauguration publicity committee, said “I think that as the word spreads that he went here, students will want to go.”

The publicity committee has also worked to promote the inauguration via e-mail and table tent posters that will go up this week among other means.

Maduka stressed the importance to President Lehman of student participation and attendance in the inauguration. “Students have always been the number one thing on his agenda,” she said, “that’s why student involvement was so important.”

Volunteers are also playing a large role in the inauguration this year. According to Beach, also in charge of organizing ushers and volunteers for the inauguration, these volunteers will be dressed in red jackets and stationed at various points throughout the procession and ceremony. “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” Beach said. There will be between 250 and 300 volunteer ushers who will “assist with moving people and seating people,” according to Beach.

Beach said that many volunteers also work events such as commencement. “A lot of these folks are doing things they’ve done before,” Beach said, “we depend a lot on experience.”

Volunteers will be ushering the expected 932 people who will be a part of the procession, as well as those attending the inauguration. Additionally, volunteers will be helping with the regalia that is being delivered to the University for those marching in the procession. The regalia, according to Beach, “has to be sorted and delivered to other places.”

In addition to her inauguration duties, Beach is in charge of the information center in Day Hall, and the students and staff that work there. Beach said that in preparation for the inauguration, her staff will be reviewing the events, transportation and other aspects that could be important to visitors.

“We like to pride ourselves on the fact that we’re ready for any question,” Beach said, adding that the office will be “directing people for just about everything.”

Beach said she was pleased with the preparations for the inauguration. “The meetings I’ve been involved with have been delving into the nitty gritty details — it’s nice to be at that point,” she said.

“I am very confident that this will be a successful event,” she added.

The location of the inauguration itself, Barton Hall, posed a challenge for administrators. The size of the building allows, according to Reichenbach, 4000 seats. The sound, lighting and decorative requirements of the event proposed a bit of a challenge. A stage was required that could be used for the inauguration ceremony, “Andy and Ezra’s Big Red Adventure” show and the trustee weekend dinner that will take place this weekend.

According to Reichenbach, “the Barton Hall design was done by an architecture alumnus, Jason Ardizzone-West ’95. He is working with M.J. Herson ’68 who is developing the Thursday night student event. We wanted a design that would work for three events: [the] Installation Ceremony, Thursday evening student entertainment and [the] Friday evening Trustee Council weekend dinner. That was the main design requirement, and they have done a super job with that. The design decisions were made by the three of us with the final approval by President Lehman.”

Ardizzone-West said that in designing the stage, he chose to highlight the good parts of Barton Hall including the structural arches, large amount of sunlight and vast space.

The west-facing window of Barton has been decorated with a map of the world in order to express the “global aspect” of the event, according to Ardizzone-West. Ardizzone-West said that the window graphic was installed last week, and involved workers “wearing mountain climbing gear [and] repelling down the windows.”

“The window became our backdrop of the space,” he said.

The window is also serving as the inspiration for table-top decorations that will be used in the trustee dinner.

The stage that is being built for the festivities is the full length of the west side of Barton Hall. People attending the inauguration will enter through the east side of the building down a red carpet that will further lead them down a walkway to the seating area. According to Ardizzone-West, large “black and white translucent portraits of the past presidents” will line the walkway, with a portrait of Andrew Dickson White, Cornell’s first president, above the center of the walkway.

According to Ardizzone-West, the construction inside Barton is being completed by a number of crews, including lighting crew and riggers, Cornell production crews, University carpenters, as well as subcontractors and members of Herson’s company.

When the building and publicity are finished, many student groups will take the stage both as part of the inauguration ceremony itself and the “Andy and Ezra’s Big Red Adventure” variety show Thursday night. According to Reichenbach, about 750 student organizations will be participating in inauguration events held on Thursday. The Cornell University Glee Club and its sister group, the Cornell Chorus, are two student organizations that will be participating in the inauguration ceremony itself.

According to Rob Buels grad, president of the Glee Club, “The Glee Club will be performing jointly with our sister group the CU Chorus during the actual inauguration ceremonies that take place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Barton. The piece our director, [Prof. Scott Tucker], has chosen for the event is a multi-cultural piece for mixed chorus, steel drum, piano and percussion that we think really reflects the incredible diversity that makes this school such an exciting place.”

The Hangovers, the a cappella subset of the Glee Club, will also be participating in the variety show Thursday night.

Anne Jones ’04, president of the Chorus, said that the chorus will be performing “Kyrie Eleison.” Jones said the song has a “religious twang to it, but is very upbeat and lively.” Jones said the group is looking forward to “being able to sing this very eclectic piec
e at the ceremony.”

Both the Glee Club and Chorus have been preparing for the big day by practicing and working out logistical problems.

“In addition to the standard pieces we keep polished in our repertoire for things like this, the Chorus and Glee Club have been rehearsing our inauguration piece for the past two weeks. On the organizational side of things, since this is a university function, our director has been laying most of the groundwork through the music department and other contacts in the administration. The instrumentation required for this piece has presented us with a few logistical challenges,” Buels said.

According to Jones, “it’s been pretty busy because not only do we have the inauguration, but also our own concert in two weeks.” Jones said that the chorus has been practicing since the beginning of the semester for the inauguration festivities, and that the group is “honored to be a part of the event.

Jones said that she is looking forward to “being able to sing for President Lehman, and to know after, that we contributed to the ceremony.”

According to Buels, “University events are always a great source of exposure for us, and the historic nature of this inauguration really heightens our sense of expectation. From the looks of the preparations going on, I’d say President Lehman’s inauguration is going to be one of the most unique university events we’ve participated in my years here.”

Even with all of the planning, there is one aspect that administrators and students cannot plan for: the weather. According to Reichenbach, “if there is severe weather, then we will not have the procession, we will just meet at Barton.” However, Reichenbach added, “my hunch is, we will have [the procession].”

Archived article by Kate Cooper