More than 600 alumni, friends, students, community members, faculty and staff gathered on Tate Lawn at Lees-McRae College for the inauguration ceremony of Dr. Barry M. Buxton on Saturday, October 2. Thomas H. Brigham ’72, chair of the Board of Trustees, officially swore in Dr. Buxton as the College’s 15th president in the 110-year history of Lees-McRae College during the two-hour ceremony.
With clear blue skies overhead, the processional of distinguished guests, delegates, faculty, students, and alumni were led by the Grandfather Mountain Highland Pipe Band to the platform for the ceremony that included greetings and charges to the President, musical selections by members of the community including the Avery County High School Chorus and the Men’s Choir from the Banner Elk Presbyterian Church, and the installation and swearing in of President Buxton.
Charges and greetings from distinguished guests included those from Dr. Hope Williams, president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities; Congressman Patrick McHenry, 10th District of North Carolina; Dr. Houck Medford, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation; Dr. Paul Chewning, president of the Appalachian College Association; Kim Palimisano ’83, president of the LMC Alumni Association; and Gary Luhr, executive director of the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities.
Dr. Janet Speer, distinguished professor and senior faculty member, delivered a message of support on behalf of faculty and staff and Kelsey Stevens, president of the Student Government Association, delivered greetings and charges from the student body.
Bob Jepson, CEO of Jepson and Associates, Trustee of Lees-McRae College, and close personal friend of President Buxton, addressing the crowd describing Buxton’s journey to the presidency just before the official installation.
After repeating the oath of office with his hand on the Tufts Family Bible, President Buxton addressed the crowd. He reminded everyone in attendance of the beauty of the surrounding mountains and of the mission of Lees-McRae College.
“It’s undeniably true that in the 110 years since Lees-McRae’s founding, there have been many changes. We have evolved from a ‘fire-side school’, to an institute for girls, then a liberal arts co-educational college, and now to a hybrid institution featuring interdisciplinary programs, the liberal arts, and professional programs… always with an eye toward mutual support and meeting the student’s needs. Yet today, after all these years, our core institutional values would be clearly recognized and appreciated by our founder,” said Buxton.
He went on to describe some of those values: “We believe in holistic education. At Lees-McRae, every student is encouraged to achieve a balanced life. We prepare our students for lives filled with successful challenges and positive outcomes…We believe in values-based education. The entire Lees-McRae family endeavors to model the values of self-reliance, service, generosity, joy, gratitude, thrift, faith, individual expression, and pure kindness. We believe in hard work, and when money is in short supply, we roll up our sleeves to get the job done…We believe in learning by doing. Through our Honors program, Center for Student Success, Omega projects, internships, international student ambassadors, service programs, student teaching, and outdoor adventure programs, students really see and feel the impact they can have on their communities and the world.”
President Buxton ended his address in gratitude. “In closing, let me say that I can think of no greater honor than serving as President of Lees-McRae College. I am humbled to be entrusted with the leadership of this learning community. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and to play a role in the education of young people in this special place. I am respectful of the magnitude of the challenge, and resolve to do all in my power to honor our mission, invigorate our future, and ensure success. I am thankful to have been called to Lees-McRae. God bless.”
The ceremony concluded with the release of a Red-tailed Hawk by students from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute at Lees-McRae College. “Wing Guy”, as he was known to students and faculty of the Institute, has been recovering from a gunshot wound at the Institute since November 2009.
The ceremony will be available for viewing at www.lmc.edu soon. Please call Meghan Wright at 828-898-8729 for more information.