Chancellor Martin’s Inauguration

On a clear, crisp October afternoon, Wash U officially welcomed Andrew Martin as its 15th chancellor. At first, I was unsure of whether I wanted to attend the event or not, but I ultimately decided I should. After all, chancellor inductions at Wash U don’t happen very often-the last two chancellors each served 24 year terms-and so I was lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of such a momentous occasion. The word of the afternoon was “momentum”, and after listening to his speech, I believe that Chancellor Martin will provide that for Wash U.

Even before the chancellor spoke, the renewed emphasis on including students from all different backgrounds shone through the event. Marina P. Gross, a PhD student at Wash U, talked about her experience growing up in East Berlin and the change that occurred in her life when the Berlin Wall fell. Paul Tran, a recent MFA graduate, recited a poem he wrote about momentum that included details from his family’s story. His family fled Vietnam during the war and then his mom raised him as a single parent, a story which he wove throughout the poem.

Once Chancellor Martin laid out his vision for the university, which includes transitioning to a need-blind admission process and allowing Pell Grant eligible students from Missouri and Southern Illinois to attend Wash U tuition-free, it all seemed to fit into one large narrative. The three key values Chancellor Martin emphasized were: academic distinction, student access, and a partnership with the greater St. Louis area. Using the metaphor of the Eads Bridge, which the city built over the Mississippi River to make railroad travel easier and move St. Louis forward, Chancellor Martin discussed building bridges between Wash U and the local community. In practice, this means conducting research on locally relevant issues like healthcare inequality. It also means expanding U College programs and strengthening Wash U’s partnership with the local hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Chancellor Martin’s plans received applause from the audience, and although they were the most important part of the afternoon, I did also enjoy seeing the faculty process in wearing their academic regalia and listening to the choir sing. Afterwards, there was a reception on the library lawn with lots of food and music playing over the loudspeakers. It was an excellent way to end the afternoon. I felt fortunate to be able to attend the event, and it made me really excited for the opportunities that will be available for future students.