‘Accelerating toward higher calls’: Faculty marshals on inauguration day

To mark the inauguration of Andrew D. Martin as the 15th chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, four Arts & Sciences faculty members share their thoughts on the momentous occasion and what this celebration signifies for the WashU community.

Faculty leaders, representatives from the student body and staff, and delegates from academic institutions around the globe joined Chancellor Martin in Brookings Quadrangle on Oct. 3 for inauguration, a time-honored academic tradition. Thursday's ceremony was only the ninth time formal inauguration proceedings have been held on campus, and the event was an opportunity for the entire WashU community to celebrate the university's past, present, and future. Here, the four inauguration marshals representing Arts & Sciences discuss the momentum that brought us to yesterday's event  and where it might carry the university in years to come.


Joseph Jez

"Momentum is building on the work that started 50 years ago to make Washington University a top global institution and imagining where that vision takes us in the next 50 years."

"Not long after moving to Washington University, in 2008, I saw Bill Danforth and Mark Wrighton walking campus together on an autumn afternoon; a former chancellor and then-current chancellor deeply engaged in a conversation. I don't know what the topic was, but it was a photographic moment that defined for me how deeply personal this institution can be and how it connects the past, present, and future. Since then, I've learned of a story arc spanning nearly 50 years and two chancellors, how amazing students, dedicated faculty, and tireless staff can build a world-class institution, and the power of taking 'impossible' out of one's dictionary. The inauguration of Andrew Martin as the 15th chancellor is a collective moment to celebrate how far we've come, to wonder about the next chapters in our story, and to rededicate ourselves to a mission that continues to move us forward."
– Joseph Jez, professor and chair of biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor


"Momentum is recognizing the magnitude of climate change and equipping our faculty, students, and community with tools and resources to create transformative solutions and respond to current and emerging challenges." 

Beth Martin

"As a college junior, I was exploring dual-degree engineering programs. One institution asked me, 'If you want to go to engineering school, why don’t you just transfer now?' By asking, they implied that they did not understand the value of the liberal arts background I was receiving. Washington University, in contrast, celebrated and valued the strength a degree in the liberal arts could bring to training in engineering. Washington University was then and continues to be a place that has supported, encouraged, and valued the exploration of the intersections of disciplines, departments, and schools and the intersections across campus and community. Washington University recognizes that from those intersectional and sometimes uncomfortable spaces can emerge transformative ideas, partnerships, collaborations, and momentum that are critical in tackling challenging problems of our time such as climate change. With the momentum and new leadership of Chancellor Martin, I look forward to continuing and enhancing this type of engagement among faculty, staff, students, and our community."
– Beth Martin, senior lecturer in environmental studies, interim director of Washington University Climate Change Program


"Momentum is the energy of moving forward, driven by a set of new discoveries, creativities, and possibilities. But, most importantly, it is an energy force that is unstoppable."

Jeffrey McCune

"For years, there has been a driving energy of transformation happening at WashU which was as much about faculty and student vision as it was the administration. I hope that WashU, with Chancellor Martin’s leadership, can continue the growth of first-rate faculty, diversity within the student and faculty bodies, and an exceptional academic and student life for our ambitious and talented student body. Washington University, since my brother Aaron McCune attended in 2005, has been known as a 'Midwest secret.' We are no longer this. We are on the move; momentum is an apt way to describe the driving force. My hope is that we are moving toward not simply meeting the marks of excellent universities around the country, but being the shapeshifters and models for the diverse and dynamic universities that are thought leaders in the humanities, sciences, medicine, and the arts. And new university leadership, starting with Chancellor Martin, should mean we are accelerating toward these higher calls."
– Jeffrey McCune, associate professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies and of African and African-American studies


"Momentum is renewing the university’s commitment to supporting a study of the humanities that leads not just to knowledge about the past, but also to creative action in the future."

Jennifer Arch

"WashU and the College of Arts & Sciences have given me the opportunity to develop courses in which students and I can study writings of the past in occasionally offbeat ways. In 'The American Scholar,' Ralph Waldo Emerson says that true learning, though founded on factual knowledge about history and the natural world, must go further to stimulate free and brave thinking; it must also compel action. As much as I can, I strive to make space in classroom discussions and writing assignments for an Emersonian mix of analysis, freedom, and creativity. It is inspiring that so many WashU students are open to this approach and appear to benefit from it. I therefore hope that, with this change in leadership, the university will reinforce its commitment to the arts and humanities, with a special focus on helping students see how careful reading and study can lead to ethical, informed, and creative action."
– Jennifer Arch, senior lecturer in English