“What an overwhelming occasion,” President David Wright said Friday morning.
Thousands of IWU students, staff, alumni and supporters assembled at the Chapel Auditorium and watched online as Wright was formally approved as the university’s new leader in a 90-minute ceremony.
During his inaugural address, Wright emphasized many of his favorite talking points since taking the president’s chair in July: affordability, access, health science and bringing the university to a global audience.
The event was themed “called to serve,” which Wright said reflects his approach.
“It’s the mission to which I wish to call you,” he said. “I see a world that holds both great challenges and great opportunities … and he who wishes to be great must serve greatly.”
A variety of speakers from Wright’s personal and academic past and the university’s partners welcomed him, sharing their favorite stories and best wishes for his new post.
They frequently mentioned his background as a man of many cultures who found himself after moving to Marion at 15, graduating Marion High School and attending IWU, as well as his accomplishments and potential as an educational leader and man of God.
Azusa Pacific University President Jon Wallace, who served with Wright during his time at that school, was the event’s main speaker. His speech, entitled “Down the Up Stairway: A New Vision for Higher Education,” called Wright to consider the future of Wesleyan education and his legacy while making decisions.
“God did not bring you this far, with so many eyes on you, to not give you a shot,” Wallace said.
Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, rested her hands on Wright’s shoulders and offered a prayer just after he received a medal signifying his role, which he jokingly referred to as “academic bling.”
She spoke of Wright’s baptism and acceptance of Christ and said “we once again dedicate David to you” and “we want to thank you for his pure heart for you.”
Wright was selected this spring by the IWU Board of Trustees to succeed then-President Henry Smith, who announced last October he would resign June 30. Board Chair Carl Shepherd said he believes Wright can “take what has been the best of our past and enhance it for the future.”