With ceremony and celebration, Bowie State University installed Dr. Aminta H. Breaux today as the tenth and first woman president in the institution’s 153-year history.
Hundreds gathered in the Leonidas S. James Physical Education Complex to share in the special occasion, including students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, elected officials and Dr. Breaux’s immediate and extended family.
"On a day that’s all about tradition as well as the future, I pledge today and each day, that I will do all that I can to build on the strengths that have been honed and cultivated for 153 years of our history," Dr. Breaux said in her inaugural address.
In a demonstration of the smooth transfer of presidential leadership, immediate past president Dr. Mickey L. Burnim was among the dignitaries seated on the dais
Dr. Burnim was among a host of dignitaries at the 11 a.m. ceremony, including James T. Brady, chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents; Maryland Lt. Gov. Rutherford Boyd; U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, USM Chancellor Robert L. Caret and Bishop Joel Peebles, pastor of City of Praise Family Ministries, among others.
A running joke among the speakers was each taking credit for serving on the search committee that brought Dr. Breaux to Bowie State.
Draped in black and gold bunting and banners, event organizers literally rolled out the red carpet in the A. C. Jordan Arena as Dr. Breaux processed to the podium to sustained applause. Faculty were swathed in academic regalia in an array of colors and many student leaders wore their caps and gowns for the first time.
The university’s history took center stage as speakers recalled its founding in a Baltimore church basement in 1865. In the week after the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the university choir sang, “I Have a Dream,” an a cappella rendition of the famous speech. The Symphony of Soul acknowledged Dr. Breaux's West Philadelphia roots with "Motownphilly" by Boyz II Men.
Putting her own spin on Dr. Breaux’s theme, “Racing to Excellence,” SGA President Phylecia Faublas defined excellence as the occasion for Dr. Breaux’s installation as the first woman president at Maryland’s first HBCU. She stressed that it takes a special woman to dominate in a man’s world.
Hoyer and Brady cheered Faublas and referred to the government and pre-law major as “fabulous” throughout the ceremony.
Janay Carpenter, GSA director of communications, told Dr. Breaux that “there is a bravery in knowing that you are on the right side of history” and likened the new president's ascent to the chief executive office to poet Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman."
What you give to the students, staff and faculty here “is your gift to the future,” said Dr. C. Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, in his remarks.
Dr. Francine G. McNairy-Nelson, President Emerita of Millersville University, Dr. Breaux’s former university, said the most exciting and meaningful role she will play is that of the African "griot" or storyteller.
“Every day she will tell the Bowie State story,” Dr. McNairy-Nelson said. “And don’t be shy about telling that story.
Turning to Dr. Breaux, Dr. McNairy-Nelson said, her voice cracking with emotion, “Rise for Bowie State and know that the presidency is an extraordinary honor.”
Following the investiture, Dr. Breaux delivered her inaugural address during which she thanked her husband, Melvin, whom she jokingly called “The First Dude,” her daughters, mother and siblings, who were all in the audience.
Laying out her vision for the university, Dr. Breaux said, “When I envision the future of BSU I envision this wonderful gem in Prince George’s County and here’s what I see: New partners who will bring the workplace into the curriculum; physical spaces for business incubators that will foster interdisciplinary studies; learning environments that bridge classroom learning with real-world experiences and hands-on experiences, and visitors that will come to this campus to explore, to learn, and to grow."
As she continued to cast her vision, Dr. Breaux added, "We don’t know what lies ahead, but what we do know is that every obstacle has only made us wiser; every road block has built our resolve. There will be challenges ahead, but there is great opportunity that lies ahead for us."
"And I do believe that to everything there is a season," Dr. Breaux said, eliciting knowing murmurs of affirmation from the crowd. "And Bowie State University, this day is our day. This time is our time. This season, it’s our season to rise and rise again. Yes, we will rise to new heights in teaching and learning and dedicating ourselves to building a workforce and a community. ... The future is ours to build, and I truly believe we are building it together."
As the hushed audience hung on her every word, Dr. Breaux said, "I accept with great humility the hope and promise for a bright future. I know on whose shoulders I stand," referring to past presidents Dr. Burnim and Dr. Samuel L. Myers, who was seated in the audience.
"But Bowie State University, together we are on this race, to continue on this leg of the race: a race to excellence," Dr. Breaux said, echoing her theme for the institution. "I thank you for being here on this race with me. I’m looking forward to getting up every day and working as hard as I can for the future and for the future generations that I’ve yet to meet. So know Bulldog Nation -- and BSU! -- I am here for you every day.
---- By Dr. Karima A. Haynes, Assistant Professor, Print Journalism Coordinator