TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Since the start of James H. Ammons’ presidency at Florida A&M University (FAMU), almost 500 days ago, he and his team have overcome many hurdles and steered FAMU in a positive direction.
Admittedly, there are still major tasks that remain, but the FAMU community, and individuals from around the nation who attended the installation ceremony, believed Homecoming weekend was the perfect time for the official installation of Ammons as FAMU’s tenth president.
FAMU faculty, staff, and students; members of the community; representatives from United States Congress; the State of North Carolina; and the 1890 Land Grant Institutions all traveled to Tallahassee to take part in the inaugural festivities.
Sheila McDevitt, chair of the Florida Board of Governors, was also in attendance.
“Everywhere you go in this state, you find proud Rattlers,” she said. “Ammons leadership is legendary, and it is his leadership that will guide FAMU to great achievement.”
Pamela Duncan, member of the FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) and honorary co-chair for the inaugural week, spoke of the many strides Ammons has made during his short time in office.
“If this past year is any indication of what is to come, we can’t wait to see what happens next,” she said. “No pressure,” she added with a smile.
Long time friend and colleague of Ammons, Larry Rivers, president of Fort Valley State University and former dean of the FAMU College of Arts and Sciences, aroused the audience with his words of encouragement to Ammons.
“Now is your time,” he told Ammons. “Now is the time for you to lead, inspire and protect FAMU. It is because of you that FAMU is in undeniable joy this morning.”
Although it was Rivers who evoked roars of applause from the audience, it was former FAMU President Fredrick S. Humphries that stirred the crowd.
Humphries along with former FAMU Presidents Fred Ganious and Walter Smith, all pledged their continuous loyalty and support to Ammons on his future endeavors and wished him the best of luck as president.
“A true Rattler and a true Famaun is forever vigilant,” said Humphries. “As a Rattler, we must never give up the fight. We know that you will be the best president FAMU has ever had.”
After being presented with the symbols of office – an academic robe, presented by Leedell W. Neyland, Ph.D., former vice president of academic affairs; the presidential medallion, presented by Humphries; and the university mace, presented by Walter Mercer, Ph.D., senior faculty member at FAMU – Ammons was administered the oath of office by Judge Joseph Lewis Jr., of the Florida First District Court of Appeal.
Ammons’ inauguration marked the introduction of the first mace in the history of FAMU.
While delivering his inaugural address, Ammons graciously thanked the audience for their constant support and encouragement.
“As many of you know, I am living out my professional dream, yet I owe this special place so much,” said Ammons. “It is now my charge to preserve this legacy of excellence in this new era. This is a time of celebration; a time when our nation is approaching a new era of change; and a time to devise a new course that will solidify FAMU’s position as a significant leader in all of higher education.”
As part of Ammons inaugural address he also noted eight points he and the FAMU BOT will work to achieve this year:
1. Recruiting and retaining the best and brightest students;
2. Building and maintaining widespread public and legislative support;
3. Creating and keeping a close connection with and loyalty among alumni and donors;
4. Creating a consistent, powerful identity that provides us with a competitive advantage;
5. Developing a successful fundraising campaign;
6. Developing new academic programs and increasing research productivity, which will begin re-examining the Center of Excellence concept that was approved by the Board of Regents with Ph.D. programs in biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer science and agriculture, yet to be implemented;
7. Reaffirming our accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and securing full accreditation for the FAMU College of Law by the American Bar Association; and
8. Continuing to work to strengthen the university’s financial and operational systems.
Although the official installation of Ammons was the culminating event, the FAMU community celebrated this new chapter in the history of the institution with a week-long celebration.
The inaugural week, themed “Preserving the Legacy of Excellence in a New Era,” began on Sunday, October 26, with an art exhibit featuring the work of acclaimed fiber artists Faith Ringgold and Aminah Robinson and FAMU professor Valerie Goodwin titled “The Art of Resonating Fiber.”
“Art is a powerful form of expression and I feel like each artist did a wonderful job,” said Tiana Poitier, a junior broadcast journalism student from Miami, Fla. “Just from looking at the work I could see that they were very passionate about what they do. I’m even signing up for Goodwin’s class in the spring!”
FAMU’s First Lady Judy Ammons hosted “An Evening with the First Lady,” as part of the kick off events for the week. The event provided a select audience the chance to get to know the First Lady better, and focused on three things that are most important to Ammons: education, reading and service.
Women who attended the program were asked to bring a book for a child in kindergarten or grades 1-3. About 500 books were donated to the FAMU Developmental Research School (FAMU-DRS) as part of the Children’s Library in the school’s new facilities, scheduled to open January 2009.
A gospel concert featuring 11-time Grammy Award winning artist Evangelist Shirley Caesar took place the following day.
Caesar saluted President Ammons for all his hard work and wished him well in all his endeavors as FAMU’s President.
“He [Ammons] is a wonderful, wonderful man,” said Caesar.
Other inaugural events included academic forums, faculty symposiums, an inaugural gala, a barbecue and a champagne jazz brunch.
- 30 -