The Oberlin Review

“Boldness. Tradition. Vision.”

President+Carmen+Twille+Ambar+who+was+recently+inaugurated+as+the+15th+President+of+Oberlin+College.
President Carmen Twille Ambar who was recently inaugurated as the 15th President of Oberlin College.

President Carmen Twille Ambar who was recently inaugurated as the 15th President of Oberlin College.

Photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones, OC ’97

Photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones, OC ’97

President Carmen Twille Ambar who was recently inaugurated as the 15th President of Oberlin College.

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Carmen Twillie Ambar was inaugurated as the 15th president of Oberlin College in a historic moment today. The weekend’s inauguration events are spread out over three days are inspired by themes of boldness, tradition, and vision.

Ambar hopes that her career also embodies these principles.

“For me, the notion of trying to lead higher education and to be bold in our efforts to reimagine liberal arts is a part of how I thought about my own efforts,” Ambar said. “How can I make the courageous choice, which is what I think boldness is about? How can I be on the cutting edge, to explore new ideas and new ways of thinking? How can I support other people who choose to step out of the norm?”

The inauguration committee selected these themes to reflect Oberlin College’s values and Ambar’s priorities.

“Boldness, tradition, and vision [fit] what President Ambar talks a lot about on campus,” said Jan Miyake, co-chair of the inauguration planning committee and associate professor of Music Theory. “Especially the theme of being bold. Inaugurations are one of the few traditions that we have kept at Oberlin College, and vision is what we need for the future. We thought the theme summed up something particular to President Ambar, her vision, and the way she views Oberlin’s history.”

Ambar hopes that the events collectively celebrate Oberlin as an institution and recognize Oberlin’s successes in a diverse range of fields.

“From the beginning, when the committee started this work, we agreed that this was not the celebration of an individual; this is the celebration of an institution,” she said. “It is an opportunity for us to celebrate Oberlin’s legacy and also to celebrate Oberlin’s future. I just happen to be representing the institution in this particular way. I never thought about this as Carmen Ambar Day. This is about Oberlin and a chance for us to take our rightful place in leading higher education.”

Events kicked off Thursday with Sir David Adjaye’s address in Warner Concert Hall. In 2017, Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services in the field of architecture. The same year, Adjaye was named as one of the year’s 100 most influential people in TIME magazine. He is commended for his extensive accomplishments and innovations on an international scale.

“He embodies a lot of what Oberlin is great at, which is excellent work that is creative but grounded in academic integrity,” Miyake explained.

“He embodies the liberal arts but also science and technology together with passion and social justice,” Ambar added.

The Inauguration Symposium Thursday evening highlighted the commitment to education shared by Oberlin faculty and community members. While the event featured a faculty panel, many community members also had the opportunity to address the crowd.

After the symposium, guests proceeded to the Inauguration Concert in Finney Chapel.

“The concert is in the style of a prism,” Miyake said. “A prism divides light into its component parts. There is no formal programming. Think of it as a pop-up concert inside and outside of Finney. There are a lot of people involved. [Conservatory] students, College students, the [Oberlin] High School orchestra, as well as a dance troupe. We worked really hard to make it inclusive and representative of more than just the College.”

Students and community members got to enjoy a variety of selections inside and outside Finney Chapel.

“There was music happening all around, and in Tappan; I was super excited and really enjoyed it,” College sophomore Gayla Walcott said.

Ambar emphasized that she wanted the events to celebrate Oberlin’s excellence in academics and music.

“We wanted to make sure that our connection to music and art was present,” Ambar said.

The inauguration events seek to resonate with students as well as faculty members and guests. One event specifically focused on student inclusion was Thursday’s ’Sco Night with President Ambar’s Playlist. Students enjoyed dance tunes from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and 2010s as well as Ambar’s favorites from Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé. Ambar noted the difficulty she faced in crafting the playlist.

“I have to say that this has been more difficult than the speech,” she said.

Members of the ’Sco staff are appreciative of Ambar’s willingness to connect with students in a student-oriented space.

“The fact that she sees the ’Sco as a place for programming events is really meaningful for students, and ’Sco staff especially,” said College senior and ’Sco student manager, Emma Broun. “She sees how important it is to connect with us.”

Today at 1 p.m., the Undergraduate Research Open House showcased student academic work and offered an opportunity for students to express their thoughts on Ambar’s inauguration. College junior Naeisha McClain, a student representative on the inauguration committee, noted the importance of student participation.

“[At the open house], there are students’ voices there,” she said. “How President Ambar has come into the College, what we see her doing, and how it is affecting students and not just administrators. How does a new president affect students and the future?”

Zoe Keeley, a senior in the College, is one of the students who presented research.

“I think it is really good that this is happening. It is a good way to feel a part of the events,” she said.

About 1,000 people RSVP’d to the Installation Ceremony, during which Ambar was inaugurated earlier this afternoon. The event was accompanied by a gospel choir, at Ambar’s request, as well as organ improvisations and live jazz.

Events will conclude Saturday with the Mary Church Terrell Main Library Dedication, the Oberlin Homecoming football game, and the Patricia ’63 & Merrill ’61 Shanks Health and Wellness Center Dedication. Organizers hope the events encapsulate all aspects of Oberlin, including athletics, academics, art, and dedication to creating change.

College junior Justin Godfrey, a member of the Oberlin football team, is excited that homecoming weekend is connected to the inauguration.

“I think that combining the inauguration with homecoming weekend celebrates student-athletes and academics,” he said. “We are combining school spirit with this monumental moment.”

Miyake added that the event is particularly historic as Oberlin is inaugurating a woman of color for the first time in its 185-year history.

“We have a lot to celebrate,” Miyake said. “Thinking about Oberlin’s history and where we are headed and reframing it in boldness. Frankly, you are present at a historic moment. She is our first president of color. There are not that many women of color in presidency in America. It’s a big deal.”

Students are also excited to be enrolled during this significant event.

“It’s a really important inauguration, with her being the first president of color,” College sophomore Molly Thayer said.

For Ambar, the weekend’s events are a chance to reflect upon the values of Oberlin College and share her successes with her family.

“My parents and my siblings will be here,” Ambar said. “It’s always a nice family moment to get together and to enjoy each other in the context of this opportunity. The opportunity to celebrate Oberlin and connect with our students, faculty, and alumni, and celebrate the institution and also my family coming to be a part of the Oberlin family. It’s those pillars that make this weekend exciting for me.”

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