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Campus News

Steve Solnick’s Inauguration

photos by Jackson Bicknell

by Grace Hatton, Reverb Editor

Grey clouds and impending rain couldn’t dampen the celebratory mood on April 27 as Steve Solnick was inaugurated as the seventh president of Warren Wilson College. Students, alumni, faculty, staff and trustees alike gathered on Saturday morning to begin a day-long celebration of our new president and the Wilson community.

A bagpiper ushered in the processional and soon the stage at the end of the lawn, that had been built by work crews, was full of staff, alumni, faculty, trustees and the occasional student dressed in ceremonial robes.  Steve Solnick sat in the middle of the spiffy looking crowd. Dean of the College Paula Garrett welcomed the crowd and a precession of speakers took to the podium to discuss their experience of the journey to find Solnick, their impression of Solnick and their hopes for Wilson during his presidency.

One notable speaker  was the mayor of Asheville, Terry M. Bellamy, who said it was a humbling experience to have been asked to speak at two Wilson presidential inaugurations. She continued to thank Wilson for its impact in the area.

“Your active charity and willing service is helping Asheville,” said Bellamy.

She continued to speak highly of Wilson and Solnick, closing her speech by saying “Welcome to Wilson. Welcome to Asheville. Welcome home.”

After the succession of speakers, Wilson alumna Rayna Gellert stood to play the fiddle. The haunting music held the audience transfixed. There was no background music or accompaniment, just the solitary sound of the fiddle. The song seemed to bounce off the mountains and as the tune became more lively, feet throughout the crowd began to tap in time and the beat was filled in by the soles of shoes.

The rain threatened to pour at any moment but the crowd didn’t seem to mind, especially as the official inauguration grew near. Solnick received the official tartan of the school and a medallion with our official emblem etched into it to confirm his inauguration. After a trustee announced the official beginning of his presidency, the crowd stood and applause filled the air.

Under a sprinkling sky, Solnick thanked the trustees and speakers for their thoughtful words of encouragement. He spoke of Wilson’s proud history and our promising future, emphasizing the importance of taking risks, and accepting failures to enable the growth of the college.  By the end of his speech umbrellas had been raised and the rain was falling.

The official ceremony was over but even with the rain the crowd dispersed with a spring in their step. It seemed the hope of a better future with a new president at the helm was something to celebrate. The guests were treated to a catered lunch in Bryson and the Pavilion which was put together by six visiting Sodexo chefs. Both places were decked out in Wilson related garb such as old signs, plants from the garden, old pails from the farm and more. Various acts such as Step Team, the Jazz Ensemble, the Old Time String Band and more performed both in Bryson and the Pavilion to keep the celebratory mood going.

“Students and faculty and staff could all come together and remind ourselves why we love the college,” Solnick said after his inauguration. “I thought it played that function really nicely. It was a festive spirit. It reminded everyone why we are so dedicated to this place. A lot of people worked really hard to make that day happen. No amount of credit they get is enough credit.”

The rain continued to pour outside, but inside staff, faculty, students, alumni and trustees all mingled together to smile, laugh, eat and discuss the promising era of leadership that Steve Solnick will bring to Wilson as the seventh president of our unique college.

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