The campus of Delta State University shined brightly Friday at the inauguration of the institution’s eighth president, William N. LaForge.
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, Gov. Phil Bryant, national, state and local political leaders, members of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, former Delta State presidents, fellow institutional chief executives, honored platform guests, distinguished delegates from universities and learned societies, faculty, staff, alumni, students and friends of Delta State all gathered to honor the university’s new leader.
The Bologna Performing Arts Center on campus hosted a packed house as thousands congregated to witness LaForge’s official investiture ceremony, which was themed “Celebrating Excellence.”
“I am honored and humbled by the trust and faith placed in me by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning,” said LaForge. “Last spring I accepted the charge to serve Delta State, and today I renew my commitment to give this position and this university my very best efforts.
“It is my distinct honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve my alma mater.”
LaForge, a Cleveland native, has repeatedly said it was an easy decision to return home after a lengthy and distinguished career in Washington, D.C.
“Delta State has been near and dear to me since my early childhood,” he added. “I grew up on this campus. My dad was a professor and dean. I had four outstanding years as an undergraduate and came of age here. I met many of my best friends on this campus, and they are still my best friends today.”
Keynoting the inaugural address was Senator Cochran. LaForge and Cochran have maintained a personal and professional relationship spanning more than 30 years. LaForge worked for Cochran from 1983-1990, serving as chief of staff and chief legislative counsel during that time.
Dr. Hank Bounds, Commissioner of Higher Education, spoke high praise for the new president before placing the Chain of Office medallion over the head of LaForge, marking the official investiture.
“It is obvious that his dedication to Delta State University transcends both time and distance,” said Bounds. “He understands the mission of the university on a very personal level and I am certain he will utilize his extensive talents to help today’s students have every opportunity for success.
“Mr. LaForge understands the rich culture and history of both the institution and the region. He has lived and breathed it. It is part of him and he is part of it.”
LaForge addressed the crowd with high emotion and promised his full commitment to bettering Delta State.
“When I arrived on campus six months ago, I made a pledge to seek and build excellence in all we do at this university. Today I reaffirm that pledge.
“While we face many challenges at Delta State, I see many more opportunities and a bright future for our university. I will devote my best energies to making excellence a hallmark of this university — one in which we can all be proud.
“Today I ask the Delta State family and all the friends of this university to embrace this vision for our future. I am convinced that, together, we can build a tradition of excellence as a truly outstanding public regional university, and one of national distinction.”
Following the ceremony, attendees gathered along the campus quadrangle for a communal inaugural luncheon. Perfect autumn weather provided a textbook ending to the significant day in Delta State history.
For more information on the proud presidential tradition of Delta State, and more detailed coverage on the week of inaugural activities, visit http://inauguration.deltastate.edu.