This past Friday, Nov. 1, Dr. Thomas S. Hibbs was inaugurated as the ninth president of the University of Dallas. The inaugural festivities began with a stirring chorus of America the Beautiful, and an atmosphere of enthusiasm imbued the campus during the event.
The events drew in crowds of people representing the body of UD and all the places it touches. From the Holy Trinity Seminarians to the Cistercian monks, the secular offices of faculty, alumni, students and many of UD’s major donors, all sections of UD were present within the confines of the Maher Athletic Center for Mass and inauguration.
The last inauguration at UD happened over nine years ago, so most of the student body had never witnessed such festivities before.
“This is my first time to see such an event at the university,” said Brother Christopher Kalan, O. Cist., ’15. “There’s a lot of energy and excitement around Hibbs as president. My hope for him and prayers for him are that he leads the school in a good trajectory following the Catholic tradition and the core values of this school.”
On Friday, the faculty panel preceded the Mass and inauguration ceremony. The student reception took place on Saturday and included brunch. In a brief interview following the faculty panel, Hibbs spoke about the core values of the university.
“The love of truth and justice is the motto of the university, and that can be a kind of phrase that we don’t think deeply about,” said Hibbs. “What we need to do as a university is to do those things better.”
Even before the ceremony, the Hibbs had already seemed to make an excellent impression on the students. Their presence in the university was shown recently through their involvement in the Charity Week fun, even tolerating being thrown in jail several times.
“I think the University made and excellent choice,” said senior William Rackers. “From what I know of President Hibbs he’s got a good track record, supporting classical education. And he really understands UD’s mission and values. I think he’ll do a good job in upholding that.”
The hope was palpable on the day of the inauguration, with many students taking time from their busy schedules to make it to the inauguration. As the ceremony began, the faculty processed in, preceded by aholding an old wooden cross at their head, all bedecked in their scholarly robes.
The Mass was given by the Bishop of Dallas, Robert J. Burns, and he focused with pride on the good nature of President Hibbs in his homily. At the end of Mass, it was Bishop Burns that bestowed upon Hibbs the presidential medallion, the symbol of his office.
Hibbs began his speech thanking those who had come, even thanking the Bishop for his new “Presidential swag” before thanking the staff, faculty and trustees. But his focus quickly returned to the students.
At the faculty panel preceding the inaugural Mass, Hibbs listened to exhortations from alumnus Bishop Daniel Flores, Robert George from Princeton University, Heather Reynolds and Father Bill Miscamble, C.S.C., both from the University of Notre Dame. As these experienced administrators shared their advice, Hibbs listened attentively and took notes, responding with apparent ease and receptiveness.
“Be discerning about what standards of excellence you adopt for this wonderful school,” Fr. Miscamble said. . “This is especially the case today, when so much of the American academy marches to the beats of drummers antithetical to religious commitment and belief.”
Both the students and staff at UD expressed their enthusiasm for the events on Friday.
“I think it’s a beautiful day and it’s a wonderful celebration that’s starting,” said Deacon James Baird from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at UD. “I have a great deal of hope in the future of the university, and I think it’s brighter with President Hibbs in it.”
“The inauguration was very energetic and on point with the mission, vision and values of the UD community,” said Student Government president Joe Scholz. “Also, in Dr. Hibbs’ speech, he continued hitting themes — very important themes — of engagement. And that’s something that I really hope to see continue, and … Dr. Hibbs has done a tremendous job of … engaging the faculty, staff, students, in a very intentional way.”
Hibbs’ own family felt inspired by the weekend as well.
“I was so happy to see all of the UD community there, but also happy because there literally were people there from every phase of my husband’s life. From grade school to present day, and that was kind of impressive,” Dr. Stacey Hibbs said at the student reception on Saturday.
Mitchell Muncy, ’94, has known Hibbs for over 25 years. Muncy’s father, grandmother, sister and brother-in-law are all graduates of the university. Muncy has known both of the Drs. Hibbs for over 25 years, and currently has two children attending UD.
“I think the Trustees have made an inspired choice,” said Muncy. “I have no doubt, that [Hibbs] is the ideal president for UD at this time.”
Writers Anna Forget and M-C Scarlett both contributed to the writing of this article.