A New Era Begins with Westminster’s Historic Presidential Inauguration
BY COURTNEY GALLAGHER
A week of celebration culminated Saturday with the historic inauguration of Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande, Westminster’s 21st president, as he unveiled his vision for the college and his plans to lead it from success to significance.
In accepting the mantle of leadership, Akande became the first Nigerian-born president of an American liberal arts college and the first African-American president in Westminster’s 164-year-old history.
Tradition and change were two commonly discussed topics among the event’s guest speakers, which included Fulton Mayor LeRoy Benton, Executive Governor of Nigeria’s Oyo State Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, Akande’s daughter Moyosola Akande, and the new president himself.
“Westminster College is a respected institution with a venerable heritage,” Akande said in his inaugural address. “Yet, we must recognize that our legendary past does not guarantee our future success — or even a future.”
What Akande proposed to ensure a great future for the college was the creation of a “truly exceptional place” he calls “yes,” which he explained as a state of convergence, the heart of transformation, and the place to where Westminster aspires.
“’Yes’ is that place that doesn’t forsake the past but builds on it,” he said. “It is place that’s bold and forward looking. It’s an affirmation that is not satisfied with things the way they are, but instead strives towards creating things as they could be. … It is a wonderful place where our distinguished and diverse pasts converge with the present and our future.”
With the goal of bringing transformative change to Westminster, Akande emphasized the importance of going against the status quo.
“I submit to you that we must live in a place that releases us from the binding and chafing routines that crowd our comfort zone of skepticism and tradition,” he said.
Akande explained that living in this state of “yes” is how Westminster will remain relevant in times of change.
“Together, we must move from success to significance — learning from the great teacher called history, to becoming a part of history, the mantra of liberal arts education,” Akande said. “My friends, it is not enough to only prepare for the future. We must create it.”
Akande made it clear that these changes will be difficult and take sacrifice, and that the future will not be a utopia. However, he said these difficulties will be confronted with confidence, a sense of responsibility, and sure-footedness.
He asked for everyone’s help in remaking Westminster into “’yes’minster.”
“In this new era, we will drink not from cups that are half-full or half-empty, but cups that runneth over,” Akande said. “Our vision will be clear. Our mission will be understood — Westminster’s future will not be a place that is waiting for us but a place that we shall create.”