CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The 18th president of Southeast Missouri State University was inaugurated on Thursday, May 5 at 2 p.m.
Dr. Vargas got his official welcome after taking the place of former president Dr. Kenneth Dobbins a year ago.
He was presented with the chain of office and presidential medallion by Southeast Board of Regents President Jay Knudtson.
"It is truly overwhelming for me to be here," Vargas said. "I come from a poor family, very limited in resources but very rich in the desire to improve ourselves."
He said the desire to improve and grow was instilled in him by his parents and with the maturity of age he recognized the potential of learning and the power one has from knowledge.
"One of the reasons I'm so committed to students' success is because I see that potential in every one of them," Vargas said.
He said he hopes to continue to build upon Southeast's mission and to use the university's tools and strategic plan as a guide to its continued success.
Vargas said he hopes to focus on retaining and graduating students; enhancing the University Studies general education program; strengthening academic departments, programs and faculty; investing in the regional campuses; promoting institutional pride; and promoting the Redhawk Athletics program and student athletes.
The inauguration started at 2 p.m. A reception followed the ceremony and was expected to last until about 5 p.m. The campus-wide event was open to the public and anyone interested in attending were welcome.
The ceremony featured a keynote address presented by a mentor of Vargas, Dr. Tomás Morales, president of California State University-San Bernardino.
The inauguration opened with Southeast students Andrea Cox and Austin Cordell presenting a welcome. Southeast's Air Force ROTC Straight Arrow Drill Team will post the colors, and student Andrew Thomas, a senior vocal performance major, singing the national anthem.
The ceremony featured a processional of Southeast faculty and professional staff, followed by a video presentation of historical university highlights produced by University Communications and Marketing. Peter Jacobsen, student government president (2015-2016), presented greetings from the students.
Dr. Willie Redmond, professor of economics, offered greetings on behalf of the faculty and staff, followed by Vicki Boren, president of the Alumni Association, who delivered greetings from the alumni.
The ceremony closed with Andrew Thomas singing the Alma Mater.
Inauguration events began on Thursday morning with a full slate of activities. They included tours of Academic Hall, campus shuttle tours, open houses at different buildings on campus and more.
Vargas was named president of Southeast Missouri State University on March 4, 2015, and took the reins on July 1. After serving as acting president at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Vargas replaced Southeast's 17th President Kenneth W. Dobbins, who retired June 30, 2015.
"The inauguration of a new president at Southeast Missouri State University is a celebration of the history of this great institution – the start of a new chapter in Southeast's 143-year tradition," Bill Holland, vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the Southeast Missouri University Foundation and chair of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, said. "An inauguration is a time of celebration and anticipation, a moment when an academic institution can showcase its role to a wide audience."
University inaugurations are steeped in age-old tradition, Holland said. Though they vary widely from one institution to another and from one president to another, inaugurations reflect the history and traditions of higher education, such as the coat of arms, university mace, academic regalia and processional march, which date back to the Middle Ages. An event distinguished by great ceremony, a presidential inauguration stands out as celebratory milestone in a university's life, he said.
"The inauguration is designed to showcase the importance and value of the University to the region we serve," Vargas said. "Bringing together community leaders, dignitaries, friends of the University, and academic representatives from throughout the Midwest will offer a unique moment to acknowledge and celebrate our achievements and our success.
"As I accept the Presidential medallion, I will pledge to continue on a path of educational excellence charted by not only the 17 presidents who preceded me, but also by the outstanding faculty and staff that have assisted in educating thousands of students since its founding in 1873. I hope everyone will feel free to come as they are, no matter where they're coming from or going to after the event," he said. "It is open to all and we welcome everyone."
For more information about President Carlos Vargas, click here.