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2011 News Releases

Patrick Finnegan inaugurated as Longwood’s 25th president

October 25, 2011

Inauguration of Patrick Finnegan Patrick Finnegan, president of Longwood University, receives the chain of office from Dr. Ken Perkins (left) and Dr. Jim Jordan.

Patrick Finnegan was inaugurated Oct. 21 as Longwood University's 25th president.

"I reaffirm the promise I made 15 months ago (when he was selected as president) to uphold the high standards of the university, to promote excellence in scholarship, to choose the harder right over the easier wrong, and to forge new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service," Finnegan told an audience in Jarman Auditorium that included his two immediate predecessors as Longwood president.

Finnegan, a retired Army brigadier general, became president July 1, 2010 after serving as chief academic officer at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The inauguration ceremony in Jarman culminated a two-day event that also included service projects on- and off-campus, a concert in Finnegan's honor, and a campuswide picnic. Other inaugural events included a lecture series, primarily by Longwood faculty members, that began Oct. 17 and ends Nov. 1 and a blacktie dinner that evening to raise funds for a new student center.

"I chose for the theme of my inauguration three elements essential to a good education - scholarship, service, and standards, and these elements will be the hallmark of my presidency," Finnegan said.

Finnegan was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Joan, both daughters and sons-in-law, all four grandchildren, his brother, Danny, of Richmond, and his sister, Rosaleen (Rosi) Finnegan Shinsato of Catonsville, Md., who represented the Class of 1976, the year she graduated from Longwood. Alumni representatives from the classes of 1943 through 2011 and delegates from about 40 academic institutions also attended the inauguration.

In his remarks, Finnegan cited the Academic Strategic Plan that Longwood is currently devising, the need to prepare to students to "participate in a global economy and society," and his desire to "expand international opportunities" and "push the boundaries of our internship requirement." He illustrated Longwood's heritage as a teacher's college with a personal anecdote.

"We still prepare and educate teachers who are routinely recognized as the best in the Commonwealth. Our daughter Katie's kindergarten teacher was a Longwood graduate - she was so good that Katie was disappointed when Saturdays rolled around and she couldn't go to school. Now that's the way to get a child started on the right foot."

Among examples of service by students, faculty and staff that Finnegan mentioned are the Longwood Center for Communication, Literacy, and Learning, established by the College of Education and Human Services in 2006, and the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts. "These are just two examples of how we here at Longwood combine scholarship and service to meet the needs of and to enhance the life of our community," he said.

As he has done often, Finnegan also urged members of the Longwood community to devote themselves to high standards. "Character and values are what distinguish our graduates as citizen leaders...I do believe that the best education instills values as well as knowledge, and I am very proud that we do here...We must teach - and practice - service above self and civility toward others."

The inauguration keynote speaker was U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), a former West Point classmate (both graduated in 1971) and longtime friend of Finnegan.

"Today marks the coming together of a great leader and a great institution of higher education at a moment in our history when we need more of both," said Reed, who after West Point attended Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government with Finnegan. Both earned master's degrees. They also attended the infantry officer basic course together, as well as airborne school where Reed was Lt. Finnegan's platoon leader.

"Patrick Finnegan is a preeminent citizen leader," Reed said. "For more than three decades, he devoted himself to selfless service to the nation as an Army officer. As dean of the Academic Board at West Point, he was a superb educational leader. His vision, his collaboration, and his commitment reshaped West Point, expanding its international curriculum, enhancing its approach to chemical and nuclear engineering programs, and constantly adapting to changes in information technology, both as an academic subject and as a managerial tool. His work completed the Jefferson library, honoring a great Virginian who, in 1802 signed the legislation creating West Point.

"But more important than these remarkable achievements is the fact that Patrick Finnegan understands, through his experience, that talent, technology, and technique can never ultimately succeed if character and commitment fail. Like Longwood University, Pat Finnegan is about character and commitment. He is a man of decency and integrity who is committed to using his talents to help others develop their talents so that they can be the leaders of the future."

Marge Connelly, rector of the Longwood Board of Visitors, administered the oath of office to Finnegan, then Dr. Ken Perkins, interim vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Jim Jordan, chief faculty marshal, placed the chain of office around Finnegan's neck. The signature piece of the silver chain is the Longwood medallion. Finnegan later jokingly referred to the chain of office as "some serious bling."

"Pat Finnegan has won over this campus with his warmth, his good humor, and his vision about the next big step this great university must take," Connelly said.

Those who spoke during the ceremony also included Laura Fornash, Virginia secretary of education, and John B. Adams Jr., who preceded Connelly as rector of the Longwood Board. Official greetings were expressed from the stage by Stephen Meyers, president of the Alumni Association (Class of 1983); Dr. Larissa Smith Fergeson, chair of the Faculty Senate; Keary Mariannino, chair of the Staff Advisory Committee; and senior Brandon Fry, president of the Student Government Association. The Camerata Singers performed "Joan of Arc" during the ceremony.

John Adams referred in a light-hearted way to the delay between when a president begins and when he or she is inaugurated.

"The inauguration of a university president is a curious thing," Adams said. "There is an ancient academic tradition, a tradition called 'Taking a Long Time to Get Around to it.' President Finnegan has been on the job for a year and four months, and only today are we inaugurating him. One may ask why this tradition exists. If one does, one will be dismayed to find that nobody appears to know. I've searched - The American Council on Education, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, the Chronicle of Higher Education. Google threw up its eager little algorithmic hands in exhaustion. Maybe it's the academic equivalent of living together before getting married. Or maybe it just takes that long to get the robes ironed."

The ceremony was attended by Longwood's last two presidents, Dr. Patricia P. Cormier (1996-2010) and Dr. William F. Dorrill (1988-96). In addition to Cormier and Dorrill, Dr. Henry I. Willett Jr., Longwood's president from 1967 to 1981, attended a dinner the night before that President and Mrs. Finnegan hosted for former Longwood presidents.

Just before the inauguration ceremony, the Longwood bell, moved temporarily from the library to the lawn in front of Jarman, was rung 25 times by faculty and staff. The first 24 bell ringers were the longest serving employees (the senior Longwood employee, at 45 years, is Eva Philbeck in the Office of Academic Affairs), and the last to ring the bell was the newest employee, Kevin Bryant, a 2005 Longwood graduate who started Sept. 12 in the Web Communications office. Cast in 1896, the bell was enclosed in a cupola on the roof of South Ruffner Hall from 1897 until the late 1970s. It was restored for the Sesquicentennial in 1989 and was last rung at the reopening of Ruffner Hall in 2005.

The new university mace was unveiled during the inauguration. Encased within a cube on the mace are objects from the university's past including a minié ball that struck Ruffner Hall during the Civil War and a piece of wood that remained when Ruffner burned to the ground in 2001.

The inauguration was also celebrated with faculty, staff and student participation in various on- and off-campus service projects, all week and primarily Thursday, and a campuswide picnic Thursday. Finnegan participated in some of the projects in what was called "Longwood Gives Back: A Day of Service and Picnic." That evening Finnegan was honored in the "Silver Notes Celebration Concert," which featured performances by the Camerata Singers, Jazz Ensemble A, and the Wind Symphony. The concert included Irish folk songs and military tunes, recognizing the president's Irish ancestry and Army background.

During his 39-year Army career, Finnegan was a professor in and head of West Point's Department of Law, taught at the Judge Advocate General's School, co-located with the University of Virginia School of Law, and held positions as a legal adviser in the United States and Germany. He has written articles and given presentations on military law, torture, and terrorism. He has a master's degree from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

"I will do the very best I can for Longwood because, as of today, not only you but I am a Lancer forever," Finnegan said at the end of his inaugural speech.

Inauguration Ceremony