Friday’s Inauguration of Dr. Lefton
I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t really know what the whole “inauguration” thing was all about. I was lucky enough to have been part of the selection team that was first impressed with Dr. Lefton’s passion, common sense and academic credentials 12 months ago, so I couldn’t really understand what all the fuss was about now since he’d been on the job for the last 9 months.
But sitting in the hallowed halls of campus the better part of Friday, I got educated, and now I know better – inaugurations of university presidents are a big deal. It’s the ceremonial yin to the personnel hiring yang. It’s the day when the university celebrates its history and its future through the coronation of the present, as expressed in the wit and wisdom of the institution’s newest leader.
Dr. Lefton acknowledged that his inauguration may be later than most, but he wanted to wait until winter was firmly behind us so that the many dignitaries, alumni, friends and family could enjoy Kent State in the glory of spring. More good thinking from a guy that makes his living thinking.
The inaugural events lasted over 8 hours, but in compressed form they were speeches with interludes of good food. The day was well planned, well organized and well executed, which should come as no surprise given the importance of inaugurations to the institution. In nearly 100 years (centennial in 2010), there have only been 10 presidents prior to Dr. Lefton. That’s actually impressive tenure for a job that is typically only slightly more secure than city managers.
The inauguration itself was replete with gonfalons (don’t worry, I didn’t know what they were either – they’re flags), an official mace bearer (aka decorative stick with university seal at the top), and the President’s medallion (major blingage hanging from the presidents neck reminded me of a rapper).
It was a good show and great theater. The MAC center was packed full of impressive people from all over the country that have ties to Dr. Lefton or Kent State. I didn’t tell anyone but I kept hoping they’d be interested in spending a little of their own blingage in downtown Kent.
To read the President’s inaugural speech click here.
Saturday’s King James “Shooting Stars” Classic
My son and I have a regular date Saturday and Sunday up at the Wellness Center where we play hoops or racquetball depending upon the crowd. It’s something we both look forward to each week. Well, this week we were in for a surprise, King James was in the house.
That’s right, the LaBron James youth basketball tournament had kids ages 12 to 17 balling on every court between Akron and Kent. I talked with the Kent High School Athletic Director and he said that the tournament had all of Kent’s courts running full throttle as kids from all over the country vying for the top prize in their age brackets. (click here for scouting reports of the talent on display)
Kent State facilities were also in full swing with games going on in every gym on campus including the Wellness Center. So no, that wasn’t cumulus nimbus thunder you heard on Saturday, that was the thunder of monstrous dunks being thrown down by 17 year olds that look to be ready for the NBA. I’m not kidding, we watched a winner’s bracket game that featured the AAU Team from Indiana that last year had Greg Oden and Conley (both of whom are jumping to the NBA next year) and judging from the caliber of their play they hadn’t lost a step with this year’s talent either.
I told my son I’d tell the coaches “we got next game” but for obvious reasons we settled for racquetball instead. As we drove out I saw license plates from all over the country and I hoped they filled up a lot of gas tanks and hungry bellies in Kent after the games. (Akron Beacon article estimates the tournament brings in $5 million to our region, read more)
Sunday Opening Ceremonies
Mayor Fender has still got it. He told me before the Parks and Recreation Department’s Opening Ceremonies that in his day he was a fire-baller. He said he could throw a rope from the outfield to home plate but put him on the mound and he was reminiscent of Charley Sheen’s “Wild Thing” character bouncing balls off the umpire, the catcher and occasionally the batters between the rare strike.
Well, I don’t have to doubt him any longer as I (and a couple hundred of Kent moms, dads and youth ball players) watched him fire the honorary first pitch well wide of the catcher and bounce a one-hopper off John Idone’s (Parks and Rec Director) shin bone as John was trying to photograph the pitch. To the Mayor’s credit he reared back and fired another a little high, but close enough to the strike zone that the crowd erupted in applause. The Mayor’s a good sport and took it all in stride with a smile and a few apologies to John Idone.
It’s been 35 years since the last Opening Day Ceremony in Kent but it was worth the wait. With blue skies and green grass in full bloom, all the boys baseball and girls softball players and their coaches paraded down from Fred Fuller Park to the ballfield complex. Each team and their coach was personally introduced and cheered on by friends and family gathered in the stadium.
The event lasted about an hour and it was immediately followed by a hit, pitch, and run competition, and of course a barbeque. With smiles as the barometer, this was definitely an event worth bringing back.
What a great weekend in Kent Ohio!