University Affairs

Tradition, Innovation Combine as Themes During Investiture of USU Pres. Cantwell

By Steve Kent |

Video by Taylor Emerson, Digital Journalist, University Marketing & Communications

Tradition and change were recurring themes of the investiture of Utah State University President Elizabeth R. Cantwell on Friday evening in the Daines Concert Hall.

At the event, an academic ceremony with centuries-old roots, Cantwell and other speakers spoke of overcoming new challenges while recommitting to central values.

"We are a public higher education institution that is, in fact, poised to play an even more critical role in the future," Cantwell said. "We will remain, as we always have been, a key driver of innovation, of social mobility and societal well-being."

Cantwell began her presidency in August 2023. Investitures traditionally happen during or at the conclusion of a university president's first year in office and celebrate a new era of leadership.

"As we embark on this new chapter under President Cantwell’s leadership, let us reaffirm our shared values of excellence, innovation and inclusivity," said Provost and Chief Academic Officer Laurens Smith. "Together, let us strive to build a future that fosters academic excellence, nurtures creativity, and empowers each member of our community to thrive."

In her remarks, Cantwell said she believes Utah State's historical role as a land-grant university in increasing access to higher education is key to overcoming cynicism and bridging societal divides.

"The very good news, and I believe this with all my heart, is that Utah State University is fully capable of meeting these challenges head-on," Cantwell said.

She cited Utah State's deep roots in agriculture and engineering, as well as innovations in biotechnology and space exploration, as ways the university is poised to continue advancing the frontiers of human knowledge.

An increasing recognition of the importance of interdisciplinary studies, Cantwell added, means more collaboration between STEM and the university's other fields.

"We are really tasked to integrate STEM with the arts, with humanities and with social sciences, very much so we can develop proficient workers and leaders who can navigate the complexities of modern society and innovate responsibly," Cantwell said.

Delegates from USU's colleges and other universities in Utah observed Friday's investiture. Also attending were Gov. Spencer J. Cox, members of the USU Board of Trustees and the president's leadership team, Javier Chavez Jr. of the Utah Board of Higher Education, ecclesiastical leaders and the Ute Red Spirit Singers.

Cox said from his first conversations with Cantwell, he knew she was "the woman for the moment" and that she convinced him "that our abilities to bring the workforce of the next generation forward, to solve the biggest problems facing our state and our world today, are created right here in the laboratories of Utah State University."

Chavez delivered the investiture charge to Cantwell.

"As president, you must lead the institution to advance knowledge, drive, innovation, discover, create and impart knowledge through research, teaching and service," Chavez said. "We further look to you to meet the needs of Utah's economy and employers, provide community outreach and continuing education and contribute to the quality of life and economic development of communities."

Chavez said USU's status as a Carnegie R1 research institution means it plays a pivotal role in enriching communities.

"This classification requires you to look toward the future while honoring the institution's significant history and impact," Chavez said. "You follow in the footsteps of many great leaders, and you are currently among some of the brightest minds in higher education."

Cantwell received symbols of her office, including the presidential medallion and a new ceremonial mace created by Joe Needham of S.E. Needham Jewelers and Professor Dennis Hassan and Dean Nicholas Morrison from the Utah State University Caine College of the Arts. The mace is another collegiate symbol dating back to the Middle Ages and appears at solemn university ceremonies such as commencement.

The new design is topped with lantern-like design incorporating a Block A inspired by the Luminary ceremony and the tradition of lighting the A atop Old Main. The tip of the mace is an "Aggie" marble, and two beehives in the design represent industriousness and the Beehive State.

Another first at the ceremony was the world premiere of a presidential fanfare commissioned by the Caine College of the Arts, written by USU Director of Music Programs Thomas P. Rohrer and performed by members of the USU Wind Orchestra.

After the ceremony, a reception for Cantwell in the Merrill-Cazier Library debuted a new flavor of Aggie Ice Cream in her honor.


Steve Kent
Utah State Today


Amanda DeRito
Associate VP of Strategic Communications
University Marketing and Communications


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