President Howard Inaugurated
Monday, October 31, 2016
Dr. Christopher Howard was formally installed as the eighth president of Robert Morris University in a ceremony in Sewall Center on the Moon Township campus on Friday, Oct. 7.
Presidents and other official delegates from more than 70 colleges and universities attended, including Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the three major military service academies. Lt. General Michelle Johnson, superintendent of the Air Force Academy and a former academic advisor and mentor of Howard's, delivered the keynote address.
"I may be biased, but I think RMU could not have picked a more qualified individual to lead this institution at this time," said Gen. Johnson, who praised Howard for his personal and professional achievements and his skills as a communicator — then chided him for what she called a "glaring lack of hockey prowess." (Air Force and RMU are rivals in the NCAA Div. I Atlantic Hockey Conference.)
Gen. Johnson went on to express the hope that RMU "can help shape the dreams, aspirations and identity of not only its students but all those you touch." President Howard presented Gen. Johnson with an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the ceremony.
In his inaugural address, RMU's eighth president drew parallels between two American stories of growth and potential: the university's rise from its beginnings as the Pittsburgh School of Accountancy to a nationally ranked, doctoral degree-granting institution, and the Howard family history stretching from slavery and sharecroppers to middle class strivers and eventually a university president.
"Opportunity and excellence — that’s the trade-off we’ve always faced in higher education," President Howard said. "Do we serve students with potential, but who come from backgrounds with fewer resources? The first-generation college students, the students who have to work 20 hours or more a week to pay for school? The veteran who served his or her country and left pieces of themselves on the battlefield? … Or do we serve the merit scholars, the kids with perfect and near-perfect SATs, the kids that admissions counselors fall all over themselves trying to enroll?"
"We shouldn’t have to choose, and we won’t … " he continued. "That’s not to say we are going to be all things to all people, which is a recipe for failure. We will always be Robert Morris University, and we will remain true to the values and character that brought us here today. But we will strive to ensure that there is a place for the student who is the first in their family to go to college, a place for that student who aced their AP tests, a place for the single mother who can only earn a degree if she can take classes online."
Student government president Aveenash Kumar, who came to RMU from Pakistan in 2015 to enroll in the university's top-ranked actuarial sciences degree program, welcomed President Howard on behalf of the student body.
"We are sure that the very same things that drew us to Robert Morris — an academic excellence, rich heritage, and strong community — are what drew you to RMU as well. And like you, we plan to make an impact, because that’s what Colonials do," Kumar said.