On April 4, 2014, guests joined together to recognize and celebrate the inauguration of Keene State College’s tenth President, Anne E. Huot.
The Spaulding Gymnasium was transformed for the occasion. By 4 p.m. on Friday, the gym was filled with an audience of trustees, 43 delegates, community members, KSC students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. All guests rose as Huot entered the gymnasium to KSC’s brass ensemble.
The ceremony touched on two themes Huot said she felt were important. One was Huot’s priority of academic excellence and the other was her expressed dedication to being student-oriented. As a first generation college student with working class parents and six siblings, Huot explained she related to many KSC students. According to an article on the KSC website, over 40 percent of KSC freshmen are first in their families to attend college.
KSC Student Body President Eric Grady spoke at the ceremony, offering Huot his congratulations. Grady said he first met Huot at an open forum event last March and was struck by her statement that being a college president meant always being student-oriented.
“After having the opportunity to work with Doctor Huot throughout this past year, I have found her commitment to being student-oriented to be one-hundred-percent true. She cares deeply about the students and wants them to succeed in everything they pursue both on and off campus,” Grady said. Grady was one of the many to note Huot’s dedication to students.
According to Huot, when asked by the KSC Student Government why she wanted to be the president she replied, “I took this job for you.”
Huot said, “You [the students] are the reason that this college is here and you should be the primary consideration in our decision-making. We must continually challenge ourselves by asking how we can improve upon the educational experience we offer, so that you have the tools you will need to be successful in your profession and engaged with your community.”
According to guests in the audience, it was easy to sense Huot’s joy and passion of working together with students.
“Her [Huot’s] dedication to the students really came forward and I find that very inspiring. I really believe that the school is very well situated with her as a leader and it’s going to be well situated into the future,” Sandie Phipps, a representative of Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, said.
Others agreed with Phipps. “Anne is very much engaged in trying to see the people stay here and get to like the community and be a part of the community. She’s doing more than I think you see in most places,” Delegate of Harvard University, John Hoffman said. Hoffman said Huot’s collaboration with the City of Keene also stood out to him.
“I talked to her about the city and they’re just neighbors on Main Street [KSC and the City of Keene] — they work together. And that kind of collaboration is very important and you don’t see it all the time, it’s good not to see walls around the institution,” Hoffman said, “I think she’s going to be here for a good long time and it’s going to be good for the community and the school.”
Debra Barrett, administrative assistant to the dean of students, also had great things to say about Huot at the ceremony. Serving as a part of the presidential search committee, Barrett spoke about some of her first encounters with Huot.
“As Doctor Huot talked to my colleagues and answered question after question, I found myself sitting up taller, leaning forward and feeling a sense of excitement as she talked about focusing on students and student success,” Barrett said. “I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness and sincerity behind her words and how she listened deeply to our concerns, cares, hopes and dreams and our commitment to shared governance.”
Although Barrett said she quickly noticed Huot embodied thoughtfulness and sincerity, Huot named some of the other qualities that she said she has to offer KSC. “Compassion, commitment, courage and the drive to lead this college to the level of greatness it truly deserves. I am an Owl for life,” Huot said in her speech. Huot dedicated a portion of her acceptance speech to talking about the qualities and importance of the mentors she encountered throughout her life. One in particular, Dr. René Charles Lachapelle, she met as a graduate student attending The University of Vermont.
Huot said Lachapelle offered her tremendous guidance and support throughout her life and encouraged her to make a difference in others’ lives.
“I can think of no better way to honor René than to provide direct aid to students for generations to come as they seem to bring theory to practice,” Huot said as she announced the endowment of the René C. Lachapelle Fund.
Huot and Joanne Cepelak created the fund to help aid students. According to Huot, the fund has already received an additional donation of over $22,000 from the KSC Parents Association. “You can’t pay it back, but you can pay it forward,” Huot said. With 24 years of experience, Huot said she acts as a mentor herself to all KSC students and discussed her priority of academic excellence. Huot said everything done in this new chapter will be marked by excellence.
“To achieve greater excellence, we must pick up our path that leads to a destiny that is orchestrated and imagined together by the colleges stakeholders. It is one that places excellence at the core of everything we do and demands excellence from each of us in our obligation to prepare our students for a world that is not then imagined,” Huot said.
Huot ended her acceptance speech discussing the significance of KSC being a top liberal arts college and her goals for the school’s future. “We can be a leading liberal arts college for the twenty-first century — one that places the success of our students at the core of everything we do, one that fundamentally understands its obligation to the education of our citizens, from the moment they enter our college to the moment we walk them to their first career, and beyond,” Huot continued, “One that blends a deep foundation in the liberal arts with a host of professional and academic disciplines — and indeed, one that requires each of to put the education of our students first.”
Hoffman reflected on Huot’s comments and said, “I think the college has grown so much in the last ten or twenty years. Keene State College is the epitome of a liberal arts college and I think that’s very important. At the same time, they are emphasizing the stem subjects, which is a major role in liberal arts education for everybody. And that’s what she [Huot] sees the role of Keene State being.”
AcSome guests said they envision a long and bright future for Huot and KSC. “I see a lot in the future of Keene State. I think Anne really has a great vision of making Keene State a lot better academically, involvement and just everything. She wants to make the college better as a whole,” Grady said. Grady stated he was excited to see the inauguration was so well attended by KSC students among others.
“I think it was an outstanding ceremony, [and] very befitting to this school of excellence,” Phipps said.
As the ceremony closed, Huot left the audience with an epilogue of what’s to come in the future. But as her chapter in the book that is KSC continues, Huot said, “I am proud to wear red and white.”
Alison Rancourt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org