Ferrum College celebrated the inauguration of its twelfth president, David L. Johns, Ph.D., on Friday, October 19 in the Vaughn Chapel on campus. The ceremony was attended by college and university delegates, educational association representatives, Ferrum College Board of Trustees members, and other honored guests and dignitaries, as well as hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and other community members.
The ceremony began with a welcome from Chair of the Ferrum College Board of Trustees, Phyllis Karavatakis ’76, who acknowledged those who served the institution since its founding in 1913, and those leading the College into its future. Rev. Anna Woofenden, visiting pastor of peace and spirituality of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Mount Vernon, Ohio, offered the invocation which highlighted the spirit of community, noting, “we are not alone in this work.”
Greetings were then offered by Ferrum College’s international students with additional welcoming remarks from other members of the College community including Lawrence Baranski ’19, Student Government Association president; Christine Stinson, Ph.D., chair of Faculty Council and associate professor of accounting; Yvonne Walker ’99, registrar; Ronald Singleton ’70, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors; Rathin Basu, Ph.D., professor of economics; Aimé Sposato, D.M.A, provost; and Rev. Jan Nicholson Angle, Ph.D., dean of chapel and religious life. Zach Wimmer, financial advisor at Edward Jones Investments and chair of Franklin County Connects, spoke of Franklin County’s community resources, calling the county “one big, small town.”
In an emotional video message, Johns’ longtime friend Joseph Manickam, Ph.D., president of Hesston College, gave practical advice to Johns, urging him to continue to take time to learn, enjoy his wife and family, find support from faculty, staff and the community, and enjoy the blessing of the journey.
President of the Appalachian College Association, Beth Rushing, Ph.D., gave the keynote address that highlighted the value of collaboration for the future of small liberal arts colleges like Ferrum College. “Collaboration requires strong leadership, someone to encourage others to work together, to create the conditions within which collaboration can flourish. David Johns is that kind of leader,” said Rushing, who then pledged, “The Appalachian College Association stands ready to facilitate your work as we work together, in a thoughtful and committed way, to continue the tremendous mission of Ferrum College.”
Johns’ son, Cameron Johns, brought a personal profile of the president, stating that as a child, he “always knew he was loved,” and drawing laughter from the audience as he described how his father would detour family vacations for hours to visit area colleges to learn all he could. Johns’ youngest step-daughter, Madolin Yoshikane, spoke of extending an invitation to play Polly Pockets with her step-father at age 10 in the earliest days of their relationship, which eventually grew to one steeped in late-night philosophical talks about life.
In her introduction of the president, Sposato described Johns as inspirational, decisive, fair-minded, approachable, and a “fearless change-maker.” As Johns rose for installation, he received a standing ovation from the audience. Chair of the Ferrum College Board of Trustees, Phyllis Karavatakis, installed Johns and after presenting the Ferrum College Medallion, placed it around his neck.
During his inaugural address, Johns shared a resounding theme of hope, expansion, and the responsibility to live out Ferrum College’s motto of “Not Self, But Others.” He spoke of having a background similar to that of many Ferrum College students, as he was a first-generation student that required financial aid to attend a small private institution in northwest Ohio. “The kind of education that has the power to transform is the kind that gets its hands dirty, the kind that digs into the challenges of our world, and breaks itself open in the face of human need. That’s what we strive to do here,” Johns said, also highlighting Ferrum College’s intent to offer graduate programs and a nursing program in the near future.
Johns also spoke of the importance of stewarding creation, both environmentally and in community partnership. “In this vision of where we are going as a College, opportunity means much more than seizing those that present themselves. I see our students becoming creators of opportunity; I see them being imaginative, innovative, and entrepreneurial. This region needs the intelligence and commitment our students can bring to it,” said Johns.
In his closing, Johns shared his excitement about the future of Ferrum College. “I am enthusiastic about the future of Ferrum College, and I hope you are too,” he said. “With passion, imagination, hard work, and the grace of God, anything is possible. We have a history we can be proud of, we have a legacy of service to our community which is inspiring. And, we have a future we can all believe in.”