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Joseph Harroz inaugurated as 15th university president in Lloyd Noble Center ceremony

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OU President Joseph Harroz speaks during his inauguration ceremony, Sept. 17. 

OU President Joseph Harroz was officially inaugurated as the university's 15th president this morning in the Lloyd Noble Center. 

Senior Vice President and Provost André-Denis Wright, Vice Provost of the Health Sciences Center Administration Jill Raines and OU-Tulsa's interim president James Sluss served as the inauguration chief marshals. Gov. Kevin Stitt and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) were also present at the ceremony, alongside the deans of OU's colleges. 

OU Board of Regents Chair Michael Cawley was the first to speak and give thanks to everyone who came. He recognized the state's congressional delegation, represented by Lankford, Stitt, Congresswoman Stephanie Bice (OK-05), members of the Oklahoma legislature and tribal nation leadership, and Harroz's family. 

Lankford said Oklahoma depends on OU's advances in research, science, energy, medicine, engineering and arts. He said the university should help people think, but not in the same way. 

"It should not require we all think the same," Lankford said. "A diversity of opinions (and) an honest examination of the facts should be a hallmark of a university that leads the nation, not just follows our drifting culture. This university is foundational to our state's economy into future prosperity. Harroz, don't mess it up." 

He called on Harroz to "lead with wisdom, use his influence for good and set the example that others should follow." 

Stitt congratulated Harroz and said his inauguration is a "monumental day." He said he watched Harroz "endear himself" to all of OU's law students as its former dean, and he appreciates his "honesty, fairness and ability to connect with everyone." 

At OU, Stitt said students have an opportunity to receive a "top-notch education," and he is impressed by Harroz's ability to provide that. He said a picture of that materializes in Harroz's ability to sell the university to "our great state."

"I'm really proud of what you do, Joe," Stitt said. "Proud of how you are training the workforce for today's companies and tomorrow's start-ups. Keep it up, Joe."

Oklahoma State Regent for Higher Education Jeffrey Hickman said a university president must be a "Joe of all trades." 

"The university president is expected to be a friend of the students, a colleague of the faculty, a good fellow with the alumni, a sound administrator with the trustees, a good speaker with the public and astute bargainer with the foundations and the federal agencies, a politician with the state legislature, a persuasive diplomat with donors, a champion of education, a spokesperson, a scholar, a public servant at the state and national levels, a devotee of the arts and football and a decent human being," Hickman said. 

It is Harroz's opportunity, Hickman said, to leave a legacy "for all of us." He said he believes Harroz is equipped to take on this task.

"There's been growth in research, record freshmen class student successes, which is what is most important at the university," Hickman said. "All of this directly speaking to the vision and leadership of our new president. … Congratulations on this well-deserved achievement. The state regents and I are excited to watch and partner with you as this university flourishes, and thus, our state flourishes."

Cawley said, on behalf of the OU Board of Regents, the board pledges its willingness to work with Harroz to create "a legacy of excellence" for the university.

"I would like to say that, by the powers vested in me, by the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, the State Regents for Higher Education and the laws and statutes of the state of Oklahoma, and on behalf of my fellow regents, the University of Oklahoma and the people of Oklahoma, I charge you to maintain the trust of all those who have come before us, to give of yourself and your talent to preserve and strengthen this institution and to lead … in our pursuit of excellence."

Harroz said he believes in OU's purpose, which is "to change lives" and "pursue service to students, the state and larger society. He said he was "honored" to accept Cawley's charge. Cawley formally installed Harroz as the 15th president of OU.

Cawley provided Harroz with his color of office, which "symbolize the links which bind the president to faculty, staff and students." He also received the presidential mace, which represents his "authority and responsibility" to the university. 

A document reciting Cawley's charge was presented to Harroz by OU Faculty Senate chairs. 

Harroz thanked Cawley, Lankford, Bice, Stitt, tribal leadership, Oklahoma legislature and representatives, the Higher Education Regents, the Board of Regents, delegates from other colleges, faculty, staff, alumni and his family for attending his ceremony. 

The ceremony, Harroz said, is in no way about the individual, as there will be future presidents who fill his seat. He said the pageantry of today can be attributed to the institution and its roots. 

He said the charge of the university, most critically, includes the rights and duties of its citizens. He said these moments are about pausing and "rededicating and recommitting ourselves" to the reason behind "great universities." 

Universities are important, Harroz said, because of the individual, state and society. 

Harroz said, as an individual, he is a product of OU as an institution, not just because he was a former student, but because of his father and grandfather, who came before him. His grandfather, Nicholas, worked through poverty to provide for his nine children, one of which was Harroz's father.

Harroz's father then went on to receive his undergraduate degree from OU. That legacy, Harroz said, is a picture of how OU "creates opportunity."

The second role of a university, Harroz said, is to drive the state forward. He said education is "a catalyst to a better life." 

"The University of Oklahoma is not sufficient on its own," Harroz said. "It has to partner with our federal delegation with our state delegation with the governor. We are necessary, but not sufficient, so we must work together always, and never adopt an arrogance that we single-handedly can do it all." 

The third role, Harroz said, is to teach students how they can change society. He said he hopes to see the university continue to teach understanding, not agreement.

Although the university faces challenges, Harroz said many positive things are happening at OU. He said it is important for the institution to not shrink from the challenges it will face now and in the future. 

Harroz said he is the beneficiary of his family's legacy, and he hopes to commit himself to OU. 

"The challenges are great, and the work is hard, but I know without a doubt, we can do it together." 

The pandemic, Harroz said, will compare to nothing, with the exception of the Dust Bowl. He said OU accepted the challenges it brought by continuing its mission by "providing a life-changing experience." 

The song "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles played after Harroz left the podium. Harroz said it was chosen to symbolize the "optimism and hope" he feels for "better days ahead." 

assistant news managing editor

Jillian Taylor is a journalism junior and assistant news managing editor at The Daily. Previously, she served as a summer editor-in-chief, news editor, senior culture reporter and senior news reporter.

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