It’s been a crazy week with the inauguration of our new Mansfield University president, Maravene Loeschke. It was held at 4 p.m. Friday March 30. (Yes, we had rain or snow day planned. One never knows in these Appalachian foothills).
However, the day was sunny and in the 60s. If you’ve ever been through an inauguration you know that it involves numerous committees, months of planning and the work of dozens of people for what is essentially a 90-minute show. It’s an important ceremony for the campus and the community.
It’s also important to other people–faculty, staff, students, presidents from other universities, trustees, congressmen, the chancellor of our state system of higher education, and donors.
So there’s a lot of pressure to do it right. Period.
The last thing you want if you’re a president about to be inaugurated is to have your main speaker, James Fisher, a man of national prominence in higher education, to become sick and unable to deliver his address. He fell ill in the afternoon and a half hour before the ceremony it was certain that he could not read his address.
There are several ways to handle the problem. Dr. Loeschke handled it in the best way possible. She asked George Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, and present as a guest, to fill in. They obtained the speaker’s script, went through some names to make sure they were pronounced correctly and with 10 minutes to go, went through the fine points of seating, the program etc.
When the guest was introduced, the person introducing told the audience that unfortunately the Dr. Fisher took ill and Dr. Pruitt, would be reading Fisher’s script.
The whole thing went flawlessly. Dr. Pruitt was excellent. The audience, of course, was fine with the change.
It helps here to understand that Dr. Loeschke spent much of her career as a professional actress, as well as teaching acting and serving in many administrative posts. As an actress, she’s used to the unexpected. Her experience in improv certainly prepared her for an unexpected turn like this.
Others might have handled it differently. Finding a substitute and being honest was, in my mind, the best possible solution.