If the walls of Lovett Auditorium could speak, they would tell tales of men and women gathering in multi-colored robes, bringing forth the shield and flag in a tradition acknowledging the presence of a new president of the University.
Historically, Lovett Auditorium is where most of the University’s presidents have decided to hold their presidential investiture ceremony.
The investiture ceremony for the president of the university marks their beginning at the University and is a celebration of all they have accomplished since their official start day.
Murray State, a University steeped in tradition, has held presidential investiture ceremonies in the past for its presidents including Constantine Curris, the youngest president of a state university or college in Kentucky at the time, and Kala Stroup, the first female president in the state system of higher education in Kentucky.
Curris, whose investiture was held on Nov. 12, 1973, kicked off his investiture weekend with a concert held at the Price Doyle Fine Arts Center Nov. 11, 1973. The Murray State Brass Choir and the Murray State Choir performed in Curris’ honor.
The following afternoon, a luncheon took place in Waterfield. About $190 in cookies and 66 gallons of punch were served at the luncheon and the reception following the ceremony.
In a form sent to the governor, Curris estimated that 500 people would attend the luncheon and 1,600 people would attend the ceremony.
Former Gov. Wendell Ford attended Curris’ ceremony and gave a “Greetings from Kentucky” speech to the audience. Elvis Stahr, president of the National Audubon Society, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony.
The Wind Symphony at Murray State performed a special composition for Curris at his investiture ceremony. Paul Shahan, assistant dean of the College of Creative Expression, wrote a piece “In All There is Majesty” just for the event.
Curris served as president of the University from 1973 to 1983, when Kala Stroup took over from 1983 to 1989.
Stroup’s ceremony was a three-day celebration that began Thursday, April 26, 1984, with the President’s Invitational Academic Tournament.
The tournament featured the best scholars from 24 area high schools. That evening, guests were invited to the Epsilon Pi Tau Banquet at Golden Corral, a jazz ensemble concert at The Curris Center Stables followed the banquet.
Friday, there was a luncheon and a seminar on higher education featuring a panel discussion with speakers from across the nation.
Saturday morning, a brunch was served before her investiture ceremony was held.
Emily Taylor, senior associate in the Office of Higher Education of the American Council on Education, traveled from Washington, D.C to be the keynote speaker at Stroup’s ceremony.
The overarching theme for the event was “Excellence and Access,” which came up in several of the speakers’ speeches throughout the ceremony.
Shahan also composed a piece for the wind symphony, “Ceremonial Song and Celebration” for her ceremony. Shahan described part of the composition as “reminiscent of the majestic academic processionals that have become traditional” in an interview with the Murray Ledger and Times.
Following the ceremony, there was a reception at Pogue Library and a football game at Roy Stewart Stadium. It was an evening packed with a Board of Regents meeting, an alumni banquet and a semi-formal Inaugural Ball held in the Curris Center.
During her celebration, each night guests were encouraged to attend plays in the park or the Student Art Show, where 117 pieces were on exhibition in the Price Doyle Fine Arts Center.
For years, presidential investitures have been a time for alumni, students, faculty and community members to come together to welcome a new leader to the University.
In the future, traditions like these may start to fade away, but in a letter to Constantine Curris dated Sept. 10, 1973, Donald Carson, director of University Relations from Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va., wrote, “Now that you have agreed to an inauguration, don’t second guess yourself or be apologetic about the event. There will be people who will say that inaugurations are old fashioned and useless. They will point out that the new President of the University of Louisville is not having an inauguration. But as old Harry Truman would say, ‘I don’t give a damn, I am having an inauguration and I am going to enjoy it.’”