Wayne P. Webster Installed as Albion’s 18th President

April 22, 2024

Wayne P. Webster was installed as Albion College’s 18th president in a moving April 20 ceremony, showcasing Albion’s enduring legacy as a leader in transformational liberal arts education and Webster’s charge to the community to join together to create a new pathway forward for the 189-year old institution.

The ceremony, held in Goodrich Chapel on a beautiful and crisp Michigan spring day, featured video highlights from people, places, and programs across campus; a variety of musical selections from Albion’s concert choir and symphony orchestra that marked the moment; a flute solo from Luke Rivard ‘24 composed by Philip Wharton, applied instructor of composition; speeches from representatives of the staff, faculty, students, alumni, trustees, presidential search committee, community, and academia; and numerous personal tributes to President Webster from colleagues, friends, and family. An invocation was provided by Rev. Joel Fitzgerald ‘08, pastor of Albion First United Methodist Church, and Rabbi Arnie Sleutelberg ‘80 gave the benediction. 

President Webster Installation
Webster Investiture

An academic procession topping nearly 200 individuals opened the ceremony and included Albion faculty, trustees, past-presidents, student government representatives, administrators, 80 alumni class representatives from the classes of 1959 to 2023, and delegates from colleges, universities, and educational associations in Michigan and across the country.

In her introduction, Sarah Bolton, president of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and the former president of The College of Wooster, explained: “President Webster is a superb leader for Albion for many reasons, but perhaps most because he sees and appreciates the excellence of Albion’s students, staff, faculty and community, and is so committed to lifting their voices and supporting their work to advance Albion’s mission. Albion has, indeed, chosen very well, to bring this remarkable leader to your campus.”

Speaking on behalf of the student body, senior Kye Bristow ‘24 of Jackson, Michigan, thanked President Webster for the effort he has made early in his tenure to reach out to students across campus. “As a graduating senior, I’m excited to see President Webster’s new direction and journey for the campus,” he said. “In the nine months he has been on campus, he has demonstrated his care for students by being approachable and visible to all students. I mean just ask anyone who is on the quad, it seems like the guy is always walking somewhere or taking a stroll across campus.”

Staff representatives in video presentations and addresses, remarked on President Webster’s early efforts to be present and engage with colleagues across campus. They called on their new leader to continue to be a great listener as he moves forward to make important decisions that impact the campus community. 

“What I hope resonates with each of you today is the importance of this event; not only for President Webster and his family, but for the future of Albion College, its students, faculty, and staff,” said John Hibbs, Albion’s director of grounds. Addressing the new president, he said “I believe you’ve seen since your arrival what our capabilities are – be as confident in us as we are in you.”

Albion Mayor Victoria Garcia Snyder, also an alum of the Class of 1989, talked about the many meaningful conversations she’s had with President Webster since coming on board about the partnership between the city and college and shared her optimism for a stable and successful future together. “Wayne, your leadership comes at a crucial time, and we are eager to see the positive impact you will undoubtedly make.”

President Webster, in his speech, defended the transformational qualities of an Albion College education and the institution’s enduring commitment to its students, the Albion community, and the state of Michigan. 

“Our history represents a significant part of Michigan’s history. We are one of a few private institutions to exist before statehood. We are built into the founding charter of Michigan. The impact we have made on Michigan and countless Michiganders is immeasurable. Our founding principles to provide invaluable and accessible opportunities for all, continues.” 

He also championed a commitment to building a diverse student body and creating a campus environment where all belong and have the opportunity to thrive.

“In recent years, we have become a campus that looks like America and looks like Michigan.  Nearly 45 percent of our students are first generation, 50 percent of the last incoming class are Pell eligible, and 45 percent of our students are from diverse communities,” said President Webster. “We are a campus that strives for inclusivity and holds space for difficult conversations. We demonstrate the power of a residential liberal arts and sciences education in a place and with a campus community unlike any other.” 

He acknowledged the strong headwinds facing the higher education section and provided a brief history that demonstrated the College’s legacy of perseverance amid challenges and crises of all types. He used the occasion to also outline elements of the Pathway Forward plan, which includes a focus on curricular innovation, expansion of experiential learning, and investment in student-centered spaces. He ended with a rally cry to constituencies, asking them to reflect on the strength and importance of Albion’s mission and the role they all play in helping us arrive at a better future.

“With our three-year plan well-underway, our community has demonstrated progress in having the hard conversations necessary to make difficult, yet necessary choices,” he said. “As we progress, I promise to always tell the truth and lead with transparency. I hope that throughout my presidency, we can have honest dialogue that leads to our best decision-making. Through this work, we grow stronger as a community because we are invested in the future we are building together.”

“We serve a mission and a place worthy of our passion, our appreciation, and our commitment. The Pathway Forward will surely have bumps in the road and also some pleasant surprises—our history suggests this to be the case. I am confident; however, in the ability of this community to meet the moment as we do our best thinking together to leave Albion College stronger for the next generation.”

Ted Everingham ‘61, outgoing president of Albion’s Alumni Association, echoed President Webster’s sentiments, proclaiming in his address on behalf of alumni, “We are exactly the institution to face these times and to lead others from the darkness. We are designed to identify challenges, to think critically, to debate answers, to lead change. Our very motto — Lux Fiat — demands that our professors, our administrators, our students and alumni shine light on the world.”

Joanne “Joey” Edwards Miller ‘75, presided over the Installation Ceremony and official investiture where President Webster was presented with the historic bronze medallion featuring the college shield with fleur-de-lis that is to be worn at all academic ceremonies. 

“I know I join my Board of Trustees colleagues when I say, we pledge to you our loyal support as you continue the journey ahead. We look forward eagerly to working alongside you as you lead Albion in its next chapter,” she said before presenting the medallion.

“Today you have heard, and most of you have experienced, the knowledge and skill that our President commands. What I want to leave you with is the most important. President Wayne Webster has heart. His leadership begins and is sustained with his heart: this assures he listens with care; he executes with full consideration; he takes the time to fully communicate and… he truly loves Albion College,” added Miller in her closing remarks. “As we leave the pomp and circumstance, go forward in celebration!  We have our navigator, our steady hiker, our President; with his leadership we walk the Pathway Forward to a strong and vibrant Albion College!”

Installation came at the end of a week filled with hundreds of student research and creative presentations as part of the 34th Annual Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium; a Spotlight on Albion event with brief student presentations and covering a variety of faculty-led initiatives from the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to the community gardens and student farm; an art exhibit displaying the work of senior students in the Art & Art History Department; the Honors Convocation, recognizing the outstanding achievements in teaching, learning, leadership, and service of Albion faculty and students; alumni and presidential guest panels; and a variety of music, activities, and more sponsored by student organizations. Albion also recognized seven alumni with awards for their outsized contributions to their alma mater and their respective professions.

View an archive video of the full Installation ceremony.

Download a copy of the Installation Program