Friday, October 13, 2006
RU president is officially inaugurated
Penelope Kyle said the time was right for the university to look back as well as forward.
Jillian Knauf | The Roanoke Times
Radford University President Penelope Kyle applauds a speaker during her inauguration ceremony on the campus Thursday morning. Sitting next to her on stage is Gov. Tim Kaine.
RADFORD -- Sixteen months after beginning her tenure, Penelope Kyle was inaugurated as Radford University's sixth president Thursday.
With Gov. Tim Kaine, Roanoke Mayor Nelson Harris and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger on hand along with other guests who included politicians and leaders of other universities, Kyle gave a 30-minute speech that touched on Radford's history and future aspirations.
"Some of you have wondered why we did not hold this inauguration in my first year at Radford," she said. "I wanted to study its culture, learn about its core beliefs, its history and tradition, and to start the process of change."
One of Kyle's first duties at Radford was to work on the university's six-year plan that it had to submit to the state as part of the Higher Education Restructuring Act. The new president then turned her attention to the Commission on the Future of Radford University, charged with writing a streamlined mission statement and strategic plan for the school. The commission is expected to complete its work by December.
In between, she's dealt with the departures of multiple senior officials and the appointment of Radford's first provost.
Kyle said there was some question as to whether she should even take the time to have an official inauguration.
"The people with whom I consulted gave me a resounding 'yes,' " she said. "We need to take this time ... to remind ourselves about what was and to imagine what can be here."
Kyle, 59, replaced Douglas Covington as president June 1, 2005. Her salary is $261,001.
A native of Galax, she attended Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., for her undergraduate degree before returning to Virginia. She earned a master's degree at the College of William and Mary and a law degree at the University of Virginia. Although she served a stint as an assistant professor at Thomas Nelson Community College from 1971-76, the former director of the Virginia Lottery and executive with CSX Corp. was considered an outsider to higher education when she came aboard.
"I know, for many of you, I wasn't your first choice," she said, thanking faculty near the end of her speech. "But you have not let that stand in the way of us working together to advance this wonderful university."
Kyle is the first female to lead Radford. As part of her inauguration, world-famous poet Maya Angelou and former Egyptian first lady Jehan Sedat were on campus Thursday to participate in a women's leadership symposium in the afternoon. The two women, visiting professors at Radford in the 1980s, were joined by Virginia's first lady Anne Holton in the symposium moderated by Kyle.
All the women cited the importance of education in helping women take on more leadership roles. Angelou drew a distinction between simply going through the motions and enjoying a rich learning experience.
"There's a world of difference between being educated and being trained," she said.
Kyle commended Radford University for its relatively affordable tuition for in-state students and vowed that Radford would continue to make itself available to students of all economic backgrounds.
Kaine said the state has not always been a reliable partner for higher education and pledged that he and the state legislature would do all they can to change that.
"Public higher education in this commonwealth is ... a public good to serve the whole of society," he said.
Kyle mentioned a few of the university's goals, including more study abroad programs and more involvement in the community, which could be magnified by working with Virginia Tech.
"If these two institutions pool their resources, Dr. Steger, our Southwest Virginia community will be well served," she said.