Marking another groundbreaking moment in Knox College’s 175-year history, Teresa Amott was recently installed as the first woman to serve as president of Knox College.
The installation ceremony to publically affirm the college’s support of Amott and welcome her as president took place on Saturday on the south lawn of Old Main. After the ringing of the bell, the ceremony began with the processional in which students carrying their national flags, speakers of the community aspirations for Knox, President Amott and faculty walked in two lines through the audience.
In attendance were 55 delegates from other higher education institutions, along with students, alumni, trustees, staff and members of the Galesburg community. Two former presidents, President Emeritus Roger Taylor, the 18th president, and President Emeritus John McCall, the 15th president, were also there to witness Amott installed as the 19th president.
Chair of the Board of Trustees Janet Koran ’71 welcomed the audience and recalled the timeline of Knox College beginning with its founding with Galesburg in 1837, its history of egalitarianism in which it was one of the first colleges to admit women and people of color, its ties with Abraham Lincoln and anti-slavery sentiments.
Conveying Knox’s state in the present, Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde’s opening comments compared colleges to people; he said that they are marked by “distinct moments of transformation.”
“As we gather here today in the shadow of this historic building, on the prairie campus of this storied institution, we celebrate such a transformation in the life of this college: the installation of a new president,” Breitborde said.
Mark Gearan, President of Hobart & William Smith Colleges, where Amott served as Provost and Dean of the Faculty before becoming President of Knox, introduced Amott as a “true leader.”
Echoing previous affirmations of Amott being in line with the college’s values, president of Carl Sandburg College Lori Sundberg ’95, said, “This is the day when the potential for the future meets with the foresight of the past. Dr. Amott, Teresa, is someone who understands this well. From her first interactions with the college and the community, she has sought to learn our stories and to hear the desires of those who know and love Knox College.”
Various representatives of student, faculty, staff and community voices spoke about their aspirations for the future of Knox College. As a representative of Knox students, sophomore Christopher Poore voiced hopes including that Knox will foster a love of interdisciplinary study and bridge gaps between American and international students, the campus and the city of Galesburg.
As a representative of the current and emeriti faculty voices of Knox, Professors of Physics Charles Schulz said the faculty hopes Knox continues to offer “a first-class liberal arts education to a diverse group of students of unique potential,” including those from unrepresented groups and low-income families. Director of the Center for Research and Advanced Study Sandra Mehl, representative of the current and retired staff voices, said the staff hopes that Knox remains true to its mission.
While giving her the Knox medallion, Koran invested Amott with the all the powers, duties and responsibilities that come as president of Knox.
Addressing the audience as newly installed president, Amott said in addition to being inspired by her predecessor, President Emeritus Roger Taylor, she will most of all be inspired by the creativity and spirit of Knox students.
“Knox students, you make me laugh, you make me cry — sometimes you even make me dance,” Amott said.
Amott gave thanks to those involved in the presidential search, volunteers of the installation, Dining Service workers and others.
Before arriving at Knox, Amott said she was an undergraduate of Smith College who went on to work at other liberal arts institutions.
“Smith was a spark that kindled my academic career, but my real education, as for all of us, began at home, which was for me spread across four continents,” Amott said.
Speaking of her father — a Midwesterner by birth who served in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps — and mother — born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — Amott said they were with her in spirit. Amott gave the most important thanks of all to her partner, Ray Miller.
“As Roger and Anne [Taylor] well know, a college presidency is really a job for two people. Only one has the title but the other shares the burden. I could not do this job without Ray Miller, whose mother and brother join us here today,” Amott said.
Describing her comments as framed by “Youth and Pioneers: An Ode” by poet Carl Sandburg, Amott reiterated Sandburg’s words that Knox’s founders were a “fated bridge generation.” Pointing out three topics for the future of Knox, Amott listed the new culture of learning, diversity and inclusion and the sustainability imperative.
For the first topic, Amott said the new culture of learning in a digital world means students and teachers collaborate more in the construction of knowledge. For the second, diversity and inclusion, she asked what the campus would look like if Knox looked at things through a global lens and built bridges to the Galesburg community, before announcing a new partnership with the Galesburg Community Foundation.
Named the KnoxCorps, the program will have Knox graduates and undergraduates engage with the Galesburg community while working in service positions with community agencies over the next year.
Speaking to today’s Knox students, Amott said, “like the great poet Sandburg, our Galesburg poet, all of us at Knox have hope and faith that this generation, made wise by an education steeped in the great traditions of the residential liberal arts college, can change the world.”