Main content
Presidential inauguration events link Emory's past, present and bold future

Community is at the center of public events planned to celebrate the Feb. 8 inauguration of Emory President Claire E. Sterk as the university’s 20th president and first female chief executive. Emory Photo/Video

Community is at the center of public events and activities planned next month to celebrate the Feb. 8 inauguration of Emory President Claire E. Sterk as the university’s 20th president and first female chief executive.

“While it can appear that an inauguration is celebrating a person, President Sterk would be the first to tell you that the focus is really about celebrating the institution — both honoring the past and looking boldly to the future,” says Michael Kloss, executive director of university events.

Featuring a tour that recognizes Emory’s earliest history, the presentation of specially commissioned artwork and poetry, an academic symposium that examines global health challenges and a ceremony to formally mark Sterk’s inauguration as president, the schedule of events was designed to invite campus community engagement, he says.

“Whenever there was an opportunity to make an event more inclusive, we did,” he adds, from events with the Oxford College community and Emory alumni to a casual Wonderful Wednesday gathering with students and campus tree planting following the formal induction ceremony.

The campus communities will also be connected through a live broadcast of the Seney Hall bell at Oxford College tolling 20 times for Emory’s 20th president during the inauguration ceremony at Glenn Memorial Auditorium, Kloss notes.

Tickets to the inauguration ceremony and academic symposium are available for Emory faculty, staff and students to claim at Seating is limited, but both events will be available for viewing via live webcast, Kloss explains.

A leading international expert in public health and anthropology, Sterk joined the university in 1995, earning the title of Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health. She also chaired the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education and was associate dean for research at the Rollins School of Public Health.

After joining the Office of the Provost in 2005, she focused on faculty development and enhancing the undergraduate experience, becoming provost and executive vice president for academic affairs in 2013.

Since taking office as president on Sept. 1, 2016, Sterk has presented a vision for strengthening academic excellence, achieving a deeper engagement with Atlanta, enhancing the university’s global reputation and reach, and enhancing the impact of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

She succeeds James W. Wagner, who retired at the end of August 2016 after 13 years as president.

Events reflect traditions old and new

The week’s inauguration events will begin with a celebration of the university’s rich history and traditions at Oxford College, Emory’s historic original campus, and conclude with “a bold outlook for the future of Emory,” Kloss notes.

The formal investiture ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 8, will include Emory University trustees, government officials, and student, faculty and staff representatives, as well as more than 150 presidents and delegates from other academic institutions, Kloss says.

During the ceremony President Sterk will receive her presidential hood, medallion of office and mace, as well as symbolic items from the Board of Trustees including a torch, trumpet, keys, the original university charter and a sprig of East Palatka “Wesley” holly.

Former Emory President Wagner will assist with the presentation of the medallion of office, and former presidents James T. Laney and William M. Chace will help hood President Sterk, who will be wearing a new gown of office, Kloss notes.

Both live and highlight archive videos of the inauguration and academic symposium will be available at

Inauguration events include:

Monday, Feb. 6

"A Celebration of Emory’s History and Traditions," Oxford Campus, 7-8:30 p.m.

The Oxford College community is invited to celebrate the university’s origins and traditions with a walking tour of the central Oxford campus, where Emory was founded. Dessert reception follows at the Library and Academic Commons.

Featured events include musical performances by the Oxford College a cappella group Oxapella, the Oxford Gospel Choir and the Oxford Chorale, along with presentations at Seney Hall, Few Monument, Phi Gamma Hall and the Chapel. At the Few Monument, Emory Chief University Marshal Bobbi Patterson will light the flame that will be preserved until Wednesday and presented by torch at the inauguration.

Tuesday, Feb. 7

“Revelations,” Michael C. Carlos Museum, 5:30-7 p.m.

Emory alumni are invited to register for a special reception prior to the evening’s academic symposium to meet acclaimed artist and Emory PhD student Fahamu Pecou. The artist will reveal his commissioned inaugural art piece in honor of President Sterk and offer insight into his creative process. Space is limited and registration is required. For more information, visit here.

“Inauguration Academic Symposium: Health Challenges and Bold Opportunities,” Glenn Memorial Auditorium, 7:30-9 p.m.

Carlos del Rio, Hubert Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health and professor of medicine in Emory University School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, moderates a panel discussion on global health challenges. Featured speakers will include: 

  • Michel Sidibe, executive director UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, and under-secretary-general of the United Nations.
  • Deborah Watkins Bruner, associate director for mentorship, education and training at Winship Cancer Institute; professor in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Emory University School of Medicine.
  • Elaine Walker, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, director of Emory University Development and Mental Health Research Program.

Wednesday, Feb. 8

“Inauguration of Claire E. Sterk, 20th president of Emory University,” Glenn Memorial Auditorium, 10-11:30 a.m.

Beginning with a grand procession of dignitaries and academic delegates from around the world, this special convocation will blend time-honored Emory traditions and modern ceremonial elements. Emory neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta will provide the keynote address. The program will include a performance by the Vega Quartet and the reading of a poem by Kevin Young, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, commissioned for the occasion.

“Wonderful Wednesday,” Asbury Circle, noon to 2 p.m.

The student body is invited to join in a casual inauguration-themed gathering.

“Tree planting,” Emory Quadrangle, 2:30 p.m.

In honor of President Sterk and in celebration of Emory’s commitment to sustainability, the campus community is invited to attend a tree planting on the Quad. 

Recent News