The inauguration of William J. Mckinney Ph.D. Ninth President of Valdosta State University

The Inauguration

Inauguration Information

Registration & Information for Dignitaries, Delegates, Faculty, and Guests

Letters and Certificates of Congratulations

Congratulatory Messages



Inauguration Information


Monday, April 1   |   Engaged Innovation & the Individual

All Day

Undergraduate Research Symposium   ·   VSU Student Union Ballroom & Theatre   ·   Open to the Public

Explore the innovative research VSU students are conducting by attending a panel presentation or a poster session.

12:00 PM  

Symposium: Highlighting Innovation in Our Scholarship   ·   Student Union Theatre   ·   Open to the Public 

This hour-long presentation features Dr. David Williams’ research about the Civil War. Light refreshments provided.

7:00 PM

Review of VSU Student Art Competition  ·   VSU Fine Art Gallery   ·   Open to the Public

Join VSU student artists as they explain the innovative features of their juried works. Reception immediately follows.

Tuesday, April 2   |   Engaged Innovation in the Classroom

All Day

Undergraduate Research Symposium   ·   VSU Student Union Ballroom & Theatre   ·   Open to the Public

Day Two of student research presentations. Awards Reception in the Student Union at 6:00 PM.

12:00 PM    

Symposium: Highlighting Innovation in Our Classrooms   ·   VSU Student Union Theatre   ·   Open to the Public

This hour-long event features student and faculty research presentations that highlight innovative teaching and learning. Light refreshments provided.

6:30 PM

Pippin Pre-Show Discussion & Performance   ·   VSU Sawyer Theatre  

Join the director of Pippin for an overview of the performance and then witness the magic of the performance with the President and First Lady. Light refreshments provided. The 6:30 p.m. Pre-Show Discussion is sold out, but tickets are still available for the 7:30 p.m. performance.

Pre-Show Discussion
Sold Out

Wednesday, April 3   |   Engaged Innovation in the Community


All Day

Day of Service   ·   Various Locations on Campus and in the Community   ·   Pre-registration Preferred

VSU students, faculty, and staff will have the opportunity to work on projects in partnership with a variety of community organizations.

12:00 PM

Symposium: Highlighting Innovation in Our Community   ·   VSU Student Union Theatre   ·   Open to the Public

This hour-long discussion features the innovative work of our community members. Light refreshments provided.

5:30 PM

Student & Alumni BBQ   ·   Note: This event has moved to the PE Complex Mezzanine   ·   VSU Students & Alumni Only   ·   Registration Preferred

Students are invited to meet and interact with President McKinney & Dr. Charlesworth for cuisine and conversation.

7:00 PM

VSU Battle of the Bands   ·   VSU PE Complex   ·   Open to the Public

Intended to highlight the many musical talents of VSU students and faculty, this competition will identify the best of the best


Thursday, April 4   |   Engaged Innovation in Higher Education

12:00 PM

Symposium: Highlighting Innovation in Higher Education   ·   VSU Student Union Theatre   ·   Open to the Public 

This hour-long presentation by Dr. George Mehaffy focuses on the role of innovation in higher education. Light refreshments provided.

6:00 PM

Mixing it Up with the President & First Lady   ·   VSU University Center   ·   Registration Required

Join President McKinney & Dr. Charlesworth as they teach you to mix up original cocktails developed for Dr. McKinney's inaugruation.

Specially selected hors d'oeuvres will be served alongside the libations.  RSVP March 18 

Sold Out

8:00 PM

VSU Performing Arts Showcase   ·   VSU Whitehead Auditorium   ·   Open to the Public

This showcase celebrates innovative artistic works from several genres performed by faculty and students. Reception immediately follows.


Friday, April 5   |   Celebrating Dr. McKinney’s Investiture

8:00 AM

Platform Party Breakfast and Delegate Reception   ·   VSU University Center   ·   Invitation Only 

Members of the Platform Party, Institutional Delegates, and select guests are invited to gather before the Investiture Ceremony.

10:00 AM

Investiture Ceremony · Please note new location: VSU PE Complex · Open to the Public · Live Video Stream

Inaugural Message from Dr. George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Reception immediately follows. 

6:00 PM
(Cocktail Hour)

Inaugural Ball Benefiting Student Scholarships   ·   VSU Student Union Ballroom   ·   Registration Required 

Click to Register
7:00 PM
RSVP for the program by March 18

Saturday, April 6   |   Celebrating the VSU Family

9:30 AM

Zumba® with the First Lady   ·   VSU West Hall Front Lawn   ·   Open to the Public

Join Dr. Charlesworth as she leads a 45 minute workout that’s sure to rev up your appetite! Athletic shoes, towel, and water are recommended.

12:00 PM

Employee BBQ   ·   VSU West Hall Front Lawn   ·   VSU Employees Only   ·   Registration Required

Entertainment provided by Making Trax, President McKinney’s college band—the world’s most over-educated, under-rehearsed band!

Click to Register

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Inaugural Presenters

Dr. Martha Verbrugge

Presiding Officer, Investiture Ceremony

A graduate of CarletonCollege (B.A., Chemistry, summa cum laude) and Harvard University (Ph.D., History of Science), Martha H. Verbrugge has been a member of the History Department at Bucknell University since 1978. She was awarded the university’s Class of 1956 Lectureship for Inspirational Teaching in 1993 and was named a Presidential Professor in 2004. Funded by the NEH, NIH, and other sources, she has authored two books and various articles on the history of women’s health and physical education in the United States.

Dr. Verbugge

Dr. George L. Mehaffy

Keynote Speaker, Investiture Ceremony

George Mehaffy serves as the Vice-President for Academic Leadership and Change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). His division is responsible for a number of special programs and projects for AASCU presidents and chief academic officers in the areas of leadership and organizational change in higher education, focusing on issues such as technology, teacher education, international education, and civic engagement. He organizes and directs two national conferences annually for AASCU chief academic officers and manages a variety of leadership programs and special projects. Much of his current work focuses on civic engagement in higher education. In 2003 he launched a civic engagement initiative, the American Democracy Project (ADP), in partnership with The New York Times, involving 214 AASCU institutions representing 1.8 million students. 

Dr. Mehffay

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Inaugural Traditions

The etymology of the word inauguration may be traced back to the 1560s, from the French inauguration—meaning ‘installation, consecration”—and is directly linked to the Latin word inauguration (nom. inauguration) meaning “consecration, installment under good omens.”

In the United States, collegiate presidential inaugurations originated with the nation’s nine colonial colleges in the 17th century. The inauguration of a new university president serves as a rite of passage that formally acknowledges a change in leadership within the context of continuity and tradition.

The inauguration of Dr. William J. McKinney provides Valdosta State University with an occasion to honor its past, celebrate its present strengths, and envisage its future through the lens selected by its current president. In Dr. McKinney’s case, that lens is characterized by the theme, Engaged Innovation. 


The Investiture Ceremony

The Investiture Ceremony formally inducts Dr. McKinney as Valdosta State University ’s 9th president. Delegates representing other universities, learned societies and VSU faculty will come together to form the processional. Tradition holds that delegates will be placed in the processional based on the order in which their institutions were founded. Attendees at the investiture ceremony will include VSU staff and students; local, state, and nationally elected leaders; and those who have a vested interest in the future success of Valdosta State.

The origins of the academic regalia and other ceremonial objects used during inaugurations and other major university events, including commencement, can be traced back to the world’s oldest institutions of higher learning. The following information includes descriptions of some of ceremonial objects and their histories.


Academic Regalia

The colorful attire worn by the participants in the academic procession has its roots in medieval traditions that reach back to the earliest universities in Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Cambridge. The precise origins of the various parts that constitute academic garb are unknown; however, since medieval students enjoyed the status of clerics during their university years, we assume that their attire was inspired by the clerical dress of the time. Early European universities required students and teachers to wear distinctive gowns at all times. The tradition of wearing similar attire was brought to the United States during colonial times, but the requirement for students to wear academic regalia soon disappeared and professors only donned their regalia during special occasions.


The Gown

The ceremonial robes—modernized with colors and varying sleeve lengths to signify degree and rank—began as monks’ robes worn to stave off the cold in drafty, cloistered monasteries. Gowns are generally black, and there are three basic types. The bachelor’s gown is plain; includes long, pointed sleeves and may be worn with an elaborate yoke.. The master’s gown is similar to the bachelor’s except that the sleeves are open at the forearms and end with an extra, square-shaped swatch of cloth that originally formed a pocket to store reading and writing materials. The doctoral gown, the most elaborate of the three, is adorned with velvet panels on the closed front and around the neck as well as three velvet chevrons on each full, bell-shaped sleeve. Although black is the most common color of doctoral gowns, the velvet panels and chevrons may vary in color.


The Hood

The colors of the hood reveal the level of a degree, the major field of learning in which the degree was awarded, and the institution that conferred the degree. The bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral hoods are three, three and one-half, and four feet long, respectively. The all-encompassing velvet trim that denotes the field of learning is likewise two, three, or five inches, respectively. The lining of the hood is worn exposed to show the colors of the school awarding the degree. Most schools have a two-color pattern and the hoods feature the use of chevrons or bars to differentiate schools whose colors may be alike or very similar. 


Colors Representing Fields of Learning

Arts, Letters,Humanities







Light Blue



Fine Arts




Library Science









Silver Gray



Public Health


Physical Education

Sage Green



Social Science





The Cap

Generally, the mortarboard or Oxford cap is worn with all degrees, although an Elizabethan-style soft cap is used with some doctoral attire. Black tassels are most often used, but many schools have adopted the practice of using tassels that match the hood color. Doctors and presidents of institutions frequently wear a gold tassel.


The Mace

The mace has evolved through the years from a “hand combat” weapon of the middle ages, employed by archers and other unmounted warriors, to a club-shaped staff used as a symbol of authority by legislative, religious, academic, and other assemblies to give a ceremonial character to official functions. The Valdosta State University Alumni Association commissioned Hollis Barnett, VSU professor of art, to design and sculpt the mace. It was first used at the June 12, 1994 commencement ceremony presided over by President Hugh C. Bailey.  It has subsequently served President Zaccari, President Schloss, President Levy and now President McKinney. The design of the Valdosta State University mace is based on the dome of West Hall. It was sculpted by hand in wax and cast in bronze using the lost wax casting process. Black onyx and red carnelian stones, representing the University’s colors, are set into the bronze. The shaft is carved in a dark mahogany. The mahogany base, is engraved with the University’s logo. The mace is carried by the VSU faculty marshal for ceremonial occasions.

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Inauguration Committee

Presidential Inauguration Steering Committee

Ms. Sage Archer Director of Event Services & Interim Director of Alumni Relations

Ms. Thressea Boyd Director of Communications, Office of Communications

Dr. Dacia Charlesworth University Ambassador, Office of the President

Mr. John Crawford Vice President for University Advancement & Chief Executive Officer of the VSU Foundation, Inc.

Dr. James LaPlant Acting Assistant Vice President for Research, Dean of the Graduate School, & Professor of Political Science

Inaugural Week Events Sub-Committee 

Dr. James LaPlant, Chairperson

Mr. Ryan Baerwalde President, Student Government Association

Ms. Brenda Beasley Coordinator, Orientation & Leadership Programs, Student Affairs

Dr. Fred Downing Department Head & Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies

Dr. Raymond Elson Professor of Accounting

Dr. Brian Gerber Interim Dean of Dewar College of Education & Professor of Secondary Education

Dr. Paul Neal Director of Choral Studies Program & Associate Professor of Music

Dr. James Peterson Department Head & Professor of Political Science

Ms. Alisha Stabler Student Union Reservation Coordinator, Student Life

Ms. Erin Sylvester Assistant Director of Student Life for Organizational Development, Student Life

Ms. Rebecca Taylor Director of Testing, Student Affairs

Dr. Kate Warner:Director & Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy

Ms. Amber Worthy Vice President, Student Government Association

Dr. John Wright Associate Director of Student Life, Student Affairs


Investiture Ceremony Sub-Committee 

Dr. Dacia Charlesworth, Chairperson

Ms. Melinda Cutchens Administrative Specialist, Office of the President

Mr. Brian Haugabrook Director, CCG Date Warehouse

Dr. Tracy Woodward Meyers Director of Women’s & Gender Studies & Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice

Mr. Bill Muntz Director of Video Production Services

Ms. Lisa Snipes Administrative Coordinator, University Police

Ms. Chelsea Wells Event Reservations Coordinator, Event Services


Inaugural Ball Sub-Committee

Mr. John Crawford, Chairperson

Mr. Daryn Beasley: Director of Catering, Auxiliary Services

Ms. Susanna Dover: Event Coordinator, Alumni Relations

Ms. Bonnie Martin: Accounting Director, University Advancement

Ms. Monique Tripp: Operations Manager/Activities Coordinator, Event Services


Print/ Publicity Sub-Committee

Ms. Thressea Boyd, Chairperson

Dr. John Bennett Web Contet/Social Media Manager, Web Services Team

Mr. Drew Burgering Department Manager, Printing & Copying Services

Mr. Ronald Butler Department Manager, Campus Mail Services

Ms. Mary Gooding Director of Marketing & Community Relations, University Advancement

Mr. Jeff Grant Director of Publication & Design Services, University Advancement

Ms. Karen Johnson  Director of Annual Giving, University Advancement


Local Arrangements Sub-Committee

Ms. Sage Archer, Chairperson

Mr. Anthony Bryant Assistant Director of Parking & Transportation

Ms. Debbie Conrad  Administrative Assistant, Catering, Auxiliary Services

Maj. Ann Farmer Assistant Director of University Police

Mr. Joe Newton Chief Information Officer & Director of Information Technology

Mr. Raymond Sable Director of Physical Plant & Facilities Planning

Ms. Hannah Spears Event Operations Coordinator, Event Services


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Registration & Information for Dignitaries, Delegates, Faculty, and Guests

Information for Delegates & Dignitaries

We at Valdosta State University are very appreciative to all delegates who will serve as designated representatives of their institutions and organizations at the Inauguration of Dr. William J. McKinney.


Reporting for the Investiture Ceremony

The investiture ceremony will take place in the VSU PE Complex. Delegates and ceremony participants should arrive at Nevins Hall no later than 9:00 AM with academic apparel and report to the robing rooms. VSU Ambassadors will help direct you to the appropriate room. The line up for the Procession will begin at 9:45 AM in order to begin promptly at 10:00 AM.


Shuttle Service

Delegates and dignitaries are invited to a breakfast at the University Center from 8:00-8:50 AM. A shuttle will bring delegates and dignitaries from the University Center to prepare for the Procession.



For those not wishing to participate in the breakfast, parking for delegates and dignitaries will be available in the PE Complex parking lot. All delegates and dignitaries will need to secure a parking pass. To secure your pass, contact Anthony Bryant to receive your parking pass. Download the Inauguration Parking Map (PDF).


Investiture Reception

All delegates and ceremony participants are invited to the reception immediately following the ceremony.


Faculty Regalia Rentals

We are pleased to present faculty who wish to participant in the Processional with the option of renting regalia. A representative from Jostens will be on campus Tuesday, March 5 and Wednesday March 6 in the Student Union (2nd floor near Starbucks) as part of the Grad Finale. Jostens representatives will be present from 10 AM-6 PM each day to take your order.  Please note, that these are the only two days available to take advantage of this opportunity.

For more information, please email Sage Archer.

If you wish to register for additional Inauguration Week events, please do so here.

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Congratulatory Messages

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