Gilbert ‘honored’ to be installed

Wearing full regalia and a smile, a Mississippi native walked up the green carpet and took a seat among attendees of Thursday’s Investiture ceremony.

He answers to “Dr. Gilbert”, “Jerry” and “Pop” — from his granddaughter, Eliza. Thursday, he added “President” to that list.

Jerome A. “Jerry” Gilbert was officially installed as Marshall University’s 37th president with a grand investiture ceremony Thursday in front of the John Marshall statue by Drinko Library.

Individuals representing all facets of Marshall University and West Virginia, from Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to Student Body President Matt Jarvis, formally welcomed President Gilbert to the Marshall family. They shared their admiration of his commitment to students, his drive to see others succeed and his devotion to the Marshall community.

Jarvis told Gilbert, “You put us first, you engage with us, and, most importantly, you love us. I speak for all sons and daughters when I say this — thank you.”

“This is a great day for West Virginia and for Marshall University,” said Dr. Paul Hill, the Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. “I can feel the excitement here, and the shared sense of purpose between the faculty, staff and students.”

Dean Emeritus of the College of Agriculture and Life Science of Mississippi State, Dr. William Fox, and the Mississippi State President, Dr. Mark Keenum, showered praise on Gilbert as their friend and as a leader. Both men travelled from Mississippi to West Virginia for the ceremony.

Dr. Fox said, “When I crossed the Big Sandy River yesterday, I said ‘Mary, we’re in the Promised Land!’”

Fox continued, telling the audience he could speak all day about the merits of Jerry Gilbert, but condensed them into three four-letter words — love, work and fair. He commended Gilbert’s outward focus towards others and his respect for tradition.

“Today I have heard about so many accolades about Jerry,” Fox said. “And I can tell you now, they’re all true.”

Dr. Keenum said, “It’s an honor for me to be here and be a part of this ceremony. He’s a remarkable individual. He’s someone who gets it.”

Keenum and Fox thanked Gilbert for allowing them to take part in “his special day” and wished the Gilbert family the best as they embarked on their new journey in Huntington.

Governor Tomblin, Chancellor Hill and Board of Governors Chairman Wyatt Scaggs installed Gilbert into office with an oath, with which Gilbert promised to uphold the constitutions of the United States, West Virginia and Marshall University. When the men exchanged handshakes and hugs, the audience rose to their feet and applauded their new president.

Newly sworn in, President Gilbert began his Investiture Address by graciously thanking members of state legislature, his colleges, his friends and his family. He named and thanked several important people in his life, including his “inspirational” 94-year-old mother Elizabeth.

His immense respect for tradition was apparent as he spoke on the legacy and namesake of Marshall.

“I requested this ceremony to be held as close as possible to the birthday of John Marshall,” Gilbert said. “I wanted this event to honor him and his legacy for the university.”

The rest of Gilbert’s address focused on his desire to see Marshall succeed. He said he wants to use the great history of Marshall to carry on the “tradition of striving for excellence.” His commitment to students was evident as he named various goals and paths he plans to pursue for their achievement. He wants the university’s students to be “leaders of the 21st century.”

“I am convinced the future of Marshall will be a bright one, despite the challenges presented to us,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert acknowledged the significance of his positon in the university community.

“There is a time for everything under heaven,” he said. “This is a time for renewal and beginning.”

Gilbert called Huntington “a city on a hill” and expressed a hope that Marshall University might grow in the future, through enrollment, adding doctoral programs and increasing faculty and staff salaries. He said as the university grows, the Huntington community will grow alongside it, through service learning projects, university partnerships and students becoming active in the work environment.

“It is my goal not to disappoint those who have great hope in the future of Marshall,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said the future of Marshall is greatly dependent on its students. Gilbert characterized what he wants to see in Marshall students as “seekers of truth, lifetime learners, defenders of justice, problem solvers and encouragers of diversity.”

The Investiture ceremony ended with a standing ovation and a swell of music, ushered in by Gilbert’s final encouragement toward his fellow members of the Thundering Herd.

“We are destined for greatness,” Gilbert said. “We are sons and daughters of Marshall.”

 Brooke Estep can be contacted at [email protected].