WAYNESBURG – Waynesburg University celebrated the inauguration of its 15th president, Douglas G. Lee, with a multiday event centering around a formal installation service Tuesday.
An occasion both rare and symbolic in the history of Waynesburg University, the event had a theme of “Celebrating our Heritage,” which put emphasis on honoring the university’s longstanding traditions of faith, servant leadership and academic excellence as well as its distinguished alumni from the 1800s and early 1900s.
The day also marked the university’s 165th year and the 164th anniversary of its charter by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Delegates from institutions of higher education and learned societies from across the country joined the university faculty, trustees and principle administrative officers in procession at the academic ceremony in a packed Roberts Chapel.
Lee’s inaugural address focused on the university’s founding principles as well as its current state.
“With our feet planted firmly on our foundation and our eyes and minds to the future, we will combine the best of the past with the best of the present to produce leaders and scholars for tomorrow,” he said.
Lee discussed the virtues of a liberal arts, globally conscious and Christ-driven education for Waynesburg University students. He thanked Waynesburg’s faculty and staff for their commitment to shaping young minds and preparing students for “lives of purpose for the glory of God.”
Heavily referencing the university’s mission, which dates to 1849, Lee showed gratitude and humility for the leaders who came before him.
“Fueled by the prayers and work of the generations before us, we are not afraid of the future because we have been strengthened by the past,” he said.
“We have survived wars, depressions and lean, hard years, and through this process have grown stronger than ever with a resolution and commitment to faith and learning exemplified by the words carved in stone on our library and cast in bronze plaques on our buildings.”
He also challenged his colleagues, friends and guests to join him on a journey of continued faith and courage and to remain confident in the university’s students.
“While the issues (university students) face are large, we will not let them lose confidence because we will not lose confidence in them,” Lee said. “We must be the great encouragers.”
Echoing sentiments from the various speakers throughout the service, Lee spoke about the quality of student Waynesburg University readies for the world.
He asserted his confidence that the university’s students, faculty, staff and alumni make an impact in the lives of others through service, describing one of the aims of a Waynesburg University education as “developing students with the personal integrity that comes when the connections between faith, learning and serving are so many and so intertwined that a life’s purpose is not mere existence but transformational.”
Mark Fox, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, conducted the investiture of Lee prior to the president’s inaugural address. Fox praised Lee’s reverence for the university’s heritage and his commitment to the success of the students, stating that Lee’s attention to the past is evident in his vision for the future.
“Widely respected for his creative pattern of intellectual leadership, he has embraced the challenges of today’s changing world, serving as a pillar of sound judgment while further advancing the university’s vital role as a leader in Christian higher education.”
Fox described Lee as “a man of great faith who embodies the very characteristics the university strives to instill within its students,” and noted Lee is a servant leader who leads by putting others first.
“President Lee, the board of trustees has chosen you as president of Waynesburg University,” Fox said.
“Yours will be the great privilege and responsibility of leading the university as it continues in its mission of inspiring and challenging students to lives of leadership and purpose for the glory of God.”
He also urged Lee to “draw inspiration from the students who aspire to become world changers – from the alumni who serve as examples of success and from the faculty and staff who nurture and challenge the spirit of their students while remaining accomplished scholars and discoverers in their own right.”
Chancellor Timothy R. Thyreen presented the university’s great chain of office to Lee, which is the symbol of the high office Lee now holds.
Following the investiture, Dr. Carolyn Thyreen presented a Bible that belonged to Margaret Bell Miller, the wife of Waynesburg University’s third president, A.B. Miller, to Lee’s wife, Kathryn Lee.
“Today, Mrs. Miller’s Bible is passed down through the first ladies of the institution, a tangible symbol of Mrs. Miller’s steadfast devotion to faith, a reminder of our heritage and an inspiration to the individuals who lead Waynesburg University today,” Fox said.
Before the investiture, greetings were delivered from the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy by his deputy chief of staff Lou Lazzaro, the Pennsylvania Senate by Sen. Tim Solobay and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by Rep. Pam Snyder.
Greetings were also delivered on behalf of the faculty by the university’s most senior professor, Dr. Charles A. Beiter, professor of English; from the staff by Norma Harper, the university’s longest serving employee; from the alumni by Jack Hinds, Class of 1975; and from the student body by Daniel Czajkowski, student senate president.
Prior to the ceremony, Lee delivered remarks to university students in the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse, where they viewed the event via a live feed.
Surrounding the inauguration, the university hosted a historic, multi-day event that kicked off Saturday, March 22, with a Day of Service. Locally, about 250 volunteers contributed service hours at community organizations including the Greene County United Way, the Humane Society, the Red Cross SAFE Program, Rolling Meadows Nursing Home and many more. Alumni with graduation years as early as 1955 and as recent as 2013 also served in their own communities, spanning from North Dakota to New Hampshire to Moldova.
The Tuesday events concluded with a concert for the university community, “An Evening with Michael W. Smith,” in Roberts Chapel. Smith is a Grammy-winning Christian singer.
A worship service led by the Rev. Dr. Stuart D. Broberg, a member of the board of trustees and pastor of the Church of the Covenant, was held Monday, March 24.
Lee was elected president of Waynesburg University by the board of trustees in September 2012 and took office July 1.
Prior to joining Waynesburg, Lee was a partner in the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson, PLLC where he was a practice group leader in the labor and employment department of the firm. He was active at Waynesburg University, being instrumental in the formation of the university’s alumni council and serving as the first president. He later served as a member of the board of trustees in a variety of leadership roles including chair of the academic matters committee and as board secretary.
He has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America, having spoken and written extensively on workers compensation and labor and employment law topics.
Lee is an elder in the Presbyterian Church, served on the Greene County Planning Commission and is a graduate of Leadership West Virginia. He is an Eagle Scout and has served on the executive board for the Mountaineer Area Council Boy Scouts of America. He has also served on the board of directors for the Union Rescue Mission in Fairmont, W.Va., the Harrison County Bar Association Board of Directors, the Westminster Foundation of West Virginia, and the Howe Cemetery Board. He was a volunteer fireman for more than 13 years.
Lee holds a juris doctorate from West Virginia University and a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Waynesburg University.