On February 23, University of Redlands students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and community members celebrated the inauguration of President Krista L. Newkirk.
The 12th president of the U of R, she assumed the role in July 2021 and spent her first several months meeting with and listening to members of the University community. Newkirk is the first woman to be selected for the post—a historic fact that speakers referenced throughout the ceremony.
“We gather in Memorial Chapel, members of a one hundred fifteen year-old family—administrators, alumni, donors, employees, faculty, friends, students, and trustees,” said Trustee and Inauguration Committee Co-chair Larry Burgess ’67 as he welcomed the audience, following a procession of campus, alumni, and institutional representatives, and a presentation of colors by the Redlands High school AFJROTC Color Guard.
“Binding this ceremony together is our founding principle of a university committed to students,” he continued. “We point to a future that emboldens us to press forward with our mission and our stewardship of students of all ages, now committed to the leadership of a new energy and light, named ‘Krista.’”
A storied leader
Throughout the ceremony, several speakers offered reflections and congratulations to Newkirk, who sat on the stage amongst the Board of Trustees, the President’s Cabinet, and First Gentleman Lewis Glenn III.
“We all know our world is changing, and changing rapidly. It is because of this that a quality, holistic liberal arts education like the one we offer here at Redlands is not less, but rather more important than ever. That means finding solutions to preserve and sustain our University and pave the success of future Bulldogs for the next 100 years and more,” said Board of Trustees Chair Jamison J. Ashby ’82.
He continued, “Today, we are inaugurating an exceptional leader who brings the right core values and a clear vision for the University of Redlands. Krista is a problem-solver who will inspire and lead innovative change while, at the same time, preserve our rich and treasured legacy.”
U of R students, staff members, alumni, and Newkirk’s former colleagues spoke about their experiences working alongside her, noting her knack for leadership, sense of humility, and relentless drive. Associated Students of the University of Redlands President Chloe Levine ’22 said she finds a role model in Newkirk as the University’s first female president; University of Redlands Staff and Administrators Assembly President Kay Thomas ’20 called working with Newkirk “amazing and refreshing”; Congressional Representative Pete Aguilar ’01 welcomed Newkirk and her family to Redlands from his office in Washington D.C. via video.
“When the University of Redlands advertised to recruit its 12th president, you said you were looking for a change agent, a good listener, a thoughtful-problem solver, and a consensus-builder with a good sense of humor even in difficult times. Based on my experience in working with and watching her, I can assure you that you’ve hit a home run with Krista Newkirk,” University of North Carolina at Charlotte Chancellor Emeritus Philip L. Dubois said in a video message.
Professor and Head Women’s Lacrosse and Soccer Coach Suzette Soboti recalled her recent interactions with Newkirk and how they frame the University’s future in her mind. “When Krista comes into the classroom, steps onto the fields to watch our contests, or sits for our concerts, it’s clear that whoever is up on the hill in the Administration building isn’t just separated from us,” she said. “The President is saying, ‘I see you, I appreciate you, I connect with you—all of you, in this large community of Bulldogs.’”
A clear vision
The ceremony paid homage to Newkirk’s past and future. One musical interlude featured the Chapel Singers’ rendition of “Shenandoah,” an early 19th-century folk song that conjures images of the Missouri River, which runs through Newkirk’s home state of the same name. Another interlude highlighted “12 and Change,” a choral composition written by students Jamison Stevens ’22 and Timothy Cunningham ’22 with lyrics by David Boies Professor of Government Art Svenson.
Beginning her presidential address, Newkirk thanked her past and current mentors, colleagues, family members, and others who have advised and championed her throughout her career. “When someone like me, the youngest child of parents who didn’t receive their college degrees, manages to navigate her way from a tiny public high school with a graduating class of 46 students in a town that didn’t have a traffic light or even a McDonalds, but which did boast the largest lead mine in the world, all the way to becoming a university president, you know full well that family and mentors were the key,” she said.
Throughout her remarks, Newkirk focused on her vision for the U of R. While referencing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, decades of war, and other current events, she outlined a path forward that takes the University’s history into account while considering aspects of community and inclusion.
“[We move forward] by looking to our past, connecting to our community, and building upon our strengths – of which there are plenty … We work together, and through our collective wisdom, we make decisions that are student-focused and in line with our values. Finally, we implement our decisions with honesty, fairness, and with the goal of equity and opportunity for all,” she said.
Newkirk touched on recent initiatives and plans to enhance the student experience and boost the University’s reputation, including the launch of the Redlands Promise, strengthening partnerships with local businesses and organizations through Community Service Learning, authoring a student-focused strategic plan, modifying curricula to ensure its relevance, expanding opportunities for first-generation and Native students, and the creation of an Anti-Racism Committee, among others.
In closing, Newkirk expressed gratitude for the Redlands community and excitement for the work that lies ahead. “I cherish the trust you have bestowed upon me as the 12th president of the University of Redlands,” she said. “I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working alongside you as we build our future together.”