GREENSBORO – Newly-installed UNCG Chancellor Dr. Franklin Gilliam promised to strengthen the school’s ties to the Greensboro community and build upon its traditions and history in a speech following his investiture ceremony on Friday, October 7.
The ceremony was held in the UNCG Auditorium and broadcast simultaneously on the university’s internal TV network.
“I’ve spent the last few months talking to faculty, students and alums all over the country about the idea of ‘giant steps,’” said Gilliam, who credited inspiration for the concept to the groundbreaking jazz album of the same name by NC native John Coltrane. “It just seemed fitting, this idea of giant steps as a metaphor for what we want to do at the university.”
Gilliam, UNCG’s 11th Chancellor, drew parallels between his own upbringing and the gradual expansion of the university’s mission throughout its history.
“[My parents] instilled in me and my sisters a commitment to the ideas of equity,” said Gilliam. “But more important, to this idea that if we’re going to change the world, we must understand that we have a shared fate. We are connected, one to the other, in an inextricable pattern in which what happens to one of us happens to all of us. At the core, that’s what the university is about.”
Gilliam said that as Greensboro has grown, so has the university.
“What started out in a cornfield on the edge of town is now a 20,000 student university in the heart of the city,” said Gilliam, “playing an important role in the growth of the city and the region. It takes a giant step into the future, but with the recognition of shared fate.”
The university’s future will be built upon its traditions, including its role as a women’s college, said Gilliam.
“This institution has a very clear legacy of opportunity and accessibility,” said Gilliam. “Building upon the tradition that a first-rate public education should be accessible to women, we now continue to serve students who historically and currently are under represented in higher education.”
Gilliam praised the university’s role in the Greensboro community.
“Students historically have come here to improve society through individual and collective action and we continue with this today,” said Gilliam. “Our students perform tens of thousands of hours of community service each year. We have an active slate of experiential opportunities for students, that is learning outside of the classroom.”
Gilliam cited a current example of the connections between UNCG and the greater community.
“We are participating in a new chamber of commerce initiative called Campus Greensboro that provides internships and leadership opportunities for students,” said Gilliam, “opportunities that are mutually beneficial to help the students and serve the community at the same time. All of this is a living legacy of our shared fate and commitment to service.”
Gilliam took over as chancellor of UNCG in September 2015 after serving as a faculty member at the University of California in Los Angeles and as dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Friday’s ceremony was conducted by UNC system President Margaret Spellings, while retired Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Henry Frye administered the oath of office to Gilliam. The keynote address was delivered by President and CEO of the California Endowment Dr. Robert Ross, a colleague of Gilliams.
In a short video shown before the ceremony, several UNCG faculty members and students welcomed Dr. Gilliam to the campus and spoke about their interactions with him.
“I think he has both gravitas and a casual quality that lets students in particular get into a good, solid conversation with him,” said UNCG Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Anne Wallace. “He takes people seriously.”
“He sees the potential in UNCG,” said Student Government Association President Joseph Graham” and he saw it all the way from California.”