Fall 2008 | The Next Chapter
At a Mass to celebrate the inauguration of President Thomas Kunkel, members of the Kunkel family joined Tom and his wife, Debra, at St. Norbert Abbey. The Kunkels (on the right) are pictured above with the president’s parents, Thomas Sr. and Mary Louise Kunkel. Next to them, Tom's sisters and two of his daughters.
A most excellent celebration
By Jeff Kurowski
During a brief rehearsal before his inauguration,
Thomas Kunkel got his first glimpse of the pageantry that was to come. Following discussion about the procession, the new president separated from the group, walked towards the west end of the arena and paused in front of the stage.
“I didn’t think that it was going to be so elaborate,” he said, admiring the setup. “It is remarkable.”
On Oct. 10, Thomas Kunkel was installed with all due pomp as the seventh president in the college’s 110-year history. The opening processional included 26 flag bearers, some of the college’s international students serving as ambassadors of their homelands; robed delegates from other colleges and universities; Norbertines; the St. Norbert faculty; the president’s cabinet; trustees; and presidents emeriti
Thomas Manion and
The seal specially designed for the inauguration of the seventh president is the work of Joe Bergner ’86, of Imaginasium, a creative agency located in Green Bay.
Speakers at the ceremony represented past and present students, employees, faculty, and the greater community.
Michael Marsden, dean of the college and academic vice president, served as the master of ceremonies.
Travis Vanden Heuvel ’09, president of the Student Government Association, spoke on behalf of the current student body.
“The students of St. Norbert will be looking up and looking forward,” said Vanden Heuvel. “We will be looking up to your leadership and looking forward to working with you and other college leaders.”
He continued by sharing expectations the students have for their new president and assured Kunkel that he could, in turn, expect much from the students.
Sandra Odorzynski (Economics), representing the faculty, told Kunkel, “Commitment to excellence is a central theme of your presidency, and your passion to achieve it is contagious. Count on us for support in making St. Norbert College a place of excellence in all that we do, with a widely-known reputation that matches it.”
Patrick Kelly ’77, chair of the board of trustees, then presented the new president to the assembly. In his inaugural address Kunkel focused on his inaugural theme, “The Pursuit of Excellence”
(view the inaugural address or read the text).
Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay closed with a benediction.
An outdoor reception followed the inaugural ceremony, with the defending national champion St. Norbert hockey team serving as waiters. Altogether, 56 student organizations took part in the day’s events.
Asked if he would have changed anything, Kunkel joked, in reference to the large number who presented thoughts for the new president, “I think we needed a few more speakers.”
He added, “I’m grateful for the many kind words. I’m in a great situation. We have great kids and a great staff. This college has 110 years of experience. They have it down.”
Ahead of the inauguration, Kunkel had emphasized, “It’s a celebration, not a coronation.” He believed the college achieved that goal for the occasion.
“I think we are all celebrating,” he said. “It started with the Mass. My mom and dad especially enjoyed the Mass, which was a gorgeous ceremony. I’m bowled over by the warm reception from everyone.”
In fact, it was a family affair, too. Kunkel’s four daughters, Katie, Claire, Helen and Grace, participated in the afternoon liturgy at St. Norbert Abbey. His sister, Linda Price, sang “Panis Angelicus” as part of the prelude and his brother-in-law, John Davidson, played the guitar later in the Mass. The St. Norbert College Parish music ministry group and the college chamber choir and brass ensemble also provided music.
Michael Rosewall (Music) coordinated musicians for all the inaugural programming, providing 60 singers for the installation ceremony itself and a flute ensemble for a women’s tea held in honor of
Debra Kunkel, the president’s wife.
“We started building from scratch and added the brass for a little extra,” said Rosewall. “I love getting the students involved. The feeling is that part of the mission of the music department is to be of service to the college. It’s also a chance to showcase the talents of our students.”
The culminating event of this year’s Heritage Days celebration, this start of a new chapter found its context in a week-long celebration of the past.
Events celebrating St. Norbert College’s history included presentations at Common Prayer by some of those who had visited historic abbeys of the Norbertine order in Europe and a photo exhibit in the Bush Art Center highlighting the college’s 110 years. Meanwhile, Kunkel sought out his own historical guidance.
“You hear so much about Abbot Pennings all week, so the other day I decided to pay the old guy a visit,” Kunkel said. “I went over to the abbey and knocked around a bit. I spent a little time in the crypt in contemplation. I just needed to remind myself that this is quite a privilege and responsibility. This is an unbroken chain of remarkable people who all, in their own ways, advanced the college, so I have big shoes to fill.”
Abbot Bernard Pennings O.Praem. was the first president of the college. In his homily,
Abbot Gary Neville, O.Praem., ’73 tied together the college’s heritage and this new era. Neville joked that, unlike Pennings, Kunkel will not be expected to teach Latin in the kitchen. He will also not have to supply the Norbertines with cigars or keep track of finances in cigar boxes.
Instead, Neville called the new president to be a sign of hope. He shared a 1948 poem by the
Rev. Patrick Butler, O.Praem., ’22, head of the English department at the time, written in honor of the 60-year anniversary of St. Norbert College. The poem, translated from Latin, is titled “To Look Back and to Look Ahead.”
“St. Norbert needs to educate the full person, body and soul, heart and mind,” said Neville. “[Graduates] need to share their talents in a self-sacrificing way that will change this world even in the smallest of ways. Fuel this college,” he told Kunkel. “Lead us with passion, gentleness and love.”
“During the middle of Mass, the depth of the responsibility really started sinking in,” said Kunkel. “We really want to make sure we do a good job for everyone. Hopes are high, but I really wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Among Kunkel’s initiatives is to make St. Norbert more well-known on a national scale.
“St. Norbert is one of the most important institutions in Wisconsin,” he said. “I’m not really sure that people around here grasp that in terms of the legacy and intellectual firepower we have. We need to be more in the forefront of public dialogue. We have work to do. I’m an impatient person. I’m ready to go.”
>> View a photo gallery of images from Inauguration Day.
The move to the president's house only a few blocks from the main college campus means change for the whole family. Read on for more on what this new role means to the Kunkels.