After 25 years as president, Jim Doti passed the proverbial torch down to former chancellor Daniele Struppa in the Musco Center Sept. 30, with discussions about academics, Italian culture and religion, followed by a Prosecco toast.
Struppa was inaugurated as Chapman’s 13th president in a sold-out ceremony, with 1,044 people in attendance.
Scattered crowds also observed the ceremony via live-stream in Memorial Hall, the Folino Theater, Beckman Hall room 404 and online.
“(Struppa) is the right person at the right time to lead Chapman through the next chapter of our history,” said Joann Leatherby, vice chair of the board of trustees. “When an institution like Chapman looks to replace an incredible leader like President (Jim) Doti, it’s not an easy task, but the board of trustees were incredibly fortunate because the leader was here, present on our campus.”
The ceremony emphasized Struppa’s Italian background through the reading of a passage from “The Divine Comedy” in Italian, a speech from the Deputy Consul General of Italy in Los Angeles, Massimiliano Gori, a Prosecco toast and a variety of references to the Italian language and culture.
“Professor Struppa is a perfect role model of how one can merge Italian and American education,” Gori said.
Additionally, Struppa received a personally dedicated framed blessing from Pope Francis delivered by Bishop Kevin Vann, and was welcomed as president by professor Andrew Briggs from the University of Oxford. Buck Smith, Chapman’s 10th president who held the position from 1977 to 1988, was also present at the ceremony.
In their speeches, a variety of attendees told stories about Struppa and expressed excitement for his work as president, recounting times where he had shown kindness and consideration to faculty members.
“A few years ago, a staff member in the facilities department was working hard to complete his degree here at Chapman and needed a math class that was only offered during the employee’s work hours,” said Becky Campos, vice president of human resources.“Dr. Struppa carved out time from his busy schedule to offer math instruction to this staff member to help him complete his degree requirements.”
Student government President Annabell Liao represented the student body during the investiture ceremony.
“An undying quest for knowledge, a passion for education so deeply rooted within oneself that it is reflected in all that they pursue. “That is what makes a great president. You, Dr. Struppa are that and much more,” Liao said. “You take the time to have open conversations and truly listen to student input. With your mountain climbing expeditions, you challenge those around you to wander outside of our comfort zones and familiarize ourselves with something new.”
The event also showed a video that detailed Chapman’s history, from being Hesperian College in 1861 to showing the accomplishments of the 12 presidents that preceded Struppa.
After the video, Leatherby, Doti, Chair of the Board of Trustees David James and Faculty Senate President Gordon Babst presented Struppa with the presidential medal and university mace, which is made of wood from a building at Hesperian College.
At that point, Struppa was officially invested with the presidential duties.
In his address to the audience, Struppa showed both a sense of humor and an intense focus on academia through an explanation of his own personal academic journey.
“When I arrived to this country, I couldn’t speak any English. Even now, if you pay close attention, you may notice light accent,” Struppa said, his strong Italian accent evident as he addressed a laughing crowd. “I’m glad to see you were paying attention.”
The ceremony concluded with a Prosecco toast at the Aitken Arts Plaza outside of the Musco Center for the Arts.