University of St. Francis president inaugurated
By Tina Akouris email@example.com October 4, 2013 10:52PM
Updated: November 7, 2013 6:43AM
The inaugural ceremony Friday for incoming University of St. Francis president Arvid Johnson was far from stuffy — featuring casual, friendly banter that dignitaries and guests directed toward Johnson at the Pat Sullivan Center in Joliet.
Johnson is the university’s ninth president, succeeding Michael Vinciguerra, who retired earlier this year. Johnson was unanimously named president in June by the board of trustees.
Johnson, a Lewis University graduate, was dean of the Brennan School of Business at Dominican University from 2008 until he was named USF’s leader. He also served on the Lincoln-Way High School District 210 Board.
But despite Johnson’s impressive resume, the USF faculty do not just see him as their boss, so to speak.
“Hi, Arvid,” biology and environmental science professor William Bromer said during his speech. “A raise would be nice.”
Bromer went on to say how he’s used to seeing Johnson at cookouts, eliciting laughter from the crowd. But Bromer turned serious when he made a plea to Johnson on behalf of the faculty.
“Help us showcase our students and garner the resources to shoot our students to the moon,” he said.
And state Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) reminded Johnson that most of the students at USF are first-generation college students.
Johnson became visibly emotional at one point during Friday’s ceremony, where he received the medallion that goes to each USF president.
“It was not easy writing this speech because I have so much to say,” Johnson told the audience.
He mentioned how nervous he was but not nearly as much as when he threw out the first pitch at a Joliet Slammers game last spring. At the time, Johnson said, USF athletic director Dave Laketa told him, “please, please, please don’t embarrass us.”
But the anecdote gave way to the serious portion of Johnson’s inaugural address, which carried the theme of “Called to Serve, Called to Lead.”
Johnson spoke of how he was working at Dominican this year when he got a call from the search committee for a new USF president. He said he had to apply for the job after hearing the word “service” appear over and over in the university’s pitch.
“The University of St. Francis was looking for someone to listen and tell its story,” Johnson said. “I knew I would be disappointed, even angry, if I wasn’t asked to join (the university).”
Even though June 1 was technically his first day on the job, Johnson felt as if he was part of the USF family even sooner.
“I believe this is my calling,” he said. “The call to serve does not refer to me — it refers to each and every member of the University of St. Francis family.”
The ceremony also was the same day as the Feast of St. Francis, and Johnson referred to the homily that Pope Francis gave in Italy earlier in the day.
Johnson closed with his vision for the university and his pledge to its community.
“Our best years are ahead of us,” he said. “I will work hard to earn the trust you placed in me.”