Lepre Installed as SU's 10th President During Festive Investiture Ceremony
SALISBURY, MD---Since becoming Salisbury University’s 10th President in July 2022, Dr. Carolyn Ringer Lepre has worked to advance the institution, announcing new initiatives and goals to strengthen the University as it nears its landmark 100th anniversary in 2025.
During her festive investiture ceremony on May 5, 2023, before an audience of state and local officials; SU students, faculty, staff and alumni; family; friends; members of the greater community; and guests from universities throughout the nation, Lepre spoke about SU’s past, its present and a future that is just beginning.
Heritage and Tradition
“A presidential inauguration serves as a milestone event in the life of an academic institution, often attributed to building momentum for the university as it embarks upon the next chapter in its story,” she said. “This is an opportunity to honor the University’s heritage, remember our traditions and our commitment to learning, and to bring our Sea Gull family together to celebrate and reaffirm our sense of pride in our students, alumni, faculty, staff and our community.”
Much of what is happening at SU today was built on a foundation laid by tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff who came before, she said. In 1935, for example, the University introduced a core curriculum focusing on humanities and sciences, breaking from its founding as a “normal school,” or teachers college. “Today, we are on the verge of launching a groundbreaking new general education curriculum that will serve the needs of today’s student by moving away from a set of courses from different disciplines to a more holistic, student-centered approach, preparing students for success in college, career and life,” she said.
Likewise, SU’s Study Abroad/Study Away Program has grown exponentially since the Student Government Association raised scholarship money to send SU’s first study abroad student to the University of Zurich in 1949.
“Compare that to what we have today,” she said. “We are the No. 1 producer of Fulbright Students in the Nation at the Master’s Carnegie Classification, and all our students now have the chance to see the world.”
Legacy of Growth and Change
In 1970, the City of Salisbury kept the Maryland Council for Higher Education from shutting down SU, Lepre noted. Instead of contracting, the University grew, adopting new programs and onboarding new generations of educators with the goal of improving not only student offerings, but the lives of those around them.
“Today, our faculty are not only teaching with greatness, but their research and service are changing our world for the better,” she said.
Likewise, SU’s athletics offerings have grown in the past 50-plus years, with Sea Gull student-athletes claiming 22 NCAA Division III national team championships, 24 individual national championships and 191 conference championships. The physical campus has expanded and transformed, as well, with hundreds of millions of dollars in construction and the granting of national arboretum status.
These legacies and more will inform the future of SU, Lepre said: “As we look forward from this day … our past, present and future are deeply intertwined.”
And more change is coming: Lepre announced that SU will welcome its most racially diverse group of new students in University history next fall, with 32% coming from underrepresented backgrounds.
Admiration for the Eastern Shore
Throughout SU’s history, there have been challenges and sometimes even failures, she said. But overcoming those obstacles and learning along the way can lead to even greater successes.
“I think when we look at what matters, in the victories we are proud of, they come when we have succeeded — moved forward — by persevering,” said Lepre. “I admire this forward-thinking spirit, this can-do — and the “I-can-do-it-myself-even-when-everyone-tells-me-I-can’t” spirit. … I see this energy in the people of the Eastern Shore and those drawn to enroll here.
“The Eastern Shore has a rich and varied history, with a strong tradition of grit and resilience among its people, particularly the watermen who have relied on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for its livelihoods. … I see this willpower and fortitude in everyone I meet here. I believe this spirit is part of the DNA of the Eastern Shore.”
The Eastern Shore and the State of Maryland have returned Lepre’s admiration. Since coming to SU, she has earned a number of local and state honors, including two from the Baltimore-based Daily Record, which has named her among Maryland’s Top 100 Women and recognized her among its Higher Education Power List.
Importance of Higher Education
The second accolade is particularly poignant, given her belief in higher education as a tool for positive change.
“Higher education has never been more important than it is right now,” she said. “The critical conversations that we need to have, the thinking we need to do, the societal problems we need to solve, the ways we need to come together — I believe, deep down in my soul, that higher education is the path to helping solve the world’s biggest problems and that each of us is called on to do what we can to pave the way for the next generation of learners.
“Starting today, we move forward toward SU’s next chapter, and we turn our collective power, grit, dedication and energy to moving forward with excellence.”
Speakers during the ceremony praised Lepre’s leadership and vision for an even greater tomorrow at SU.
“It’s been gratifying to watch SU embrace Dr. Lepre’s leadership and her vision for what this extraordinary University can do,” said University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “At the same time, it’s wonderful to see President Lepre really get to know this community and see its character and excellence up close. Her work over this past year has deepened her reputation for identifying talent and nurturing achievement — student by student.”
“The Board of Regents was delighted to select Dr. Lepre as the next President of Salisbury University,” said Linda Gooden, USM Board of Regents chair. “The regents knew that she would bring a special blend of leadership that is perfectly suited to the University’s important role in the state and region, and we are pleased to celebrate her vision for SU.”
“Dr. Carolyn Lepre is committed to the values of higher education and the partnerships that advance SU’s mission. She inspires those around her, leading by example and bringing out the very best in people,” said USM Board of Regents Assistant Secretary Robert Rauch, who chaired the search committee that hired Lepre, calling Salisbury “a very special jewel in the University System of Maryland’s crown of extraordinary institutions.”
“Over the last 10 months, I have been incredibly impressed with Dr. Lepre’s ability to seamlessly integrate into the SU community with grace and tact,” said Dr. Lili Leonard, SU Alumni Association past president, who also served on the search committee. “One of my favorite things about her is that she ‘shows up.’ The simple act of being present demonstrates a person’s commitment to their community and to themselves. I have seen Dr. Lepre ‘show up’ at countless events, most often without fanfare, and marveled at her ability to genuinely and meaningfully connect with those around her.”
Salisbury Mayor Jack Heath noted that extended to members not just in the SU community, but in the greater area, as well: “As mayor, I have the good fortune to get to know a lot of business and civic leaders, but there’s something that stands out about President Lepre. Early on, it was obvious that she has a strong commitment to the wellbeing of everyone at the University. And she understands how connected SU is to the community. … Dr. Lepre, the City of Salisbury stands with you, and we are all rooting for your success.”
Jake Day, Maryland secretary of housing and community development, who also worked with Lepre during his previous role as the city’s mayor, agreed.
“The University is a central piece of its community,” he said. “It’s a leading example for other colleges, in our state and around our nation, of how academic institutions and their surrounding communities can form strong bonds. Through intentional work, investment and partnership, that relationship can strengthen. … I know that President Lepre started last year emphasizing continuing to foster the ongoing civic engagement that exists between the University and the City. She’s truly the right person to bring the University to new heights.”
Day also presented Lepre with a citation from Maryland Governor Wes Moore, congratulating her on her investiture.
Excitement Throughout Campus
Members of SU’s shared governance organizations echoed Heath’s and Day’s enthusiasm.
“The Salisbury Seven … challenges us both to improve what we already do well and to grow in areas where growth is needed,” said Jennifer Martin, Faculty Senate president, addressing Lepre and referencing a seven-point pledge to move SU forward with excellence, which she announced during her inaugural State of the University address earlier this year. “Your vision has generated interest and excitement on campus. We look forward to collaborating with you to turn the Salisbury Seven from a vision into a reality and, more generally, working with you to advance Salisbury’s excellence. … We are happy to have you involved and connected here at SU.”
“I see reminders all over — ‘1925’ is emblazoned everywhere — that we are quickly approaching [SU’s] centennial anniversary,” said Tim Robinson, Adjunct Faculty Caucus president. “After seeing what was accomplished over the last century, I look forward to seeing how you position us for the next one.”
“This is a pivotal moment in Salisbury University’s history, especially as we edge closer to our centennial,” agreed Joe Benyish, Staff Senate chair. “As we look to our next 100 years, as we turn the page on the first, I see so many more opportunities that lie ahead. I, and so many others, are grateful to have such a strong advocate at the helm of SU’s future.”
“The role of a university president, being charged with ushering in the campus’ tomorrow, is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly,” said Nicholas Plummer, Graduate Student Council president. “As someone who has had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Lepre as a professional and as an individual, witnessing her leadership over the past year firsthand, I have the utmost confidence in her ability to guide us into the next century of SU’s history.”
“I am happy to see President Lepre kindle us with guiding lights, as she approached our campus with grace,” said Wyatt Parks, Student Government Association president. “She brings with her advancements that we have yet to see. They will provide structure and roots for the beneficence of all of us and those to come.”
A Festive Occasion
Additional speakers included Dr. Naeemah Clark, chair of the Department of Cinema and Television Arts, and J. Earl Danieley Distinguished Professor at Elon University, a long-time collaborator with Lepre on projects including the textbook Diversity in U.S. Mass Media.
“She will lead with an open mind and whole heart as she partners with a team of faculty and staff to educate tomorrow’s leaders,” Clark said. “I know that Lyn is committed to this community.”
That commitment includes diversity, equity and inclusion, Clark said, noting that Lepre reached out to her shortly after accepting the Salisbury position to assist with that effort.
“Her priority is the people here and that this is a culture that celebrates inclusion and belonging,” Clark added.
The picturesque ceremony included a procession of faculty, as well as former SU Presidents Janet Dudley-Eshbach and Charles Wight, and alumni representing many graduating classes over SU’s 98-year history.
Also featured were performances by Dr. John Wesley Wright, SU professor of music; Calista Day, SU artist-in-residence; alumnus and American Idol finalist Jeremiah “Jay” Copeland; alumna Annabell Midley, former director of the SU Gospel Choir; SU music major Sophia Merbaum; and the SU Brass Ensemble, conducted by Lee Knier, SU music lecturer, as well as a presentation of the colors by the SU ROTC color guard; and the ceremonial University mace.
Learn more about opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.