Welcome, guests, to the Faulkner Performing Arts Center. Thank you for joining us for today's special program. The musical prelude we just enjoyed was performed by the university's Inspirational Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Murdock. Now, please help me welcome today's first speaker, the University of Arkansas System President, Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt.
Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt
Good afternoon, and welcome to the investiture of Dr. Charles Robinson. What a great day.
I'd like to recognize and welcome members of the higher education community, inside the University of Arkansas System and from around the state, including University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. UA deans, vice chancellors and provosts — thank you all for being here today.
We also welcome delegates from other institutions. Representing Harvard University is our own Dr. Hugh Churchill, associate professor in the Department of Physics.
I also would like to welcome chancellors emeriti Dan Ferritor, John White and Dave Gearhart, who are joining us today.
The Board of Trustees is the governing board that oversees the University of Arkansas System. Today, we have a number of them with us celebrating this unique event. I'd like to introduce them to you at this time. The Honorable Morril Harriman — who is chairman of the board, Mrs. Kelly Eichler, Mr. Tommy Boyer, Mr. Steve Cox, Dr. Ed Fryar, Mr. Jeremy Wilson — I think he was joining us by YouTube, Col. Nate Todd and Mr. Kevin Crass. I would also like to mention that trustee Sheffield Nelson is joining us by YouTube livestream today, and former trustee Cliff Gibson was scheduled to be with us today, but unfortunately is not able to attend but sends his congratulations.
And, finally, I want to thank my colleagues, the Arkansas faculty, staff, students, alumni and all of our friends for your attendance today.
Dr. Robinson has served the University of Arkansas in many capacities over the past 35 years, including professor of history, director of the African American Studies Program, vice provost for diversity, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, provost and executive vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, and interim chancellor.
I've had the honor of participating in a number of these ceremonies across our campuses during my eleven years as president, and they always carry an air of optimism for what the future might bring. Sometimes the optimism is more aspirational than tangible, but that is not the case today. Today, here at the flagship campus, there's much, much to be excited about and to build upon. This university has not only grown in size and in quality, but the accomplishments of our entering student body continue to trend upward, as do our number of graduates and the quality and amount of scholarship produced by our distinguished faculty. The University of Arkansas is excelling in the classroom, in the laboratories, in the athletic arena and through our service to the public at large across the state. With major investments in programs like the School of Art, the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, the Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence and the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research, among many others, this institution is an institution on the move up. UA is leading the way for Northwest Arkansas and, indeed, for the entire state
And, yet, we are in the midst of a pivotal moment for this university. There is much to be proud about from our recent past, but also a great deal of potential for this institution to make further strides as the state's leading public research university. Into this moment steps Dr. Charles Robinson, who so capably led the university as interim chancellor before earning the permanent position just five months ago. I've known Charles for many years and had the pleasure of working with him at multiple levels of university administration. As we all know, he has a unique ability to inspire others to follow his lead, and to relate to the many different constituencies that make up this university community. Chancellor Robinson, let me let me be among the first to congratulate you on this very special day. I'm excited to see you cast this vision for this next phase of growth and development for this great campus, and I stand ready to support you as you see you seek to make that vision a reality — thank you.
But we all know it takes more than the leadership of a chancellor for a university to thrive. It is the students, the faculty and staff who determine the ultimate success or failure of an academic community. So, let us mark today as an occasion where we all renew our focus and our commitment to do our part to advance the mission of the University of Arkansas to serve our state by developing and disseminating knowledge, promoting cultural awareness and fostering economic development through teaching, research and service. Thank you.
I am very honored now to have the opportunity to introduce our new governor for the first time. Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders was inaugurated as Arkansas's 47th governor in January, and it's safe to say she has hit the ground running. The first woman to serve as governor of Arkansas and the youngest governor in the country, Governor Sanders has made education one of her top priorities, including through the recent passage of the Arkansas Learns Act, which represents a major investment in our state's K-12 educational system. Governor Sanders has also demonstrated a clear passion for moving our state forward in terms of workforce education. Please join me in welcoming our governor, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to the podium.
The Honorable Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you so much, and good afternoon.
Thank you, President Bobbitt and all of our University of Arkansas leadership, professors and students for being here. What an incredibly special occasion. I'm disappointed we don't have better weather and a home baseball game, but I still think we have a lot to be excited and cheer for. I usually look for any chance I can to come to Fayetteville and cheer on the Razorbacks. However, today is not about any sport or a game, but instead congratulating and cheering on Chancellor Charles Robinson. We're not just here to celebrate your new role — we are here to usher in a bold new chapter in Arkansas education.
The University of Arkansas has a special place for every Arkansan, even those of us who didn't get to attend this incredible place. Of course, the Arkansas Razorbacks certainly play a role in that excitement and enthusiasm for all Arkansans. But even more important than that are the investments that this school's leadership has made the past few decades in academics, career development and its student body.
Charles has been involved in all of that since he came to this school nearly 23 years ago. He's pioneered new ways to make Fayetteville accessible for low-income, first-generation Arkansans. He led the construction of a new residence hall, an expansion to the Pat Walker Health Center and the planning for this school's new Student Success Center. And he did all of that at the same time he was able to write several books and mentor countless students.
I've made education the focus of my governorship, and I'm glad that we have someone as dedicated as Charles taking over our flagship university. He and I are both laser focused on making sure that every Arkansan is on a path to prosperity and success, and I know that he and I will work hand in hand to make the University of Arkansas even more excellent and even more loved, not just in our state but across the country.
Charles, thank you for stepping up to take on this new role. And to the entire University of Arkansas community, thank you for welcoming your new chancellor with open arms. I know this isn't just the newest chapter in Fayetteville's history — I believe this could be our very best chapter yet. Thank you for being here to celebrate, and let me be the first on behalf of the state to congratulate you. We are excited about your leadership and know you will do a phenomenal job. Thank you so much, and go Hogs.
Now please welcome Chairman of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees Morril Harriman
The Honorable Morril Harriman
Good afternoon, everyone. Glad to see so many here for this very special occasion and, Governor, thank you for coming. Having the governor in attendance at any event certainly makes it even more special.
It is a great day for the investiture of Dr. Charles Robinson. Any day would be, but, Chancellor, I'm going to add a little personal note. It's a little bit even extra special for me because of the building we're in. 55 years ago, I walked through the back doors of this building. I stood in line — long lines with hundreds and hundreds of other people — trying to get my index card so I could get the first year schedule of my freshman year. I think a year, two years later, in the basement of this building, I was able to complete the course which I give credit to for what limited success I may have had in life. And, of course, that would be ballroom dancing. I had to get those six hours of fine arts somehow, and it wasn't a bad place to meet members of the opposite sex. So, anyway, this building, this campus, this university has special memories to me, and I'm very, very proud today to be part of the investure of a man who I know is going to continue to carry it forward.
You know, we're 150 years old now. Started with a single building, and we now have grown to one of the most diverse university systems in this country. We're proud to be here today at our flagship campus. We also we have a high school, we have two-year schools, we have four-year schools, we have two law schools — I know that's too many. We have an institution for medical learning, system of agriculture, our criminal justice system itself, archeology.
Each of us should be very, very proud to be part of this system, and I know I am. I know everyone in attendance today is very proud of this system. So, let's celebrate its seventh chancellor today. And going forth, remember the University of Arkansas System is one of the best assets this state has — I fully believe that, Governor. And it has assets that can move our people forward, and they can improve the quality of life of our people. Be glad you're part of it. Thank you.
Dr. Deacue Fields, Vice President of the University of Arkansas System’s Division of Agriculture, will now bring greetings.
Dr. Deacue Fields
Good afternoon. Governor Sanders, President Bobbitt, Trustee Harriman, Chancellor Robinson — today is indeed a special and historic day. I can only imagine what it means to Chancellor Robinson, as a historian, to make history and have his name in the U of A history books.
Although it's a historic day, today is really not about history. It's really about the future — the future of the University of Arkansas. Chancellor Robinson's legacy started long before November 16th, and the legacy that he leaves will be predicated on what he does to strengthen the University of Arkansas in the future. A future where the land-grant mission of serving the citizens of the state through research, education and extension outreach — that must serve as our guiding light.
The partnership between the University of Arkansas and the Division of Agriculture is essential for carrying out the research and extension missions that are the responsibilities that are given to us in this time. Because of our reach in every county, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture has to be a partner with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. So, a healthy partnership between these two entities would be vital to what we do. I'm going to confirm this with a Chancellor Robinson-style reference, and I'm going to take that reference from the 1988 hit song by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. And it says, “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it out of sight.” So, Chancellor Robinson, I want to confirm my commitment to making sure our partnership, or the impact of that partnership, goes right and that it's out of sight.
And I think over the past several months we've made great strides in repairing the breach. Chancellor Robinson approach has always been “let's find a win-win solution to what we do.” So, I'm excited and optimistic about where we'll go with this partnership, and look forward to leveraging our strengths and better serving the citizens of the state of Arkansas through this partnership. I know we must be intentional in our pursuits.
I'll close with the quote from Mahatma Gandhi that one of my mentors sent to me, and it says, “There are seven things that will destroy us: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, religion without sacrifice, politics without principle, science without humanity and business without ethics.” Congratulations, Chancellor.
Associated Student Government President Ms. Lauren Loften will now bring greetings on behalf of the undergraduate student body.
Ms. Lauren Loften
Good afternoon. It is an honor and a pleasure to participate in this historic event today. On behalf of undergraduate students at the University of Arkansas, I want to congratulate Chancellor Robinson on being appointed as our seventh chancellor. The Associated Student Government Senate recently passed a proclamation in support of Dr. Robinson; I would like to read it today because it encapsulates our sentiments perfectly.
“Since his start at the university as an assistant professor in 1999, Chancellor Robinson has served as a fierce champion for students, particularly Arkansans and students in need. Of the chancellor's accomplishments, what is closest to the heart of ASG Senate is the chancellor's commitment to the preferment of student body, and intimate involvement of student governing bodies in campus-wide decision making and his aspirational and inspirational dedication to the advancement of native Arkansans. The Associated Student Government Senate looks forward to working alongside Chancellor Robinson and his administration to make the University of Arkansas a more inclusive, formidable institution. We are honored to write this proclamation in Chancellor Charles Robinson's honor and celebrate what he does for the University of Arkansas.”
Chancellor Robinson, it has been a pleasure working with you this year. I know you will continue to be a staunch advocate for student success and a great teammate for ASG presidents for years to come. Congratulations, and thank you all.
Please welcome Dana McGee, President of the Graduate-Professional Student Congress, who brings greetings on behalf of the university's graduate and professional students.
Ms. Dana McGee
Good afternoon. My name is Dana McGee, and I am the President of the Graduate-Professional Student Congress. On behalf of the University of Arkansas’ graduate and law students, it's truly an honor to stand up here and witness this historical moment of the investiture of Dr. Charles Robinson as the University of Arkansas’ chancellor.
When I think of the characteristics that make a great leader, I think about five attributes: empathy, courage, dedication, cross-culture communication and strategic thinking and planning. Dr Robinson embodies all these characteristics, and much, much more. He has served as a mentor, advisor, counselor and guide to many on and off campus, and I am confident that he'll continue to make a positive impact on this institution. So, thank you, Chancellor Robinson, for all that you have done and will do for the University of Arkansas. You deserve this recognition and honor.
Dr. Stephen Caldwell, Faculty Senate Chair, will now bring greetings on behalf of the university's faculty members.
Dr. Stephen Caldwell
Chancellor Robinson, Governor and other distinguished guests, it is my distinct honor to bring greetings and enthusiastic support for Dr. Robinson to this, the investiture of our seventh chancellor on behalf of the faculty of the University of Arkansas.
This honor is truly special for me, and for our faculty as a whole, because Dr. Robinson is truly one of us. He was hired here as an assistant professor, he was tenured by the Department of History in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, he has served as a program director, he achieved promotion to full professor and he began his career as a campus administrator — all here at the U of A.
Though he never served as chair of the Faculty Senate — perhaps the only shortcoming on his extensive and impressive c.v. — the Senate, faculty leaders and the campus faculty at large offer our sincere congratulations, our full support and our shared hope in what the future holds for all of us here on The Hill. Thank you.
Now, Staff Senate Chair Mr. Roy Cordell will bring greetings from the university staff.
Mr. Roy Cordell
Honored guests and campus family, today it is my extraordinary privilege to bring greetings on behalf of the University of Arkansas staff.
This ceremony signifies a new beginning, a new era of possibility and a renewed commitment to all aspects of university life. As staff members, we recognize the pivotal role played by the chancellor in the success of our campus, and we are confident that Dr. Robinson's appointment is a clear indication of the upward movement of our university.
I would like to say three things.
Dr. Robinson — congratulations. Your commitment to our campus has never faltered. Your passion for our mission has never wavered. You are a true leader, and we are eager to continue our work with you.
To the faculty — we will continue to be here for you. Your devotion to teaching and research makes this place the exceptional campus that it is, and we will continue to support your efforts to the best of our abilities.
And to the students — you will probably never see many of us, behind the scenes as we are. But know this — you are the reason we show up every day. Your enthusiasm is infectious, your intellect remarkable and we're beyond excited to see what you do out in the world.
Thank you once again for this opportunity.
The Honorable Morril Harriman
By the power vested in me as Chairman of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, I hereby bestow upon Dr. Charles Robinson the title of Chancellor, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
Dr. Charles F. Robinson
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. You know, I sat there while I listened to people saying such nice things about me — I checked my pulse because usually you get those types of remarks long after you're gone.
I'm very grateful and — you know, Ted, Don didn't call your name and I want to correct the record and make sure we recognize our Board of Trustee member [Ted] Dickey.
Governor, thank you so much for taking the time to come. I know you're busy. I know we put in the request — I did not imagine that your schedule would allow you to make it. And I'm honored, the University of Arkansas is honored to have you here on our campus. So, thank you so much for coming.
And there are several members of our state delegation who are here — I would ask you to just stand so we can recognize you. Thank you.
I always remind people that the state is our largest donor — most consistent donor, as well — and the University of Arkansas is always very appreciative. Now, we'll take more…I just want you to know that we're appreciative of what you do for us and how you work to lead this state. And we're very grateful, and we're absolutely proud to be partners with you. Thank you so much for what you do.
And then they are just so many other people. The Board of Trustees members that Don has called out have been wonderful to me, and welcoming to me, and I am very, very grateful. And then I've got my team, my team that's been with me since August 16th — I go all the way back to that interim period — and how they believed in me, they worked with me. And some of the new team members that we've added, and the rest of the University of Arkansas Administration. The faculty, our students, our alums, the people who reached out to me. Mrs. Hunt, I see you there — she's been a champion for me. I just had…you know, I'm gonna get in trouble. I shouldn't call any names because I'm getting in trouble. But there are simply no words at all that will fully capture my gratitude to this university for the support that I have received from the very day that I became interim chancellor — August 16, 2021.
I have had an outpouring of support, and you stayed with me and I will forever be grateful to you for believing in me and working with me so that we can help move this university to higher heights. As I said, there are no words that I could say that are adequate. But I am grateful, and I'm thankful for your support and I promise that you will always, every day, get the very best of me.
Now Reynelda would probably — you know, I'm going to get in trouble because I'm going to ask her to stand. Where is she? There she is — she's hiding in the back. I know that if I ask Reynelda to say a few words this special day would be my last day. I know that she is very, very grateful to each and every one of you for the outpouring of support as well.
I am not going to speak long. Every day I come on this campus, I have the great privilege of engaging the campus community. And this day is great — it really is. I mean, it's nice to see banners with your name on them hanging from Greek houses. I mean — come on, man. And then you go to a party — and the party is about you. And the students want to take selfies with you, take pictures with you — it’s awesome. But I'm gonna tell you this — and I don't mean it to brag — it happens every day. I walk this campus, and students stop me and they introduce themselves to me. I see my baby boy, Camden — I didn't know he was coming. That's not good — it could be trouble. They stop me, they want to talk to me, they introduce themselves. When I go to Hill Coffee, the students who work behind the counter, they talk to me. They say, “Chancellor, I know you want your regular — your large coffee with two percent milk and your banana bread.” And then when I go to Fulbright dining and I sit down, students continue to introduce themselves. They come over, and they say “hello.” And then staff will come and interrupt my lunch — because they know that's okay — to tell me that we've got visitors on campus that I need to come and greet, and say “hello” to. I said, “Man, I've got it going on! This is my campus!”
Every single day I feel the energy, and the power and the connection that I've always wanted to build with this campus. And again, I'm so grateful to you for your continued support.
This ceremony has made me a bit nostalgic. I remember coming here in February of 1999 for the very first time. I traveled here as a guest, invited by the history department to come and do a Black history program talk. And Jeannie Whayne — who I believe is here, there she is — she picked me up at the airport, and she drove me down Highway 112. Now, I'm a city boy. And I was looking around for the neighborhoods, and I wanted I wanted to see people. And I saw a lot of farmland. And a lot of cows. And llamas. And I was asking myself, “Where are the Big Macs? And the McDonald's? And the fast food places?” And then I was listening to the radio. And I heard a lot of country tunes, but I didn't hear much R&B and Hip Hop. Never would I have imagined that almost a quarter-century later, I would be here in this position, for this purpose, at this moment.
Having worked so much of my career as a professor of American history, I have long known that moments matter. In fact, for much of my career, my job — whether through teaching, research or writing — was to convey to others the profound meaning behind important moments.
I've helped students better understand Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. That, although it was two minutes long, it transformed the purpose of the Civil War from one with a strict focus on maintaining the Union to one which highlighted the opportunity for this nation to usher in a new birth of freedom.
Roosevelt's inaugural address reflected his attempt to use the moment to restore confidence in the American economy, despite the ravages of the Great Depression, by underscoring that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror that paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Dr. King's “I Have a Dream” speech was a historical moment in which King reminded people of the promissory note that was established for all Americans with the formulation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, guaranteeing rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And although this nation had failed for centuries to live up to its vaunted promises, King still had the belief, the dream that one day we would live in a nation where people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
These were just a few of the myriad of historical moments that I have had the privilege of helping students derive meaning from, in order that they might better understand the complexity of the society in which they live. But now, in my position as chancellor, the seventh chancellor — I kinda like the way that sounds — I realized that my responsibility with regards to the moments has changed. Now my principal purpose has moved from understanding and conveying the meaning of moments to purposely and intentionally creating them. My task as chancellor is to foster and facilitate an atmosphere on this campus that better ensures that every member of our community can experience those magical moments that will prove to be positively transformative and empowering.
Now, that's a monumental task — creating meaningful, and powerful and magical moments. And how do I propose to do it? By emphasizing two salient points.
First: no person can make magical moments alone. Chancellors need the help of the entire campus community, as well as that of our alums, and external constituents in industry and politics. We must work together to create magical moments in the classroom. We must work together to create magical moments in cleanrooms and labs. We must work together to provide our students with internships and career-related opportunities. Let us work together to better connect research and discovery to commercialization, so that businesses and industry will prosper. Let us work together to better ensure that no student — particularly an Arkansas student — who demonstrates the ability and the grit necessary to attain a degree is denied that opportunity simply because he or she cannot afford the cost of attendance.
Second: we must always remember who we are and why we are. We are proudly a land-grant institution in the great state of Arkansas. In everything that we do, we must place a passion for our mission at the center of our operation. With every hire, with every policy, every program, development, every budget decision — we must remember that our primary purpose is to improve the lives of every Arkansan. As we develop better Student Success initiatives and facilitate a stronger sense of belonging, let us focus on creating magical moments for students from places like Pine Bluff, Mena, Forest City, Blytheville, Paragould and Camden. As we enhance our research excellence and community support, let us be drivers of research-related moments and economic gains for towns like Helena, West Memphis, Dumas, Newport, El Dorado and Hope. As we augment resources and develop policies to better support employees on our campus, let us do so from the premise that the students and the state of Arkansas deserve our best, therefore we must hire and retain the best talent possible.
In closing — two of my favorite words — I am fully aware that, in the execution of my responsibilities, there will be many, many difficult days ahead. The challenges that affect our institution and our state are significant and omnipresent. However, I am fully committed to our mission, and I am thoroughly energized by our purpose. For decades, I have witnessed the awesome power and affinity that Razorback Nation has for our beloved institution. I was here under the leadership of Chancellor John White, when the university created a first-class Honors College and numerous endowed professorships in order to make the university attractive to more of the top students in our state and to faculty throughout the nation. I was here under the leadership of Chancellor Dave Gearhart, when the university experienced explosive enrollment growth and first became classified as a Research 1 University. I was here under the leadership of Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, when the university made significant improvements in retention and graduation rates, established a world-class School of Art and began laying a stronger research and commercialization foundation with the establishment of I³R. And now — I am still here.
I am here counting on you to not only help me continue building on these important past successes, but to further transform our beloved institution into the preeminent land-grant that lifts while it rises, strengthens while it builds, trains while it educates, empowers while it inspires. I firmly believe that, together, we can overcome the Great Depression of poor degree attainment and usher in a New Deal for higher educational opportunity for our state. Together, we can hew out of the mountain of educational despair many precious and magical moments of hope. Together, we can rally in support of our land-grant mission to better ensure that this state and this nation under God shall have a new birth of higher educational freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth. Thank you.
Congratulations, Chancellor Robinson. Thank you all for joining us. That concludes today's investiture. Please join us in the lobby for a reception hosted by Greek Life.