Kenneth R. Evans was invested as Lamar University’s 15th president on Thursday, Nov. 7, calling on students and faculty in his inaugural address to recognize the strengths of the university’s heritage while also seeking to invent a promising new future.
The investiture ceremony began with a procession of University faculty, deans and distinguished guests, followed by congratulatory remarks from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community. They included Representative Joe Deshotel, Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames, faculty senate president Barbara Hernandez, student government president Charity Ogbeide, Alumni Advisory Board president Vernon Durden, and LU Foundation President Joe Domino.
Prior to the inaugural address, Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall served as emcee as Evans was presented several symbols of office. Texas State University System Regent David Montagne presented Evans with the presidential robe, President Emeritus James Simmons presented the presidential medallion, and TSUS Regent Bill Scott presented the presidential mace. Texas State University Board of Regents Chairman Donna Williams then installed Evans as president.
Before his address, Evans praised Jonathan Blake, a master’s student in music, who composed a trumpet fanfare for the occasion. “I am both humbled by this gracious gesture, and grateful that Lamar University is fortunate enough to have this talented young man in our music school,” Evans said.
Out of respect for the many deaf members of the audience and in recognition of LU’s world-known programs in deaf studies and deaf education, Evans chose to sign a portion of his speech personally.
“As much as I am affected by the ceremony attached to today’s event,” Evans signed, “it pales in comparison to my excitement about the prospects for Lamar University and its students, faculty and staff. This is a day when we celebrate the legacy of Lamar and its opportunities for inventing what promises to be an exceptional future.”
Evans, who discovered his passion for teaching as an adjunct professor, feels “lucky that the choices and decisions I have made that place me before you today have contributed to a life full of rich experiences with many opportunities yet to come.”
“This campus, and more broadly, higher education, will experience unprecedented growth in the next few decades,” Evans said as he considers the population growth in Texas. “As it (Lamar) grows, it must do so recognizing the strengths of its heritage while also seeking to assert itself in inventing its promising future.”
Recognizing the position of Southeast Texas as an energy hub for the nation, Evans sees the university playing an even more dynamic role in the nation’s energy future.
“With so much of the nation’s refining taking place in Southeast Texas, our presence in the provision of skilled engineers, environmental scientists, excellent consultants and cutting-edge research makes us the ‘go to’ resource for the energy industry,” Evans said.
“That is not all,” he said. “We also educate educators by offering the largest online platform for masters and doctorates in education of any university in the state of Texas. Add to this our highly regarded programs in speech and hearing science and deaf studies, business, nursing and assorted other programs and one can readily see why Lamar University is so attractive.”
“We confront a future where growth will be inevitable, demands on institutional quality will never be higher, the global community will continue to close in around us, and technology will connect us in ways we have yet to imagine,” he said. “To embrace the reality of tomorrow, we must reinvent ourselves and find new ways to continue to do so.”
Evans shared his own journey as a first-generation college student in his family and encouraged faculty, staff, parents, family members and mentors to encourage like students in their pursuit of their degree. “Each student you encourage will be forever grateful as I am today,” he said.
After the processional march, Evans and his wife, Nancy, greeted well wishers at a public reception in the Montagne Center before heading off to his duties as the newly installed president of the university, chiefly helping host the regular meeting of the TSUS Board of Regents on the campus that evening and the following day.
— Lamar University press release