NCC Inaugurates New President

By Katherine Noll
October 04, 2012

Dr. Mark Erickson was sworn in as Northampton Community College's fourth president on October 4,Dr. Mark Erickson 2012.  Erickson began his presidency on July 1 after spending the past 7 years as president of Wittenberg University.

A Weeklong Celebration 
Dr. Erickson's inauguration ceremony was the highlight of a week of events to celebrate Northampton Community College's 45th anniversary- events that included the President's Tennis Challenge, Official 45th Anniversary Celebration for Students, Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Alumni Awards Mixer, and the Community Fabric Awards.

A Warm, Community Welcome
Five hundred guests were on hand for the inauguration consisting of students, faculty, staff, delegates from other colleges and universities, local business leaders and politicians, and community members. The Liberty High School Grenadier Fanfare Team and Pipes and Drums added excitement as well as pomp and circumstance to the proceedings as they accompanied the processional and recessional. NCC's Community Chorus performed the National Anthem before Dr. Charles Rinehimer, professor of biology and master of ceremonies, began the program. Robert Fehnel, vice chairman of the NCC Board of Trustees, welcomed the audience.

Representing the local business community, Steven Follett, president of Follett Corporation and a close friend of Erickson's for over 20 years, said "NCC is a wonderful resource. It fills the needs of the business community in need of the skills offered to students, our future employees, and training for our current employees."

William D. Adams, president of Colby College, offered greetings on behalf of colleges and universities from across the country, proclaiming, "Today, an institution celebrates an important anniversary as it welcomes a capable and inspiring new leader. What could be better?"

As president of the NCC Alumni Association, Scott Raab '92 imparted how much the Association was looking forward to working with Erickson. "We have your back," he said. "We're here to help you write a new, successful chapter in our history. Our community college is in wonderful hands."

"I am proud to say I am a Northampton Community College student,"  Timothy Semonich, chairperson of the Student Senate said. "I don't daydream about the size of my house or how much money I'm going to make. I daydream about how I am going to change the world," he told Erickson. "You are not only a president; you are a gardener who will grow people. You are also a foreman, working in a factory of dreams. And you are a sergeant in the war against ignorance."

Dr. Vasiliki Anastaskos, professor of political science and Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in 2009, lauded Erickson as a person of vision, ingenuity, and courage who would collaborate with faculty in order to address the future needs of our students and community.

In a time of economic crisis, Dr. John Leiser, associate professor of biology and Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in 2011, said that the NCC's "strengths and resources make it ready to face those challenges with you as president."

Beloved third president Dr. Arthur Scott brought well-wishes from the first NCC president, Dr. Richard Richardson, and the second, Dr. Robert Kopecek, before offering Erickson his own welcome. "I was delighted when you were chosen to be the next president of Northampton. Delighted because I know of your values, I know how you have lived your life, a life filled with acts of kindness and care for others," Scott said before commenting on how student-centric Erickson is. "NCC is a strong institution that got stronger when you were named president."

Karl Stackhouse, chairman of the NCC Board of Trustees, then swore in Erickson as the fourth president of NCC.

From Challenge Comes Opportunity
After sharing how honored, humbled and excited he was to be selected as NCC's fourth president, opportunity is what Erickson seized on in his inaugural address.  Higher education is facing declining public resources, "reducing the state's share of the budget and the school district's ability to support the college at the very time when more students than ever find themselves unable to afford tuition because they or family members are out of work. This perfect storm could result in more students being excluded from higher education than at any time in recent history. We simply cannot let that happen. In fact, part of what brought me here was my firm belief that the most innovative, exciting, and important work of the next decade will happen at places like Northampton."

Erickson described his goal of seeing NCC as nothing less than the finest community college in the country, not for glory or ego, but "because it will ensure we are making the greatest difference in this community and the lives of our students." He plans to build on the strong foundation put in place by Scott, Kopecek and Richardson to achieve this dream.

"Faced with a changing and challenging landscape, various colleges will choose to navigate these times differently. Some will hunker down like a driver in heavy traffic putting on the brakes," Erickson said. "But others like us will make tough decisions, go further with less fuel and invest strategically, finding new routes in the face of traffic jams and passing others by."

In closing, Erickson reiterated why he wanted the job of president of NCC. "The work we do is important work, inspiring work. I have worked in education for 35 years and have felt blessed every moment, but I have never been more motivated or focused than I feel here at NCC. The impact of what we do is palpable every single day. Thank you for providing me this opportunity. Thank you for your welcome and thank you for what each of you will do to support this college 'of the community.' "

Erickson's brother, Reverend Dr. Robert C. Erickson, gave the invocation as well as the benediction at the inauguration.

"It's a courageous president that allows his brother to have the final word," he said, drawing a big laugh from the crowd. "He has been bragging about Northampton so much that John [Erickson's other brother] and I had to come and see you all for ourselves."

After the recessional, visitors were invited to an outdoor reception.

Watch highlights from the inaugural ceremony in this YouTube video.

Watch a slideshow of photos from this event on Flickr.

Read Sara Satullo's article about the inauguration in The Express-Times.

Watch video of Erickson's inauguration and view photos at The Morning Call's website.

View WFMZ's coverage here.

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