Caldwell, N.J., Oct. 23, 2021 – Caldwell University celebrated the inauguration of its ninth president, Matthew Whelan, Ed.D. on Oct. 22.
The ceremony honored the legacy of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell and the rich heritage entrusted to Dr. Whelan’s leadership. President Whelan shared his vision for the University in his inaugural address: “One Mission, Infinite Possibilities.”
Sixteen months after he assumed the presidency, the campus community was thrilled to finally give President Whelan a formal in-person installation. Dr. Whelan expressed his gratitude to his family, the community, and supporters, calling this year his “second first year, a year which will be defined by infinite possibilities.”
Recognizing the challenging times, he pledged the collective efforts of the community for student success “with a degree in the hand and a job on the line. To our students, we owe you that. That will be our commitment to you.” He spoke of the great importance of helping students move through today’s challenges into a brighter future. “A future, students, filled with infinite possibilities, for you, for your families and for society.
“We bring many people here from different communities in New Jersey, from around the world to form a community based on respect, integrity, community, and excellence,” said Dr. Whelan, the University’s first male lay president.
Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said, “Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world.” He continued, “So here’s what we are going to do. We are going put on our tool belts. We are going to pursue that goal with all of the creativity and energy we have…and we’re going to start now. I commit that to you today as I take the reins and stand on the shoulders of giants…as we protect the legacy and build the future defined by infinite possibilities.”
The Master of Ceremonies was Peter Ubertaccio, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs.
Greetings were offered by Sister Luella Ramm ‘74, O.P., prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell; New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver; Carlos Pomares ‘93, vice president of the Essex County Board of Commissioners; Sister Donna Ciangio ‘71 O.P., D.Min., chancellor of the Archdiocese of Newark; Fran DePalma-Iozzi, councilwoman for the Borough of Caldwell; Steve Reynolds, Esq., president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of New Jersey; Linda Luciano ‘78, Ed.D., chair of the Board of Trustees; Elaine Zabriskie ‘73, president of the Alumni Board; Benjamin Lammers, president of the Faculty Council and professor of history; Andrei St. Felix ‘13, director of EOF representing the Caldwell staff and Samantha Guerra ‘22, student government president. Samantha Ashton ‘22, a psychology and English major, read her original poem, “To Be a Caldwell Cougar.”
Dr. Whelan’s eldest daughter, Sarah Whelan, surprised her father by singing the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.
The Investiture of the Presidential Chain of Office was delivered by Luciano. The Charter of Caldwell University was presented by Brian Aloia, Esq., vice chair of the Board.
Former president Nancy H. Blattner, Ph.D., who served Caldwell from 2009 to 2020, passed the mace, the traditional symbol of leadership and authority, to President Whelan.
David A. Armstrong, J.D., president of St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida, introduced President Whelan, his friend dating back to their days as undergraduate students at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. “We have a responsibility. We have to build bridges…we need bridge builders and Matt is the best bridge builder I know.”
The mace bearer was Natural Sciences Department professor and Caldwell’s longest currently serving faculty member Marguerite Kenney ‘71., Ph.D.
The benediction was given by Sister Mary John Kearney, O.P., professor emerita of education and member of the Caldwell Board of Trustees.
In celebration of Caldwell’s diverse student population, several international students processed in their cultural attire.
Also in attendance were several presidents and delegates from other colleges and universities, Caldwell faculty, staff, students, alumni, Board of Trustee members, and community leaders.
The music was provided by the Caldwell University wind ensemble under the direction of Rebecca Vega.
In the morning, the community gathered for a Mass. The main celebrant was Bishop Manuel Cruz of the Archdiocese of Newark. The concelebrants were Msgr. Robert Emery, Rev. Jim Manos, Father Andrew Njoku, Father Tom Dente, and Father Bob Stagg. In his homily, Bishop Cruz spoke about the Sisters of St. Dominic and told Dr. Whelan to remember that “you will stand on the shoulders of great giants, and they are here,” acknowledging the Sisters in attendance. Bishop Cruz said Dr. Whelan was “a man called to be a servant leader.”
The Mass, Bishop Cruz said, was being said for Dr. Whelan’s intentions and in gratitude that he was chosen to be a servant leader. He encouraged all those gathered to remember that if their ministry is not about service then “you are missing the boat…you are not being authentic or real.”
The Caldwell University chorale, under the direction of Professor Laura Greenwald, provided the music for the Mass.