Moving Mountains

The campus community comes together for the installation of seventh Chancellor Mary K. Grant

The campus community, Asheville neighbors, local and state legislators, university delegates, and friends and family of Chancellor Mary K. Grant ventured to the Blue Ridge Mountains this fall, all to attend the Chancellor Installation Ceremony on Sept. 19, 2015. But the week was about much more than just one person. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and university supporters served on committees and volunteered for events. Even more showcased their work by speaking on panels, sharing research, singing as part of our community choir, planting a flag for a student organization, making a special ice cream flavor, and showing how we will change the world—together. That theme brought everyone together in the mountains—looking forward and looking up.

“UNC Asheville’s motto translates to ‘I lift my eyes to the mountains,’” said Chancellor Grant in her installation address. “And as I lift my eyes to the mountains, this is what I see. This is my challenge for all of us—a call to our collective action that we will continue to produce an educated, enlightened citizenry. … We are and will continue to be a partner in the innovation and creativity that are essential to a strong city, and to a strong and vibrant region. We will contribute to economic, civic, intellectual, cultural and social development through education, and advance both the development and application of knowledge.”

The installation ceremony for UNC Asheville’s seventh chancellor was the culmination of a week focused on creativity, collaboration across disciplines, community, and a whole lot of fun. Activities included concerts, literary readings, “Change the World” student projects, stargazing, ice cream on the Quad (featuring Espresso No. 7 made in honor of Chancellor Grant by The Hop), and much more. Installation also coincided with Family Weekend, welcoming parents and students to learn more about their new chancellor at the ceremony.

“Over the course of the week, it gives us an opportunity to talk about who we are, to think about where we’ve been, to imagine where we are going—and to do that together,” Chancellor Grant said at the start of Installation Week. “The events are thoughtful, creative and fun. It reflects who we are.”

Across the Arts and Sciences

Stargazing at Lookout ObservatoryUNC Asheville’s Lookout Observatory, a partnership with the Astronomy Club of Asheville and a regular haunt for amateur astronomers in the area, hosted a special guided viewing of the moon, star clusters and planets.

“We have people of all ages come to these events, kids as young as six and folks as old as 70 and 80 and everywhere in between,” said Brian Hart ’11, a UNC Asheville alumnus and administrative assistant for the Physics Department. “So you get people from all over town coming up there wanting to learn something, wanting to look through the telescope. It really brings people together.

“I enjoy being a part of something that is so alive and so vibrant,” he continued. “It has really struck a chord with the folks not only at UNC Asheville, but with the community.”

Over in the Art Department, student Sarah Adams shared a raku ceramic firing demonstration.

“This firing in particular requires hands, and without the participation of all of our people in our studio, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Adams explained. Raku involves firing glazed pots in a kiln and then quickly moving them, while they’re still glowing hot, into a steel can full of sawdust and paper. The resulting flames are impressive, as are the beautiful colors and patterns of the glazes on the finished pots.Raku ceramic firing demonstration

“People get the chance to watch us all working in harmony and really see that even though you can make stuff in this studio independently, it takes a team to make a fire and to get it complete,” Adams said. “The education experience is really enhanced by all of our knowledge, collectively.”

The Literature and Language Department offered a reading from faculty, students and alumni, dubbed “The Next Chapter,” and joined with Health and Wellness Promotion and Biology to share news from undergraduate research projects. Faculty from the Music Department brought their talents to the stage for a Friday night Concert on the Quad.

Around the Nation

True to the liberal arts spirit, speakers from a variety of fields, institutions, and cultures came together to welcome Chancellor Grant, including Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, North Carolina State Senator Terry Van Duyn, and Terri Henry ‘87, tribal council chair of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. Thomas W. Ross, president of the University of North Carolina system, led the ceremony.

“In Mary Grant, you have gained a leader who personifies what UNC Asheville is all about,” said Ross. “She is absolutely passionate about the enduring value of the liberal arts and improving lives and communities through higher education. And after just nine months in the role, she has already demonstrated the creativity, commitment, and boundless energy that will be required to be an outstanding Chancellor and advocate for this institution and the people it serves.”

Chancellor Grant getting sworn in during the installation ceremony with husband, Jim Canavan (right).Les Purce, president of The Evergreen State College, UNC Asheville honorary degree recipient in 2009, and a longtime colleague and friend of Chancellor Grant’s, delivered the installation address. After working with Chancellor Grant for over a decade to advance the mission of the public liberal arts education through the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, Purce offered his insights into her priorities: “Here is what I know about Mary. These thoughts: Stay close to the students and keep them first. Build deep relationships. Trust and support the people you work with every day. Have fun. Listen, and consider a broad range of advice. Be patient and take the long view.”

That view starts from the mountains that surround UNC Asheville, and it’s a familiar post for Chancellor Grant. Prior to accepting the position, Grant served as chancellor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Massachusetts for 12 years. She moved nearly 900 miles from one end of the Appalachian Mountains to the other, joining UNC Asheville in January 2015, with nine months of hard work leading to the official installation. 

In the Campus Community

Exhibits during Installation Week chronicled the campus history, and weeklong events focused on the next generation with an afterschool supply donation drive collecting enough pencils and paper to meet the needs of five local partners for the year. Composting during the campus picnic following the ceremony reduced the waste from the event to a single bag. Those efforts go a long way in the community too, and that resonated as the theme for the week.

The community celebrates with a picnic on the Quad

“This installation is less about me—it is about UNC Asheville, this relatively young institution,” Chancellor Grant said in her installation address. “I take the helm of this outstanding university atan exciting time but also at a time of uncertainty. We face a future of unknowns as well as opportunities. We do understand a bit better now the challenges that we brought with us from the 20th century: the challenge of climate change, of global inequality and global conflict, the ongoing challenges of race, class and gender, the challenges of hunger, poverty, ignorance and disease. But we do not face these challenges unarmed. … In fact, our most powerful tool in taking on these challenges is right here—the combination of optimistic, courageous, bright hardworking students and a university of liberal arts with a faculty and staff ready, willing and able to take on the task of preparing the next generation. … In just a couple of years, we will admit a class of students, nearly all of whom will have been born in this rapidly changing, fast-moving 21st century. The future is now and I say that we are ready. I know we are producing the graduates that our future demands.

“UNC Asheville’s motto translates to ‘I lift my eyes to the mountains.’ We will lift our eyes, our minds, our hearts, our passions, our hopes, our dreams, our intellect and apply all to a common good. And we will do these things together and with intention.”

Staff Writers Amber Abunassar '16, Hannah Epperson '11, and Casey Hulme '05 contributed to this story.