Words of admiration and promise filled the Loker Student Union Grand Ballroom as California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) celebrated the investiture of President Thomas A. Parham on Feb. 8.
The afternoon ceremony was attended by nearly 450 faculty, staff, students, political figures, and notable community members. Parham delivered his inaugural address after being formally installed as president by California State University (CSU) Chancellor, Timothy P. White and CSU Board of Trustee Chair, Adam Day. He reflected on the power of higher education in society, and CSUDH’s role, in particular, in helping shape the lives of the students and the communities it serves.
“The theme for my inauguration is ‘Transforming Lives that Transform America.’ That theme is both a reflection of what this campus has historically done in impacting students’ lives, and a promise of what we will continue to do in the years ahead,” said Parham. “This theme speaks to the essence of the human condition to both ‘be’ and ‘become,’ in the context of the transformative possibilities of the human spirit.”
Parham’s remarks were preceded by a spirited program featuring words from a diverse gathering of friends, colleagues, and spiritual leaders.
CSU Board of Trustees member, Wenda Fong served as the investiture emcee and provided the welcome remarks for the ceremony, which were followed by a processional of visiting university and CSUDH faculty and administrators led in to music by the CSUDH Jazz Band, and an invocation by Reverend Mark Whitlock of Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church.
The investiture keynote speaker was Ohio State University’s president Michael V. Drake, who also served for nine years as chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, where Parham worked closely with him as his vice chancellor of student affairs.
“Dr. Parham is actually a great example to the broader community of how one can remain true to one’s values, true to oneself, and still succeed in this competitive world,” Drake recognized. “In fact, I’d like to think that one can succeed in this competitive world precisely because one does stay true to one’s values, and this is one of those occasions that good guys do finish first.”
Laura Talamante, CSUDH’s Academic Senate chair and associate professor of history, provided greetings and thanks on behalf of the university’s faculty.
“President Parham will be a fighter for CSUDH—standing up for us, continuing progress made to change inequitable CSU funding formulas of the past,” said Talamante. “Thank you for demonstrating how deeply you care about the quality of our students’ educational experience, including the structures where learning and personal growth take place. I know you will not be satisfied until every building on campus is a space that properly supports our amazing students, staff, faculty, and administrators.”
Ellie Perry, the university’s sustainability coordinator, spoke on behalf of CSUDH’s staff members. She likened members of the staff to prize fighters who are “champions in their own right, but with instincts and abilities that we all share.”
“Our university only employs about 1,000 full-time staff members, but collectively we do the job of universities three or four times our size in providing benefit to the communities that we serve,” Perry said. “And when you look at our accolades, you’ll see we stand toe-to-toe with the best universities in the nation for our diversity and creating upward mobility for our students, alumni, and their families. So Dr. Parham, be sure to grab your reusable water bottle, your mouth piece, and gloves because we welcome you to our fight for our faculty and students’ success. You are now our champion, and we are in your corner.”
Christian Jackson, president of Associated Students, Inc., endorsed Parham on behalf of the student body with “immense anticipation” for the university’s new president. “Since the day Dr. Parham arrived, students, faculty, and staff are all now finding themselves at the table having conversations about what our students specifically need to be successful academically and in life.”
CSUDH alumna Maria Villa (’82, B.S., business administration), an attorney and partner in the Law Offices of Lathrop & Villa, offered remarks on behalf of the alumni and the university’s Philanthropic Foundation Board. She called the university a “springboard that propelled me forward to succeed.”
“The foundation I received here allowed me to become a leader in my profession, including being elected the first Hispanic attorney to serve on the California State Bar Board of Governors,” Villa shared. “So my fellow Toros! Let’s follow president Parham’s lead in transforming our university. With your degree from Cal State Dominguez Hills, you will not only transform your lives, you will transform our country into a better place for all!”
Day represented the board at the investiture. He called the selection of a campus president to be the trustees’ most important role.
“My first official campus visit upon being appointed to the board was CSU Dominguez Hills. I purposefully made that decision because the story and fabric of this campus and community is not just special – it is critical to the success of the entire state of California,” Day said. “Dr. Parham impressed the selection committee and the trustees with his history of working with students from diverse backgrounds, his commitment and passion to student achievement, and his deep connections in the community. We have great faith and confidence in his ability to be the leader CSU Dominguez Hills needs.”