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Inauguration Celebrates a New Era with President Pardis Mahdavi

President Pardis Mahdavi

On a beautiful fall afternoon, anticipation filled the air as hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, esteemed guests, and friends gathered to inaugurate the University of La Verne’s 19th president, Pardis Mahdavi, PhD., and celebrate the institution’s core values, collective impact, and commitment to bridging educational excellence, equality, and innovation with the region and beyond. 

The event, held on the historic campus in the City of La Verne on October 15, 2023, featured community, culture, and collected thoughts on the university’s impact in the next era. 

“It’s a great time for the University of La Verne,” said Chairman of the Board of Trustees Anthony Revier, ’93, welcoming the community.

A university president not only leads an institution forward. They represent what the institution stands for – its mission, its values, its purpose for being. When a new president takes the helm, it’s a moment for all university stakeholders to come together as one cohesive community, to remember what connects us all and what drives us forward. On behalf of the entire University of La Verne community, we welcome you, President Madavi, with enthusiasm and excitement, your leadership promises a bright future for our university going forward.

Members of the Wolf Creek Pass Indigenous provided a native Tongva tribal drumming ceremony, specifically called the women’s song, to grant Mahdavi spiritual blessings. The sound of the beating drum and chants helped make everyone feel present.  Later, Versa Style Dance Company, a hip-hop group, came out to perform on the stage. The crowd learned that President Mahdavi was once a hip-hop dancer, and shares a deep passion for cultures and art. 

More speakers came to the podium to share their collective thoughts. Jad Abumrad, a MacArthur fellow and producer and former host for Radiolab, shared how he finds solace in President Mahdavi’s words to “own your narrative” even when times get tough. Other speakers like Anthony Tirado Chase, professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College, Elizabeth Chin, American Anthropologist editor-in-chief  and media design professor, and Mariko Silver, the Henry Luce Foundation president and CEO , shared personal stories of how knowing Mahdavi made them faithful in a brighter, more inclusive, future with her at the leadership helm. 

“Pardis doesn’t rearrange furniture, she moves mountains,” Chin said about Mahdavi’s ability to dismantle unjust practices wherever she leads. 

At 5 p.m., the installation of the president began and a hush fell amongst the crowd.  An introduction to the installation was given by Scott Brooks, Global Sport Institute director and sociology professor at Arizona State University. He shared how important it is for leaders to embrace change and learn how to truly help others, especially students. 

Mahdavi was poised as she was sworn into oath of office by alumna Lisa Rogan, JD ’01, assistant presiding judge for the San Bernardino Justice Center.  Everyone in the audience and on-stage roared with applause and the newly inaugurated president smiled humbly with family by her side on-stage. 

During her inaugural address, Mahdavi shared her journey, weaved into a tapestry of storytelling on how she got to where she is today and how owning her narrative helped shape her future. She acknowledged the legacy of her predecessors and the support of faculty and staff who have helped build a thriving educational institution.  

She outlined her commitment to fostering a safe space for all learners and leaders, encouraging diverse collaboration and thought, and fostering academic excellence for this new era of Leopards, capturing the hearts of those in attendance. She did not shy away from the hard truths about the state of higher education and how statistics showed 40% of Americans believed higher education wasn’t a valuable use of time, let alone money. 

“Fewer Americans eligible to be educated, ever fewer wanting to be. Amounted to a possibility of 25% less educated America. Seen correctly, this is a national security crisis. This is a threat to our democracy.,” she said. “But there is hope. There is the University of La Verne.” 

She ended by sharing how she sees her calling as president as an answered call to “be a bridge” within the space between identities. 

“As your president, I say we are home because we have all answered the call and are standing on this bridge together,” Mahdavi said. 

As her inaugural speech drew to a close, the audience erupted into applause, a symbol of support and excitement for the journey ahead. An interfaith blessing rounded out the event held by Reverend Amanda Bennett, La Verne Church of the Brethren, Tahil Sharma ’16 , United Religions Initiative, Soheila Azizi ’93, Baha’i Faith Communities of Inland Valley, and Rev. Everett Bell Jr., Bethel Monrovia African Methodist Episcopal Church. 

The choir ended the celebrations by singing the university’s alma mater. Guests left the tent inspired and with the smooth sounds from the Latin Jazz Trio. A reception followed the proceedings under the sunsetting autumn sky where students, faculty, and distinguished guests mingled, celebrating the spirit of unity and progress that President Mahdavi had instilled. Guests enjoyed contemporary dance troop Xpressions Dance Ensemble of ULV, and some dancing of their own. A toast with the newly inaugurated president helped end a very festive and auspicious night. 

See more highlights of the event: