“Brompton,” Troy Paino said to the crowd gathered Friday at the University of Mary Washington to witness his inauguration, “is now my home.”
And in the waking moments there, Paino said, “I find my meaning in the work we do together and in those I love. We are in the business of hope, in the belief that every human being has the freedom and power to change at any instant and join forces with others to change the world for better. That is the last thought I have before I sleep.”
The historic mansion where UMW’s presidents live “once stood on the battlefield but is now on the campus of UMW,” he said.
In his inaugural address Friday, UMW’s 10th president detailed the history of house and the school—which he said always rises to meet the social challenges of the day—in the way only a historian could: with facts, candor and acknowledgement of his sources.
Among those sources of inspiration are campus members like Cedric Rucker, the dean of student life, who Paino said “is the embodiment of UMW’s era of integration;” Professor Colin Rafferty, whose book “Hallow This Ground” Paino quoted; and the family and friends who came out in droves to support him.
Every seat in Dodd Auditorium was taken, with about 900 people attending the event. Some of those seats, he noted, were for his parents, now in their 90s; his best friend since kindergarten; and his friend, Craig Phelps, the president of A.T. Still University in Arizona. And, of course, his family, wife Kelly and daughters Sophia and Chloe, were in the crowd, along with new friends he has made here in Fredericksburg.
The 54-year-old detailed how each of them has impacted his life and how people and presidents past have impacted the life of UMW.
The crowd also heard from House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell; Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw; Xavier Richardson, executive vice president at Mary Washington Healthcare; UMW Alumni Association President Angela Mills; University Faculty Council Chair Anand Rao; Staff Advisory Council Chairwoman Julie Smith; SGA Vice President Ethan Carter and Phelps.
Retired Circuit Court Judge J. Martin Bass administered the oath of office. Former UMW President Rick Hurley bestowed the presidential chain of office, and UMW Rector Fred Rankin officially welcomed Paino to UMW.
Paino became president in July 2016 after the school conducted a nationwide search for its next president after Hurley announced his retirement.
UMW has weathered a period of upheaval in recent years, with two presidents who served less than two years between 2006 to 2010. Hurley, a longtime member of the campus staff, stepped in as a stabilizing influence while the school decided its future.
Paino previously served as the president of Truman State University in Missouri, where he championed the liberal arts— an attribute the school’s search committee found intriguing as it looked to solidify UMW’s standing as a premier, public liberal arts institution.
“Mary Washington thrives when it understands that its very existence is an investment in hope,” Paino said. “A hope in the students we educate and a hope in our republic’s future. It engages the whole person, head, heart, soul creating an intimacy born out of our common sense of purpose.”
Paino called on UMW to strive forward with the liberal arts in a digital age.
Students also turned out in large numbers to see the inauguration. Three campus a cappella groups performed a rendition of “Over the Rainbow” during the ceremony and then lined Campus Walk with performances as Paino and the crowd walked to the University Center for a post-inauguration celebration featuring music, food and dancing.
Students Isabelle Rohde, Paige Hildebrand, Krista Beucler and Abby Cassell—all freshmen— waited outside the auditorium long before the ceremony started to make sure they’d get seats.
“He’s just really involved and we want to support him,” Hildebrand said, noting that the president has supported a club she belongs to, Students Helping Honduras, by frequenting their weekly bake sale.Fredericksburg resident Shawn Conner attended the ceremony with her husband, Lee Lewis Jr., and daughters Morgan and Logan.
She met the Painos at a basketball game for James Monroe High School. Kelly Paino was yelling “anticipate” to motivate her daughter, and Conner said she knew she had to get to know this inspirational woman.
“It was like meeting an old friend for the first time,” she said about becoming acquainted with the family. They are just so down to earth.”
That friendship helped Morgan choose to attend Mary Washington in the fall, where she plans of majoring in elementary education, the schools historic first academic discipline offered.