HAVERHILL — A community college graduate who went on to earn his doctoral degree was sworn in yesterday as Northern Essex Community College's fourth president in its 50-year history.
In his inaugural address, Lane Glenn of Amesbury said it was all about community, family and achieving the dream. He urged a crowd of more than 700 people that gathered under a giant tent on the college's Haverhill campus to do all they can to encourage young people to plan for college, to prepare themselves academically, to explore careers and connect with mentors who will help them along the way.
"We are not an expense to be negotiated. We are an investment to be celebrated," Glenn said, noting that community colleges were invented in America and are places where students can pursue and achieve their dreams.
"As much as today is an inauguration, even more importantly, it is a celebration of all that this college is today, and all that it is to become tomorrow," Glenn said.
It has been nearly a year since the college's board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Glenn as NECC's next president. He previously served five years as vice president of academic affairs. Glenn noted the seeming incongruity of being in charge of the college since last July and only now being officially sworn in.
He said that while he was getting ready for the event, one of his daughters asked what an inauguration is.
"I explained to her that it is a ceremony in which a new president swears an oath and officially becomes president, to which she asked the very sensible question, 'Well, if you're just now starting your job as president, what have you been doing since last July?'"
The college canceled classes yesterday in order to host this final event in a series of golden anniversary celebrations that began last fall in recognition of its founding in 1961. Joseph Edwards, chairman of NECC's board of trustees, presided over the swearing in.
The festivities began about 10:30 a.m. with NECC's chamber choir performing "Northern Essex Raise Your Banner," followed by a procession of faculty dressed in their regalia and led by a color guard and students with international flags. A bagpipe player led the president and his party into the tent and onto a stage, where William Heineman, vice president of academic affairs who served as master of ceremonies, presented a video that played on four flat-screen televisions featuring Glenn talking about the college's mission and how it is working to help the nearly 15,000 students who attend NECC each year.
Heineman introduced a host of guest speakers, including Richard Freeland, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Freeland said Glenn's selection as president avoided any apprehension that can occur when choosing a candidate who is unknown.
David Hartleb, who retired last year after leading NECC for 15 years as its third president, said he and Glenn share the same vision for Northern Essex and that is to provide residents with a high-quality education in critically needed career fields.
Jason Bohanan, president of the Student Senate, called Glenn a "man of the students" and said he isn't afraid to approach students in the halls and ask how they are doing.
Al Getler, publisher of The Eagle-Tribune and a member of NECC's Foundation Board, said Glenn has proven himself to be a most effective leader in Haverhill, Lawrence and the Merrimack Valley.
"From a community college in Oklahoma as a student to a community college north of Boston as its president, Lane Glenn's legacy begins today," Getler said.
After Glenn took the oath of office, he gave the crowd a glimpse of his roots. He introduced his parents, Raymond and Judy Glenn, saying they taught him about duty and personal responsibility, about commitment to principles and that love and families are shaped in many different ways.
"I know this because these two people chose me," Glenn said, noting his parents had adopted him when he was 2 years old.
"They were able to do this thanks to the courageous decision made by two other people who are here today," Glenn said before introducing his birth parents, Lisa Carlson and Doug Riley. Glenn said they were young college students when he was born and that the time was not right for them to begin a family.
"They chose to bring me into this world and share me with two loving people who had been dreaming of starting a family for a long time," Glenn said.
He said he first met his birth parents 11 years ago, and after meeting them, he came to know other family members.
"Thanks to the happy events of this weekend and this morning, my mother and father, and my mother and father, met yesterday for the very first time," Glenn said to a joyful round of applause.
After the ceremonies concluded, guests were invited to a reception in the Hartleb Technology Center.
Before entering the main function room, Glenn paused briefly with his daughters Thomasina, 12, and Zoe, 8. Both girls seemed overwhelmed with the attention their father was getting. "There were a lot of speeches," Zoe said. Thomasina said her father is very good at "succeeding" with things and that she is very proud of him.