Newman University soared into a new era with the official inauguration of President Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, on Thursday, Oct. 7.
Members of the Newman community and beyond — including family and friends from across the country, college presidents, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, D.A., past Newman presidents, as well as administration, staff, faculty and students — joined in Jagger’s installment as the university’s 12th president.
Associate Professor of Chemistry Ryan Huschka, Ph.D., ‘07, served as the grand marshal of the installation ceremony. Holding the ceremonial mace high into the air, Huschka led the processional line of faculty, staff and special guests dressed in academic regalia to the De Mattias Performance Hall.
Newman University chorale, directed by Deanne Zogleman, performed the prayerful song “Lead Kindly Light,” written by Newman’s namesake St. John Henry Newman, to the guest-filled auditorium.
“We are a year late in installing Dr. Jagger as the 12th president of Newman due to COVID-19, but we are a year richer in knowing her and experiencing her servant leadership,” said Master of Ceremonies Audrey Hane, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of arts and sciences.
Newman Board of Trustees chair J.T. Klaus, ’87, followed up that it was no easy task to select a 12th president in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. He noted, however, that Jagger’s presidential start during COVID-19 was fitting for “a university whose story began in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression.”
“To Dr. Jagger, I say congratulations on your selection,” Klaus said. “This is your moment, this is your time.”
Sister Vicki Bergkamp, ASC, Ph.D., ‘67, spoke on behalf of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) and added that “the Newman University that you are called to serve today is a vibrant example of the providence of God.”
“The Adorers of the Blood of Christ and Newman University have consistently become more than we could ask or imagine,” Sister Vicki continued. “Our provident God has blessed us beyond all expectations.”
The Presidential Medallion
Jagger may have completed her first full year as president in June, but Sister Vicki said that the realities of the last year are practically equivalent to five years of experience. She said, “You have faced this year of challenges with a profound sense of faith in your God in the mission of higher education, and with a commitment to nurturing the best aspects of Newman University.”
The Adorers of the Blood of Christ presented Jagger with the gift of a bronze Presidential Medallion with a nickel antique finish. The medallion is to be worn on ceremonial occasions and symbolizes the ideas of the university and the educational mission for which it was founded by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.
Sister Vicki added, “Education can change us, and we can change the world.”
An inaugural address from President Jagger
Jagger addressed her guests with gratitude for the numerous blessings she has received in the last year and throughout all of the inauguration week events, stating, “you are too numerous to identify individually.”
“In the succession of leadership at Newman, I recognize I am standing on the shoulders of giants,” Jagger said. “In particular, special thanks to Dr. Noreen Carocci and Sister Tarcisia Roths — two presidential giants who preceded me and have been most helpful in my transition and in continuing to shape my leadership.”
Jagger shared that she never aspired to be a college president, but that “sometimes the Lord has to get your attention in a dramatic fashion in order for you to see his plan clearly.” On her first visit to the Newman campus, Jagger realized that God had been preparing her for this presidency for some time.
Both Thomas More University, where Jagger had served as acting president and vice president during her career, and Newman University were founded by religious sisters in order to train Catholic school teachers and to provide college education for young women. After learning Newman’s history, mission and code, she couldn’t believe how well its mission and values fit her own beliefs and priorities, she said.
“Today marks a new chapter in the history of this great university,” Jagger said. “Today is a day to celebrate our potential and our past. It is a day for gratitude, a day for hope, and here in the Air Capital of the World, it is a day for flying high on wings of prayer with the grace of the Holy Spirit — soaring with the promise of a better tomorrow.”
Soaring to new heights
During the 2020 fall return from the COVID pandemic absence, Newman’s theme was “Together We Soar” — an inspirational phrase which the 2021-22 academic year is continuing to build on, Jagger said.
“This idea of soaring means more than simply flying,” Jagger explained. “It signifies rising swiftly to a level markedly higher than expected or typical. … Flying is just moving through the air. Soaring, though, suggests exhilaration, even joy.”
“Soaring is our goal for our students, so that they will take intellectual flight and spiritual flight riding on the grace of the Holy Spirit to a markedly higher level of understanding, powered by faith in action.”
Last fall, Jagger set several major goals designed to promote a strong and sustainable future for Newman University. With these in mind, Jagger hopes that Newman will “soar above the turbulence of today’s challenges in higher education, rise to a new level of equity and inclusion in the midst of a diverse population, inspire academic innovation and cultivate the intellect so as to empower our graduates to transform society.”
“It is both a privilege and tremendous responsibility to educate the next generation of saints and leaders,” Jagger said. “We need the grace of the Holy Spirit to do so. After a short time in Wichita, I see great promise for Newman University and its students to continue soaring. I look forward to leading through whatever the future may bring.”
Jagger concluded her address with a prayer:
She added, “Now let’s soar! The moment of lift is near.”
Earlier that day, Most Rev. Bishop Carl A. Kemme offered a Eucharistic Liturgy in St. John’s Chapel, where Jagger’s family members participated in the ceremony. Jagger’s sisters Pamela Tuszynski and Debra Snell served as lectors and Jagger’s husband, Jim, and their sons, Matthew and Mark, led the offertory procession.
Zogleman, director of the music department, led the Newman University troubadours in singing the hymns “Here I Am, Lord” and “Amazing Grace” — both of which left an impact on David A. Armstrong, J.D., the president of St. Thomas University and one of Jagger’s special guests.
“I want to congratulate the Newman troubadours and the Newman chorale,” Armstrong said. “They sang my two favorite hymns today, and they brought me to tears both times. Thank you.”
A presidential luncheon
A formal luncheon with Jagger and her special guests was held in the Tarcisia Roths, ASC, Alumni Lounge following Mass. Jagger’s husband, Jim, gave a special toast, sharing that “in all the places Kathleen has been, she’s left them better than she found them.”
“In the almost 45 years we’ve been married, she’s taken me on a lot of adventures and I’ve taken her on some,” Jim said. “But you know, that’s the great thing about our marriage and our relationship. We’ve always been able to say, ‘Let’s go do your thing for a while. Let’s go do this for you.’”
He added, “We’re willing to try anything that sounds like we might be able to make a difference. That’s the way we’ve lived our lives.”
On behalf of the Newman Board of Trustees, Klaus surprised Jagger with the gift of a handcrafted walnut clock made by Father Tom Welk.
“When you build something to give to someone else as a present, your presence is a part of the gift itself,” Father Tom said. “I hope this clock measures many, many happy years to come for Jagger.”
A new beginning
Director of Mission Effectiveness Sister Therese Wetta, ASC, was given the lead on planning the inauguration of President Jagger. The day signifies a celebration of Newman, but “it is also very much a celebration of Dr. Jagger,” she said.
“She brought a sense of celebration about who Newman is to all of us, certainly in her remarks, but also in her presence and her willingness,” Sister Therese said. “Right now, she’s standing out there, meeting and greeting people who are congratulating her in lines that are half a block long. … It’s so typical of what was said about her as a servant leader.”
Sister Therese added, “I’m just happy for her. She seemed to enjoy the day and relish its moments, and that’s what we wanted. I’m happy for everybody who could celebrate with her and with us today.”
Sister Tarcisia Roths, ASC, was one of the university’s “giants” that Jagger referred to in her speech, served as Newman University from 1991 to 2000.
During Sister Tarcisia’s presidency, several buildings were completed on campus, including Eck Hall, De Mattias Fine Arts Building, Gorges Atrium, O’Shaughnessy Hall and the Fugate Gymnasium. She also helped bring three master’s programs in education, nursing and social work to fruition, as well as the university’s first study abroad program in England and two service learning trips in Mexico.
“When I look at the history of the college, I see how God’s providence has led us from one thing to the next,” Sister Tarcisia said. “You can just see the growth. … I think the providence of God is working within other people to bring the right people here at the right time.”
View all photos from the inauguration event in our Flickr gallery.
Watch a video of the full installation ceremony on our Newman University YouTube page.