Rome formally installed as LU’s 19th president

With previous presidents Carolyn Mahoney, at left, and James Frank, seated to the right of her, as guests, Kevin Rome delivers a brief speech Friday during inaugural ceremonies to swear him in at Lincoln University’s 19th president.

With previous presidents Carolyn Mahoney, at left, and James Frank, seated to the right of her, as guests, Kevin Rome delivers a brief speech Friday during inaugural ceremonies to swear him in at Lincoln University’s 19th president.

If nothing else, new Lincoln University President Kevin Rome wants the students, faculty, staff and community to know that he’s focused “on the retention and graduation of our students,” and on “faculty and staff development.”

That’s a message Rome has delivered several times in the past 10 months — when he was speaking to various groups late last year, while applying for the top job; since he took over the president’s duties June 1; and, most recently, during his 15-minute inaugural speech Friday morning in LU’s Mitchell Auditorium.

“We have to do a better job,” Rome said. “We owe it to our students — if we admit them, we should be in a position to graduate them.”

He also promised to “do everything in my power to work with the community and Central Missouri, to make Lincoln the institution of choice for the parents and students in Mid-Missouri and Jefferson City. The only reason we want those students to leave this area is if they want to get away from their parents.

“But if they want a great education, we want them to choose Lincoln University.”

With predecessors James Frank (1973-82) and Carolyn Mahoney (2005-12) sitting behind him, Rome formally was installed Friday as the 19th president in Lincoln’s 147-year history.

Charlie Nelms — Rome’s former boss and co-worker at two different schools, the Indiana University system and, most recently, at North Carolina Central University, Durham, which Rome left last spring to come to Jefferson City — was Friday’s keynote speaker.

“One of the highlights of my long career in higher education was the opportunity to work with President Rome (and) witness first-hand his passion for excellence and his commitment to student success,” Nelms said. “(He is) a true leader.”

And strong leadership is needed in “an environment characterized by declining state appropriations, double-digit tuition increases and student loan indebtedness in excess of $1.2 trillion,” Nelms said. “President Barack Obama has called for 90 percent of all Americans to possess a post-secondary credential by the year 2020.

“However, the reality is that, currently, approximately only four in 10 U.S. adults possess a two- or four-year degree.”

Among things to look for in the coming years, he said, “All members of the Lincoln University community must embrace change — change is the only constant there is.

“Adaptability and flexibility will allow us to embrace the changes that we face and will continue to face in the future, rather than react to them after the fact.”

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, served on the search committee that recommended Rome as a finalist for curators to consider.

Kehoe said during Friday’s ceremonies: “I can tell you that, when you come to a community like Jefferson City that has an organization and a family like Lincoln University, you will quickly become a member of this family, of this community.”

Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph also served on that committee.

“His high academic and personal professional standards, I think, will set Lincoln above and beyond where we’ve been in the past,” Struemph said.

And Brandon Douglas, who was one of Rome’s students at Morehouse College, Atlanta, eight years ago, told of several times when Rome “planted seeds” of an idea, but never took credit when those ideas succeeded.

“Your example has illustrated to me the blueprint of what a great husband and great father should look like,” Douglas told Rome. “Thank you for planting the seeds.”

Including chief administrators who’ve held other titles — such as principal and acting president — Rome is the 30th person to lead Lincoln since its founding in 1866.

David Russell, Missouri’s Higher Education commissioner and a former University of Missouri system vice president, noted Friday’s ceremonies began with Rome, his family and friends and Lincoln University leaders meeting at the Soldier’s Memorial.

“We honored the memory of those who had the wisdom and the foresight and the vision to establish this great university,” Russell said. “They gave a great deal of their personal treasure and attention and energy to make this happen.”

LU Curators President Herbert Hardwick also noted the founding soldiers of the Civil War’s 62nd and 65th Colored Infantry units.

“In 1866, (they) took necessary steps to establish an educational institution in Jefferson City, Missouri, with the mission to provide excellent educational opportunities, including theoretical and applied learning experiences, to a diverse population within a nurturing, student-centered environment,” Hardwick said.

“Dr. Rome, we charge you to continue the dream of the founding soldiers — keep the dream alive.”

Accompanying photo: LU President Kevin Rome addresses audience

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