Widener Inaugurates Stacey Robertson, Ushering in the University’s Next Chapter

Emily Barrett, associate director of communications
Stacey Robertson delivers her inaugural address at the presidential installation ceremony on April 13, 2023.

On a beautiful day in April, Widener University installed Stacey Robertson as its 11th president in a ceremony that officially ushered in the university’s next chapter under Robertson’s stewardship.

Robertson stands on stage with board chair Paul Beideman and others to receive the presidential medallion.
Stacey Robertson is bestowed the presidential medallion by Paul Beideman '79, chair of the board, and other current and former university leaders.

The historic ceremony, which celebrated a leadership change that has happened only ten times in more than 200 years, brought together members of the Widener community and distinguished guests to celebrate the Pride – its past, present, and bright future.

In her inaugural address, Robertson reflected on her journey to wear the presidential medallion, which symbolizes the office of the president, and the personal and professional experiences that shaped her into the leader that she is today. 

I have come to believe that humility, combined with a willingness to learn from mistakes, is the most important trait any leader brings to the table. Let us commit as a community to empowering ourselves and each other.” —Stacey Robertson, Widener University's 11th president

Humility – along with belonging, exceeding expectations, and agility – served as the themes of Robertson’s address, as she laid out her vision for Widener. She highlighted a commitment to Widener’s a strategic approach known as “agility experienced.” 

“We are implementing a vision for the future with short- and medium-term goals and strategies,” said Robertson. “The success we are experiencing with our current three strategic priorities –enhancing undergraduate enrollment; augmenting student success; and fostering belonging across our community – exemplify agility experienced.”

The milestone event marked the end of inauguration week which offered a series of celebrations on Widener’s Chester, Delaware, and Harrisburg campuses that included scholarly lectures, alumni gatherings, social festivities, and community service events. 

The installation ceremony drew esteemed guests including Widener Presidents Emeriti Bob Bruce and Jim Harris, members of the university Board of Trustees, government officials, and delegates representing institutions across the nation and abroad. Speakers included students, staff, faculty, and alumni representatives, as well as local and state elected officials.

Remarks offered by the speakers reiterated Robertson’s commitment to student experience and success, belonging across all three campuses, and positioning the university to withstand challenges in the world today.

Stacey Robertson and student trustee Ijjae Hill take a selfie at inauguration.
Stacey Robertson and student trustee Ijjae Hill '23, '25 take a selfie at inauguration.

Ijjae Hill ’23, ’25, the university’s student trustee and one of the student representatives on the presidential search committee, spoke about Robertson’s impact on students in her first year in office. 

“We see her everywhere – on campus, on her Instagram page, at our campus events – and that means so much to us,” said Hill, who reflected on Robertson’s natural warmth and ability to make students truly feel seen, heard, and able to be their authentic selves.

She has created a culture and climate that encourages and supports students’ success and excellence. In everything that she does, she brings a spirit of belonging. It is a constant reminder to students that ‘You Belong Here!’ —Ijjae Hill ’23, ’25

Two higher education leaders and personal friends of Robertson, Janet Gooch, chancellor of the University of Illinois Springfield and Nancy Niemi, president of Framingham State University, also spoke. Robertson, Gooch, and Niemi all assumed presidential roles at their respective universities at the same time. 

Delivering remarks in tandem, the pair illustrated Robertson’s character as both a leader in higher education and a dear friend. In both instances, Gooch and Niemi credit Robertson’s endless desire for personal connection and her love and sense of community for positioning her to navigate Widener through dilemmas facing higher education.    

“Stacey is a leader who naturally sees not only the connections between us but can help Widener and by association the entire higher education community in finding ways to make new supportive fibers that will serve to weave the educational structures we so keenly need,” said Niemi. 

The ceremony concluded with a recessional to music performed by Keepin’ It Trill, Widener's student-run a cappella vocal group, and was followed by a community-wide celebratory reception in University Center. 

See Photos from the Ceremony

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