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Sue Ott Rowlands installed as Randolph College’s 11th president

President Sue Ott Rowlands receives the Presidential Medallion and Chain of Office from Karen E. Campbell ’77, vice chair of the Board of Trustees and co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

Sue Ott Rowlands was officially installed as Randolph College’s 11th president on Saturday during a special ceremony where speakers lauded her creativity, enthusiasm, and passion for student success and celebrated the past, present, and future of the College.

The ceremony was the culmination of two days of events celebrating Ott Rowlands and Randolph College. Hundreds participated in the festivities, including numerous trustees, former trustees, alumnae and alumni, students, faculty, staff, and other friends of the College. Inauguration events included spotlights on teaching, creative activity, and community service.

Former presidents Virginia Hill Worden ’69, trustee emerita, and John E. Klein also attended Saturday’s installation ceremony.

Sunny skies greeted a procession of delegates on Saturday afternoon as they led Ott Rowlands into the ceremony.

After an opening reflection from Worden, Judith Daar—dean of the Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, where Ott Rowlands served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs—touted her former colleague’s “impressive career path and exemplary personal values” in her remarks.

“She has, and will, travel to the ends of the earth to provide opportunity for others, to support the hopes and dreams of those fortunate enough to be in her realm,” Daar said. “She is a person of high energy, high integrity, high intellect, high emotional intelligence, and high honor. That you have chosen her for your new president speaks for itself, and speaks incredibly highly of your community.”

The bonds Ott Rowlands has developed on campus, and beyond, since her arrival in July were also highlighted. Faculty, staff, and student speakers shared stories about seeing her in the dining hall, cheering alongside her at athletic events, and sharing in College traditions.

“Sue’s enthusiasm, warmth, and energy brighten the campus,” said Sarah Sojka, chair of the College’s faculty representative committee and a professor of environmental studies and physics.

She also noted the deep affection Ott Rowlands has for the Randolph community, and vice versa.

“Sue demonstrates a belief in the work we do here at Randolph now,” Sojka said, “and a sense of opportunity and excitement for the future.”

During the ceremony, Ott Rowlands received the Presidential Medallion and Chain of Office to cheers and several standing ovations from the crowd. The medallion is engraved with the College’s seal, mission, and motto, along with the names of the institution’s past presidents and interim presidents.

Her keynote speech reflected on the College’s past, its present, and its future.

“Times have changed. Higher education has changed. Our students have changed,” Ott Rowlands said. “And yet, in this small corner of the world, so much of what made this College special in its earliest years remains the same.”

She also touched on three core principles she called the Randolph Promise.

“Together, we will work toward academic excellence, career empowerment, and community engagement,” she said. “My promise within that Randolph Promise is to honor our past—those rich traditions of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College that have given us a pathway to who we are today. But the other part of my promise is to position Randolph College for a thriving future as we create teams of educator/leaders who work together to support each and every one of our students.”

Before coming to Randolph, Ott Rowlands served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Northern Kentucky University, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, and professor and chair of the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of Toledo in Ohio.

Those who knew her along that journey also spoke during Saturday’s ceremony.

Katrina M. Powell, founding director of the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies and a professor of rhetoric at Virginia Tech, recalled one of her first meetings with Ott Rowlands, which she said was emblematic of the kind of leader she is.

“Our women’s and gender studies program had invited Sue to our social gathering, and she accepted the invitation. But, in what I came to learn was one of Sue’s signature moves, she offered to host us,” Powell remembered. “She made us dinner and upon walking into her art-filled house, I was immediately struck by not only the warmth of her home, but also the enthusiasm she had for us as faculty.”

Ott Rowlands eventually appointed Powell director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Virginia Tech, and Powell spoke about their friendship over the years.

“I may think of her as my dean. I think our colleagues at NKU think of her as their provost. But now, she’s your President,” Powell said. “And believe me when I say that I’m envious of you all.”

“The best thing she’ll do for you as individuals and for Randolph College as a whole is help you to figure out how you will do your best, beyond your wildest imaginings,” she added. “That’s a Randolph promise.”

Born in Oklahoma, Ott Rowlands earned her undergraduate degree in education with a speech/theatre emphasis from Oklahoma Christian College and her terminal degree, an M.F.A. in acting and directing, from the University of Oklahoma.

In addition to her extensive career in higher education, Ott Rowlands has acted and directed professionally in New York and Washington, D.C. and is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association.

She is the founding artistic director of Glacity Theatre Collective in Toledo and the Cleveland Women’s Theatre Project, both professional theatres.

Ott Rowlands is also, as she noted Saturday, the proud owner of a liberal arts education.

“What a gift it is to be doing this challenging work together right now—a time when, more than any other time in history, we see that the liberal arts are not a specific set of curricula or a specific set of sanctioned careers,” she said.

“The liberal arts at Randolph College are perhaps best exemplified in our alumnae and alumni, whose lives are full of meaningful relationships and meaningful work to build a better world,” she added. “Indeed, as we continue to grow, our direction will remain focused on educating creative, intelligent, and ethical leaders for classrooms, courtrooms, research labs, corporate offices, museums, theaters, and the world.”

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