MISSOULA – The autumn rain let up just as Seth Bodnar was installed as the 19th president of the University of Montana on Friday, Oct. 25.
The short ceremony on the steps of UM’s Main Hall highlighted “Inauguration Weekend: A Celebration of Service.” Bodnar, who finished at the top of his West Point class and became a Rhodes Scholar, was considered the nontraditional candidate for UM’s top office, with a military and corporate background. He started work as UM president in January and forged his own path with a modest inauguration based on service.
“This inauguration is not about one person,” Bodnar said. “We’re here today to signify and recognize the purpose of this institution and the collective work of those who serve — through education, through research activity
Before he was sworn in, Bodnar received the blessing of Tony Incashola, a tribal elder with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Bodnar acknowledged that UM is constructed on the original territories of Native people, and this history is “very much an active part of our present.”
Bodnar was administered the oath of office by Clay Christian, the Montana commissioner of higher education. Speaking to Bodnar, Christian said, “You were chosen to lead the University of Montana because of your vision and your demonstrated ability to guide others in setting and reaching mutual goals. We are delighted you are here and look forward to continuing to work with you.”
Bodnar was presented with UM’s Presidential Medallion, which is passed from president to president and worn at major University ceremonial events. He also was sworn in using a Bible from UM Archives and Special Collections. The 1851 Bible has a cover embossed with the name F.L. Worden, one of Missoula’s founders. Christian remarked how one of Worden’s direct descendants is now attending UM.
As the ceremony drew to a close, Bodnar mentioned how he and volunteers were leaving to participate in University United Food Friday, in which 8,000 nutritious meals would be packaged to benefit Missoula families in need.
“I hope you will join me,” he said. “Let’s get to work.”