‘Clearly, he cares about his work’: George Hynd is inaugurated, celebrated as OU’s sixth president

By Kaylee Kean

Some could say it began on July 9, 2014, when the Board of Trustees appointed Dr. George W. Hynd as OU’s next president.

Some could say it goes further, to the first time OU’s community met the 67-year-old South Carolina man at an open forum in which he spoke and fielded questions as one of three presidential candidates.

Whatever they say, something big began on Wednesday, April 29, when history was made and Hynd was officially inaugurated as Oakland University’s sixth president.

A day of celebration

Signs of preparation began appearing early in the week: Banners in the Oakland Center that walked through a timeline of OU’s achievements, taped off parking lot sections, and large black curtains enclosing sections of a clean, empty Pioneer Food Court.

By Wednesday early afternoon everything was prepared, and at 2 p.m. OU carillonneur Dennis Curry began his 45-minute long performance on the Elliott Tower carillon, performing for the growing crowd that gathered around the tower to enjoy the music and sunny sky.

At 2:45 p.m., the tower was silenced and the Cabar Feidh bagpipes took up their own lively song, beginning a formal procession of selected students, staff and faculty from the OC, under the clock tower and into the O’rena.

They and excited audience members filed into the O’rena, where the Oakland University Brass Band waited to the side and three huge screens stood over a stage decorated with colorful banners representing each university department.

A little after 3 p.m., everyone was seated and the inauguration began.

After musical theater student Bianca Keitel performed “The Star-Spangled Banner”, Board of Trustees Chair Mark Schlussel began the ceremony, thanking names of note in attendance and introducing the representatives for each faction of the OU community.

Kevin Grimm, associate professor in English and president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at OU, spoke on behalf of the faculty.

He said he has seen a lot of change in his 28 years at OU, including the mascot change from aerospace pioneers to Pioneer Pete to the Golden Grizzlies.

“While many things change at OU, including our mascot, at the heart I believe our identity remains the same,” Grimm said. “We are a community, and I mean that in the most inclusive sense.”

Grimm went back to the search for OU’s president and said when he first met Hynd, it was evident the psychologist had done his research on OU.

Since then “he has been actively reaching out, conversing with all members of the OU community,” Grimm said, saying it’s clear that Hynd brings an appreciation of that community with him.

It’s not only appreciation that Hynd has brought with him, but passion. That’s what staff representative Petra Knoche, assistant director of International Students and Scholars Office and president of the Administrative Professionals Assembly, said.

“We have a passion for our work. An extreme passion,” Knoche said, saying those who come to work at OU don’t come for high pay or praise, but for the meaning behind the work.

“Today is remarkable because our new president brings with him an incredible passion of his own. Clearly, he cares about his work,” Knoche said.

Annie Meinberg, 2014-15 Student Body President and junior elementary education major, closed the representatives’ speeches with a comparison of her freshman year to Hynd’s freshman year and all of the changes he’s come to.

“Like a freshman, he’s come in here full of energy and fresh ideas,” Meinberg said.

She told the audience about the very beginning of the year when Hynd visited students on move-in day. It had only been a month since Hynd took office, but he came to the dorms with doughnuts and a helping hand.

“He instantly won the hearts, and stomachs, of everyone,” Meinberg said. “I’m really proud to say that I have a whole community of people who I call family right here at OU. I’m delighted to include President Hynd and his leadership in this group.”

After her speech was complete the Brass Band performed “Only For You,” composed by Paul Lovatt-Cooper.

Schlussel and vice president of academic affairs and provost James Lentini then presented the presidential regalia to Hynd, who took the stage to accept his position and thank the community.

Polishing the gem, looking forward

“I’m grateful that all of you have welcomed me so heartily and, frankly, with so much enthusiasm,” Hynd said, thanking certain individuals and the community as a whole.

He also took a few minutes to thank his “very intelligent, very beautiful wife,” saying he would always love her and was grateful she chose to share his life. He thanked his “very smart and beautiful” daughters, son and grandchildren as well.

After the ceremony, Hynd said that was the moment everything closed in and he realized “wow, this is really happening.”

During his inauguration speech he went back to when he first came to Oakland University with the notion that this school is a hidden gem. He later elaborated that it’s time to polish that gem and show the rest of the world how brightly it can shine.

“We have a wonderful story to tell about our rich and variant history and the contributions our students are making to society,” Hynd said, listing prominent examples of alumni and student accomplishments.

He said he is resolved on making OU a first-choice school for students in Southeastern Michigan.

Another goal mentioned was the desire to create more exciting and diverse campus experiences for students and more engagement in the surrounding communities.

Acknowledging there are daunting challenges that students and higher education as a whole face today, Hynd said he will continue to marshall resources and emphasize the value of a college education, particularly one at OU.

“I still argue that Oakland University can and will overcome those obstacles and others,” Hynd said. “Oakland University will be known for providing students with access to an exceptional education, whether undergraduate or graduate, that results in a lifelong return on their investment. The value of an Oakland University degree will never be higher.”

He closed his speech by resolving to commit OU and its community to an exciting, engaged and vibrant future as one of Michigan’s and the nation’s finest universities.

“Today I humbly ask you to join me,” Hynd said. “Finally, I want to express my gratitude for this great honor that I have to serve you. Thank you.”

Presidential reunion

After the inauguration all were invited to join in on a celebratory reception in the Oakland Center, where entertainment and southern-style food was provided in honor of Hynd’s southern roots.

Also in attendance were previous presidents Gary Russi, 1996-2013, and Sandra Packard, 1992-1995, both of whom travelled to OU simply to be a part of the inauguration and congratulate OU’s newest president.

They greeted old colleagues, spoke with Hynd and posed with their portraits — portraits and brief histories of each OU president were set up along one hallway of the OC.

“It is wonderful to see so many great faculty and staff again,” said Russi, who came up with his wife Beckie Francis from his current home in South Dakota.

He also said it was “pretty special” to return to campus and see all of the plans and buildings he helped begin come to fruition. What’s really improving, he said, is academics, and “the new president is talking about that.”

“He’s cool,” Russi said of Hynd. “I haven’t had a lot of time to talk to him; we’ve just casually met. But we’re going to spend a little time together.”

View more photos of the inauguration on our Facebook page.

Read Hynd’s biography here.

Read more coverage of Hynd and his activities here, here and here.