INAUGURATION DeGioia Shows Resolve, Humility During Ceremonies By Anne Rittman Hoya Staff Writer

Dan Gelfand/The Hoya Degioia stands alongside honored inauguration guests.

He walked into the Constitution Hall auditorium after the 15-minute processional – a solitary figure clad in the blue and gray doctoral robes of his alma mater.

The thousand filling the auditorium applauded his appearance, recognizing the man of the moment, the new president, John J. DeGioia.

DeGioia’s Georgetownhistory began long before the day he accepted the university’s charter and seal, before assuming office July 1, 2001. He enrolled as a freshman the fall of 1975, the year the Vietnam conflict ended. Since his graduation in 1979, he rose quickly through the university ranks, serving as senior vice president since 1998.

DeGioia’s inauguration began Wednesday with a faculty picnic and lasted through Sunday, including academic symposia and prayer. The main campus was festooned with blue and gray balloons, including a metallic arch over Healy Gates twisting in Saturday’s breeze. After mixing at the post-inagural reception, DeGioia and the attendees enjoyed jazz musician Dave Brubeck and student musicians in a nighttime concert.

The Georgetown concert choir and band filled the spacious DAR Constitution Hall in the afternoon with “Benedicite,” its solemnity presiding over the hundreds of hooded robes marching into the hall. As each professor and scholar entered, their degrees told by the brilliance – and gaudiness – of their dress.

But the formality and pomp dissolved as DeGioia entered the hall. The audience welcomed him with standing applause and cheers, and the VIPs of academia smiled down on him from the stage.

Students led the ceremony’s speeches by welcoming DeGioia alongside representatives from the faculty and alumni community. Steven C. Foster, an employee in Facilities and Housing, welcomed DeGioia on behalf of the university’s staff. He gripped the podium, grinning as he described the first time he met DeGioia, when he repaired an air conditioner in New South where DeGioia was then the residence director.

“We did the male bonding thing – we talked about sports. And we found out we were rooting for the same team, HOY-AS,” Foster said, leaning into the microphone for a throaty Georgetown rallying cry.

DeGioia has shown skill and finesse as an administrator. However, he is not a Jesuit, and his appointment has surprised the Georgetown and Catholic communities.

The Rev. J. Bryan Hehir (HON ’98), chair of the executive committee of the faculty of divinity at Harvard, responded to concerns about breaking Georgetown’s 210 consecutive years of clerical presidency, most of which have been held by Jesuits.

Hehir recalled the Second Vatican Council, which called the Catholic laity to play a role within highly clerical institutions. Because the church developed this doctrine, Hehir reasoned, DeGioia’s appointment continues to fulfill Catholic needs.

“[Georgetown] now passes into the hands of a layperson,” he said. “That means change – change matched with continuity. It is a new change in Georgetown’s history but fits into a long tradition.”

DeGioia discussed the university’s role as a Jesuit institution, illustrating how the community should fulfill its Jesuit mission and responsibility to pursue justice in the secular world.

Yet, while speaking, DeGioia embraced the benefits of being a layperson. “There are moments when you can feel your grasp of some aspect of reality with a sense of deep truth,” he said, gazing at the mezzanine where his wife, Theresa, and his four-month old son, John Thomas, were seated. “Moments when you feel a sense of peace and serenity, of wholeness – that feeling you have when you look into the eyes of a loved one and know, just know, that it is right.”

DeGioia cut a humble figure on stage. As members of the Georgetown board of directors read the university charter, he stood with hands modestly clasped, eyes downcast, thumbs moving slightly. A small smile lit his face.

By the time he appeared at his reception in the Ronald Reagan Building Atrium, DeGioia had shed his contemplative inaugural demeanor for the greeting, handshaking role he will fill countless times over his presidential tenure.

DeGioia stood in the midst of the crowded lobby in a one-person receiving line for almost the entire reception, welcoming students, faculty, alumni and guests, introducing himself informally: “Hi, I’m Jack.”

By 8:20 p.m., most attendees had left the reception for the Dave Brubeck concert back at Constitution Hall. And after all the hands were shaken, when only a few groups of students remained in the lobby to drink the dregs of the open bar, DeGioia, carrying a cocktail plate of the hors d’oeuvres his guests had devoured, finally seated himself at a small table and ate.

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