Assanis inaugurated as University of Delaware president
Special from the Newark Post
— Although already well into his first semester at the University of Delaware, Dennis Assanis was officially sworn in Wednesday as the school’s 28th president during a ceremony in the Thompson Theatre of the Roselle Center for the Arts.
Assanis, a former provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Stony Brook University on Long Island, was chosen by UD’s Board of Trustees last year to lead the university. He took office in July, replacing Nancy Targett, who was dean of UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and served a short stint as acting president after Patrick Harker stepped down.
During Wednesday’s ceremony, Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, commended the Board of Trustees for hiring Assanis, who she called a remarkable scholar, admired engineer and an accomplished leader.
“Today, more than ever, the great American institution we know as the public university demands strong, effective leaders like Dennis Assanis, committed to diversity, tolerance and deep public service,” she said.
Coleman believes diversity is the foundation of academic excellence and that universities have a special responsibility to embrace students and faculty of all backgrounds,
beliefs and experiences.
“This is why Dennis Assanis is an exceptional choice to lead this university at this time,” she said. “This is not easy work, but that will not discourage him. It will motivate him, and he will motivate you.”
Born in Greece, Assanis studied marine engineering at Newcastle University in England before coming to the United States to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned degrees in management, naval architecture and marine engineering, mechanical engineering and power and propulsion.
Assanis started his academic career as a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then spent 17 years at the University of Michigan as an engineering professor, director of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute, founding director of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center for Clean Vehicles and director of the Walter E. Lay Automotive Laboratory.
He was inducted as a member of the National Academy of Engineers in 2008 for his scientific contributions to improving engine fuel economy and reducing emissions and for promoting automotive engineering education. Assanis holds five patents and has directed more than $100 million in research grants and contracts.
Vice President Joe Biden, who graduated from UD in 1965, also turned out Wednesday to welcome Assanis into his new role.
“Mr. President, it’s good to be home, and it is home,” he said.
Biden has never been shy about his Delaware pride, nor his love for the university. He said Wednesday that the school did more than just educate him, it helped him make sense of the chaos that surrounded the time he graduated and prepared him to help lead the change that was taking place across the country. He said it was UD professor Paul Dolan who first encouraged him to run for Delaware’s U.S. Senate seat at just 29 years old.
“[He] made me believe I was worthy of doing it,” Biden said.
He praised Assanis for his many degrees from MIT, but joked that he didn’t go to Delaware.
“Welcome to my alma mater,” Biden said. “We’re expecting a whole lot from you, because we know you’re capable of a whole lot more. I don’t think our university could be in any better hands than yours.”
Following his official swearing in Wednesday, Assanis turned to the crowd gathered in the Thompson Theatre and asked “What’s next?”
“How do we take this rich legacy of discovery, progress and people forward? How can we impact a new generation? How can we ensure that our university not only endures, but thrives, for centuries to come?” he asked.
The new leader had a few ideas himself and went on to lay out a list of goals for the university, beginning with a commitment to recruit and keep a diverse student body.
He said diversity and inclusion are the core to UD’s institutional character and mission. He promised that in the coming years, the university will strengthen its prominence in AfricanAmerican material culture studies and public humanities, as well as enhancing its multicultural curriculum and “redoubling” efforts to grow the international student body.
Assanis said the university will also be making a stronger investment in graduate education and has plans to double the size of the graduate student population in the next 10 years. He pledged to further develop the STAR Campus, calling it the future “beating heart of our state’s economy,” and vowed to expand opportunities for startups and research and development there.
“As president of the University of Delaware, I am committed with my whole heart and soul to making our shared vision a reality,” Assanis said.
University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis speaks Wednesday at his formal inauguration.