As­sa­nis in­au­gu­rated as Uni­ver­sity of Delaware pres­i­dent

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By KARIE SIM­MONS

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,

NE­WARK, DEL.

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Uni­ver­sity of Delaware Pres­i­dent Den­nis As­sa­nis speaks Wed­nes­day at his for­mal in­au­gu­ra­tion.

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