WATERVILLE — The basketball hoops were raised and the red carpet was lowered as Laurie Gagnon Lachance was officially installed as the fifth president of Thomas College, during an inauguration ceremony in the campus athletic center Saturday.
Lachance credited students on the campus with having inspired some of her early actions on the campus, which have included an ongoing effort to schedule appointments with each and every student to get to know them.
“This is not about me,” Lachance told the students. “This is about you. At the heart of every college are the students that we serve. The development of your mind is our sole reason for existing.”
Lachance, 51, began serving as president on July 1; before that, she was head of the Maine Development Foundation, a nonprofit supporting economic growth in the state, for eight years. She has also spent 11 years as state economist under three Maine governors.
During her inaugural address, Lachance laid out a vision for the college which she said is still evolving as she meets with students, faculty, staff and community members.
She mentioned recent efforts on the part of the campus to achieve savings by installing solar and geothermal energy projects and potential new course offerings, including a cybersecurity class.
She said that she would aggressively “explore the potential for joint programming with other institutions” as a means to better serve students by offering them more programs without added education costs. She said conversations about joint programming with Unity College have begun.
Lachance also said the college desires to instill students with the experience and knowledge they need to succeed professionally, a knowledge base that should include technology and entrepreneurial skills.
The event, conducted with the pomp and circumstance befitting the occasion, featured multiple musical performances and speeches from several distinguished guests, many of whom spoke of Lachance’s warm and open personality, her enthusiasm and of the value of her professional and personal connections to the institution.
Karen Heck, mayor of Waterville, said that the city and college were both fortunate to have “her connection to just about every business in this state, her creativity and the fact that she is just about one of the kindest people I know.”
Donald Cragen, faculty senate chair, noted that it was a triumphant homecoming for Lachance, who earned her master’s from Thomas in 1992.
“We celebrate with pride the return of one of our alumni,” he said. “We welcome back a former student as our new president.”
Bill Alfond, director of Dexter Enterprises and president of the William & Joan Alfond Foundation, congratulated the institution “for being brave enough to hire one of their own.”
Other speakers from outside Thomas included Maine Community Foundation president Meredith Jones and Theo Kalikow, president of the University of Southern Maine.
The installation was the first for the college since 1989, when Lachance’s predecessor, George Spann, began as president.
Board co-chair Conrad Ayotte spoke of the school’s future prospects before officially presenting Lachance with the symbolic Presidential Medallion.
“After 26 years on this board,” he said, “I can stand here today and tell you I’ve never been more proud or more confident in the future of this institution than right now with Laurie Lachance becoming this institution’s next president.”