On July 9, University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart was escorted up the UA Mall for her first day in the office after having taken administrative responsibility of the institution on July 1.
When Hart and her husband, Randy, stepped out of the black sedan in front of the Administration Building, the Pep Band's horns were blaring, cheerleaders were dancing and hundreds of people were clapping and cheering.
"I think the crowd here on a warm, sunny July day says it all," Jacqueline Mok, the UA's senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, said during the official welcome ceremony on the steps of the Administration Building. "We have Wildcat power out here on the beautiful Alumni Plaza. So, Dr. Hart, Mr. Hart, we are thrilled to have you here."
Stepping up to the microphone, Hart told the crowd: "Wow, this is very exciting." She said the welcome reception brought back fond memories, recalling that she and her husband met during a time that he served as a member of his high school pep band.
"I want to tell you that I am so excited to be here with you today, in part because of the challenges we face today. But I also want you to know whatever those challenges are that we will face them together," Hart said.
"I am looking forward to meeting all of you and joining together to help the future of this great institution be great in the way it was in the past, but even better as we look to staying one of the finest universities in the world and filling an incredibly important role in our larger society."
Mok also offered Hart a silver Block A lapel pin and gifted her husband with a red UA tie.
Others joined in welcoming Hart, including Zachary Brooks, president of the UA Graduate and Professional Student Council.
"We are happy to work with you on common interest projects to launch the University of Arizona as the greatest institution in the state of Arizona and the western United States," said Brooks, also a doctoral student in second language acquisition and teaching at the UA. He then welcomed Hart in 15 different languages.
"The students of this institution are highly diverse and have remarkable Wildcat spirit and pride, as you can already see. With that being said, I hope you've added some red and blue to your wardrobe," said Krystina Nguyen, executive vice president for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.
"Here is evidence that we have passion for everything UA, and I have no doubt that you will match this passion and more in all that you accomplish," Nguyen also said. "I am fully confident that you will lead the University to new heights and serve both the students and the University as a whole."
Lorinda Mills, a staff member who attended the event, said she was "thrilled" to have Hart join the University after Hart served as president of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
"I liked what she said about what she did at Temple University around outreach to the community," said Greeno, a business manager for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, or CALS. Hart already has emphasized the importance of the UA developing stronger, interdependent connections with the broader community. "I just hope she does more outreach to the different classes of people here."
Carolyne Greeno, also a business manager with CALS, said she also was very pleased to welcome Hart.
"I like her ideas, I like her attitude and I look forward to see what ideas she does with her ideas to help move us out and strengthen us," said Greeno, also the Staff Advisory Council's treasurer.
After the event, Hart offered a bit more detail about her arrival and what she anticipates for the University.
"This is such a warm welcome. It's very moving. I have been so anxious to get here that I can hardly believe the day has arrived," said Hart, who moved to Tucson last week and through her connection with the region has made time to visit some landmarks and natural sites.
Looking ahead, Hart said a number of factors will be important to strengthening the UA.
Hart said it will be crucial to reduce the time to degree completion while also improving graduation rates. Continuing to pursue private funds to support students and the institution's mission also will be essential, she said.
Hart also emphasized the importance of working closely with elected officials and other community leaders while meeting the requirements the Arizona Board of Regents has established.
Another important priority is emphasizing the importance of higher education and institutions like the UA, said Hart, who planned Monday to meet with her staff and make plans for the first month.
"It's an extraordinary place to live as well as an extraordinary University," Hart said. "We have to think about ways that we can be more active in laying out the case for higher education as other entitlement pressures face our legislators and become very good at articulating in our own way why this great University is such a critical part of the infrastructure of the whole state of Arizona."