Shortly before the start of the installation ceremony for President Garry W. Jenkins on May 4 in Merrill Gymnasium, Sarah Potter ’77, the retired longtime director of the Bates College Store, talked about the power of institutional rituals.

“Rituals are invaluable for the sense of intimacy and community that they create,” she said.

And Jenkins’ friends knew that he would take full advantage of his magic moment. 

“For someone who is quite informal, Garry really likes rituals,” said Martha Chamallas, a friend and professor emerita of law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. I think it speaks volumes. Garry finds pleasure in ritual because he finds joy in the people behind the institutional rituals — and he’s really open to becoming your new close friend!”

More than 1,000 Bates students, faculty, staff, trustees, presidents emeriti, and alumni, joined by 60-plus delegates and many Jenkins family members, turned out to welcome, praise, and appreciate Garry W. Jenkins, turning the Bates campus into a place of community and intimacy. 

Speaking with Bates News senior writer Deirdre Stires, editorial assistant Hannah Kotheri ’26, and editorial director Jay Burns, here’s what they said:

Bates students

To serve the approximately 300 guests at the inaugural dinner in the Gray Athletic Building the night before the inauguration, Dining Services for the first time enlisted student workers for the event’s waitstaff. Two waiters were Emmon Blackburn ’27 of Nardin, Okla., and Zak Adler of Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Chill place: “Just knowing what I’m representing by doing this is kind of cool, definitely. Everyone back in the kitchen knows each other and they’re always making jokes. It feels like a pretty chill place really, like one big and a-little-disoriented family!” — Blackburn

Emmon Blackburn ’27 of Nardin, Okla., joined Dining Services waitstaff team for the inaugural dinner for President Garry W. Jenkins. (Rene Roy for Bates College)

Fancy vest: “I helped set up this event on Wednesday, so by how formal everything was, I got a sense that it was pretty important. Just the fact that I’m wearing this fancy vest tells you that it’s a big event! It’s super cool that Garry is in touch with the student body and you see him all around campus.” — Adler

On Saturday morning shortly after 10:30, the academic procession moved from Commons to Merrill Gymnasium for the installation ceremony, where the Bates College Orchestra, featuring many students, performed William Grant Still’s Festive Overture. 

Big deal: “There’s definitely a lot of pressure to perform my best today. This is a big deal. Being a part of the ceremony is truly an honor.” — Joel Keith ’27 of San Francisco, Calif., who played the trumpet 

Nerve wracking: “I feel in shock. I’m so excited to support Garry and be a part of this historic moment. Yes, it’s nerve wracking to perform today, but I’m proud to represent the college. Music is powerful, and having this event is important; it brings people together.” — Jade Pierce ’27 of Dracut, Mass., who played the viola in the orchestra

Full circle: “It’s not every day something like this happens. The students know President Jenkins; he takes the time to get to know students. Today feels more like a personal connection, like a full circle moment.” — Maddy Ewell ’24, a neuroscience major from Ridgewood, N.J., who played the violin

Surreal: “It’s really cool how often we see President Jenkins around campus. He’s just so present among the student body. It’s surreal to see him officially become president after all of these months leading the college.” — Mavy Ho ’26, a neuroscience major from Gorham, Maine, who played the violin

Featuring many students, the Bates College Orchestra performed William Grant Still’s Festive Overture during the installation ceremony on May 4, 2024. (Rene Roy for Bates College)

Shortly before the 10:30 a.m. start of the ceremony, students made their way from breakfast in Commons to the gym.

Feeling lucky: “Since there have only ever been eight other presidents during the college’s history, it’s so special to be a part of one of the classes that has the opportunity to witness this type of historic moment. It’s so special to see a president inaugurated. I feel so lucky.” — Janney Halperin ’26, an environmental studies major from Meredith, N.H.

At the installation ceremony, members of Bates Student Government served as student delegates, including Zain Ali ’27 of Lebanon, Ohio, and Mariam Almzainy ’27 of Madaba, Jordan.

Fantastic: “It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime event for a college student and a really fitting way to end the year. It’s so nice to see all these people who are related to Garry or who want to be here in one way or another. I think it’s going to be a fantastic, fantastic day.” — Ali

Inspiration: “Last night was the dinner for all the people who were involved in the inauguration and all of these comments that we heard about Garry just showed us what a great man he is. That gives me inspiration to reach peace, to provide people with hope, and the positive influences we are looking for in this world.” — Almzainy

Bates Student Government co-presidents Dhruv Chandra ’25 of Kolkata, India, and Rebecca Anderson ’24 of Boone, N.C., offer welcomes on behalf of Bates students. (Rene Roy for Bates College)

We all belong: “You have signaled repeatedly that we all belong here, all have a place here, all have a contribution to make and a mark to leave on this college that we all care for so deeply.” —  Rebecca Anderson ’24 of Boone, N.C., in her and Student Government co-president Dhruv Chandra’s shared welcome on behalf of students

Bates faculty and staff

Pretty powerful: “There’s so much evidence about how much the students admire Garry and just already love him and everything about him. Yes, he goes to lots of things on campus. But they love him for his admiration of our principals and his commitment to education and because he wants to be president of a liberal arts college. That’s pretty powerful.” — James Reese, the associate dean for international student programs and a member of the Bates staff since 1977

James Reese, associate dean for international student programs, glances at President Garry W. Jenkins during his welcome on behalf of Bates staff. Reese has been a member of the Bates staff since 1977. (Rene Roy for Bates College)

New and possible: “Rituals of hope and joy are just lovely things for a college to acknowledge and lean into. It’s a really beautiful day to think about what’s new and what’s possible.” — The Rev. Brittany Longsdorf, the college’s multifaith chaplain

Pass the baton: “It’s fantastic when you pass the baton and a fabulous person picks it up from you. It’s been wonderful to see the welcome that Garry has given to all the incoming delegates, the alums coming back, the trustees, and how thrilled everybody is, and to see the welcome that Garry has received from this community.” — President Emerita Clayton Spencer, Jenkins’ predecessor, one of two former presidents, with Elaine Tuttle Hansen, who took part in the installation ceremony

Moving forward: “This is an exciting and historic day for the college and certainly a day that we are celebrating not only Garry Jenkins, but also the institution, and our tradition, and our history and how we envision that history and tradition moving forward.” — Gwen Lexow, associate vice president for Title IX and Civil Rights and the delegate for Knox College, where she is an alumna and a trustee

Directness: “We see in you the curiosity and thoughtfulness and openness to the ideas of others that we center in our teaching, inside and outside the classroom. And we appreciate the directness with which you address the complexities and injustices of the current moment.” — Professor of French and Francophone Studies Mary T. Rice-DeFosse, from her official welcome on behalf of the Bates faculty

Professor of French and Francophone Studies Mary T. Rice-DeFosse carries the Bates mace as the senior member of the Bates faculty during the recessional on May 4, 2024. (Rene Roy for Bates College)

Renewal: “My initial thoughts are: It’s a new beginning, a different administration, and I’m looking forward to what Garry has to bring. And already he’s brought a wonderful energy of renewal and excitement.” — Associate Professor of American Studies Myron Beasley, who marched with his faculty colleagues in the academic procession

Reassembled campus: “It’s fun to see the campus reassemble itself for an event like this that really is about celebrating the joy of community. It’s fun to see how many people are coming here, seeing the indoor track rearranged into an event space that’s not for getting really sweaty! It’s really marvelous. It’s great.” — Associate Professor of History Joe Hall, who marched with his faculty colleagues in the academic procession and also sang in the Maine Music Society Chorale

Associate Professor of History Joe Hall (center, in blue hood) sings with the Maine Music Society Chorale during the installation ceremony on May 4, 2024. (Rene Roy for Bates College)

Energy and joy: “I’m so excited to have Garry and to have this moment. He just has so much energy, and joy, and love, and care.” — Melanie McGuire is director of information services for Bates Human Resources and was the delegate for Thomas College, where she earned an MBA

Set apart: “Our rituals, whether an inauguration or graduation or reunion, are what help set colleges apart from so many other organizations and businesses.” —Kerry O’Brien, who retired as the Bates assistant dean of the faculty in 2022

Bates alumni

Bursting with pride: “My classmate who is here and I, we both said our hearts are just bursting with pride. We feel such promise, like this is a promising time for Bates. Having Garry Jenkins here, what a great step forward for us. I’ve never felt so proud to be a Batesie. I grew up in Portland, a poor kid, and Bates gave me everything.” — Marjorie McCormick Davis ’76, the delegate for Vanderbilt University, where she earned a doctorate, who teared up as she offered her comment

Bates is people: “Bates is not the buildings, it’s the people. And I see that in Garry. He reinforces the reason people went here: we’ve alway had minorities, always had women. And I’m hearing that both from parents and also from students.” — Chuck James ’78, member of the Bates Alumni Council who met Jenkins recently at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Benjamin Mays Black Alumni Society, for which James serves as treasurer

Monumental moment: “I think it’s a monumental moment for the school in a time of a lot of change: in education, in the world. Just to be the ninth president in the long history of this school is pretty extraordinary. He’s just a great leader. So I just wanted to be here and be part of the event.” — Bill Carey ’82, member of the college’s Cheney Society, which comprises former members of the Bates College Board of Trustees

Best person: “It’s such a wonderful moment of community, so many different people coming together to celebrate just a momentous occasion: the ninth president of Bates and also our first Black president — which is of personal great importance to me — and, by far, the best person for the job. I think that’s what we’re most excited about.” — Lance Matthiesen ’85, a member of the Board of Trustees and the Benjamin Mays Black Alumni Society

Lance Matthiesen ’85, a member of the Board of Trustees, talks with President Garry W. Jenkins (right) during the inaugural dinner on May 3, 2024, and Jenkins’ cousin Darrell Terry (left). (Rene Roy for Bates College)

A testament: “This is a really historic moment and I’m just really proud to be here as an alum and I’m really excited to see what Garry ends up doing at Bates. Having the first Black and gay president is both historic and really important. But I also think it speaks to Bates’ legacy and dedication to diversity and inclusion. I think it’s a testament to that.” — Ashleigh Dior Coren ’07 of Takoma Park, Md., on campus this spring to teach a Short Term course on museum interpretation and storytelling 

Garry Jenkins’ family and friends

A good fit: “I’m proud, of course. And he’s worked hard. He’s very grounded and always prepared. Bates is a good fit for him. He’s very interested in education and students and people, and there are things he wants to accomplish. And I think he’ll do them here. Walking through the campus, the smiles on the students’ faces and, sometimes, they comment how glad they are he’s here, that he is here for them and they feel it.” — Leslie Jenkins, mother of Garry W. Jenkins

Garry Jenkins’ mother, Leslie Jenkins, blows a kiss to her son after his heartfelt thanks to her and his father, Garry C. Jenkins (left). At right is Jon Lee, Garry Jenkin’s husband. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Blessed to be embraced: “Garry and I are thrilled to be part of the Bates community and blessed to have been embraced so warmly by everyone in it, not only today but every day since he was first named as president last March. We look forward to deepening our relationship with the college and community in the years ahead.” — Jon J. Lee, Garry Jenkins’ husband and the delegate for his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Giving everything: “Garry has been a champion for liberal arts education for 37 years. I can recall the exact number of years because this high achiever wrote a book about the college admissions process at 16 years old! He will give everything in his heart to serve Bates and its staff and faculty and guide this esteemed institution to continued success.” — Garry Jenkins’ brother, Chris Jenkins, from his toast at Friday’s inauguration dinner

Harness the power: “People think of transformational leaders as people who changed institutions or organizations, but that’s not what I mean here. Garry loves institutions and actions that transform people. He will not try to change Bates, but instead will seek to harness the power of Bates and see how it transforms the lives of its students.” — Donald Tobin, a longtime friend and former colleague of Jenkins’ at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, in his toast to Jenkins

Embodied inclusiveness: “Long before the word became fashionable, Garry embodied inclusiveness. He’s a generous spirit who gives people leeway to make mistakes and he knows that not everyone is always their best self. But there is a difference between being tolerant and inclusive and being compliant. What makes Garry truly inclusive is that he actually has very little tolerance for people who aren’t kind, for people who lie, or for people who are dismissive of other people.” — Martha Chamallas, professor emerita of law, Moritz College of Law at The Ohio University, in her toast to Jenkins

Higher education delegates, colleagues, and guests

Awesome collision: “I spent an enormous amount of time at Bates growing up. I had a radio show at WRBC, I practiced with the Bates ultimate team all through high school. So it’s really fun to be on a campus that I love, representing my own alma mater, and it’s just kind of this awesome collision of all of my worlds.” — Luke Livingston, who grew up in Auburn and is the founder of Lewiston-based Baxter Brewing Co., is an alumnus of Clark University

Ethical and impactful: “Through Bates and all that the Bates community represents, Garry’s ethical and impactful leadership, rooted in the liberal arts and an enduring set of values and humane capacities, will know no limits. Congratulations, Bates College, on being on the Jenkins journey!” — Wendy Raymond, president and professor of biology at Haverford College, Jenkins’ undergraduate alma mater, who offered the traditional welcome on behalf of the academy

Wendy Raymond, president and professor of biology at Haverford College, offers the traditional welcome on behalf of the academy. (Rene Roy for Bates College)

Not luck, but brilliance: “On the one hand, I want to say Bates is so lucky to have Garry Jenkins as its president, but I don’t think it’s luck. I think it’s brilliance on the part of your search committee and your board. It’s just the right person in the right place at the right time. He is a problem solver. He is transformational in a way that makes other people do their absolute best.” — Susan Krinsky is executive vice president for operations and chief of staff of the Law School Admission Council