10th inauguration marks a new start

When administrators, faculty, students and staff line up to march into the Leon County Civic Center Friday morning, it will mark the first Florida A&M University Presidential Inauguration in more than two decades.

It marks James Ammons’ ceremonial installation as FAMU’s tenth president, and is “symbolic of a new beginning,” said FAMU chief communications officer Sharon Saunders.

In 1986, Frederick Humphries was inaugurated as the eighth FAMU president.

“The university has not experienced an event like this since,” Saunders said.

Ammons said this change is good for FAMU.

“This is a new beginning, a new chapter,” he said. “It will be a part of the history.”

In 1986, the theme of Humphries’s inauguration was “A Legacy to Preserve – A Future to Design.”

Humphries served as president from 1985 to 2001. Under his leadership, FAMU experienced significant growth in enrollment and land mass.

Ammons took office on July 2, 2007, at a time when FAMU was facing intense outside scrutiny after bad audits and a possible loss of accreditation from the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools (SACS).

FAMU supporters said they are looking for Ammons to restore the university’s stature and spur another era of growth.

Shumikia Knight, 21, a fourth year business administration student from Tallahassee, said he is happy with Ammons.

“I think Ammons is a good president,” Knight said. “He cleaned up the university financial issues and turned FAMU around. He’s personable and cares for the university.”

In the 15 months since he took the position, the university has been removed from SACS probation.

Ammons said he worked to do this by reaching out to the FAMU community.

“As I interviewed for the job, I had a chance to dialogue with students,” Ammons said. “Those conversations influenced the way I approached this job.”

Others find the theme, “Preserving the Excellence in a New Era,” appropriate.

“[The inauguration] is symbolic of a clear future enshrined in strong leadership and direction for the worldwide FAMU community,” said Student Government Association president Andrew Collins, who works alongside Ammons on the board of trustees. “It’s a ratification of the commitment between FAMU and Dr. Ammons.”

For the student body, the inauguration represents “the return and reinforcement of a genuine Rattler Spirit” as well as reassurance in the efficacy of their education here, Collins said.

The 10:10 a.m. inauguration installation ceremony highlights a series of events, including an art exhibition, gala, and forum that has attracted alumni, friends and supporters from all over the country.

“We believe that there is something for everybody,” Saunders said.

Maudeline Sainte Juste, 19, a second year nursing student from Tampa, said she has heard the message and agrees with Saunders.

She also said the inauguration will give her a chance to be a part of a historic celebration and show support for Ammons.   

Gregory Lowe, 23, a senior education from Plainfield, N.J., also said he plans to attend the inauguration to see what Ammons has planned for the university.

“He has a lot of work cut out for him,” said Lowe. “But I have faith in him.”