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President M. Lee Pelton addresses the crowd.President M. Lee Pelton addresses the crowd.

The Chamber Choir performs "Hope for Resolution."The Chamber Choir performs "Hope for Resolution."

Attendees share their memories with Pelton.Attendees share their memories with Pelton.

Pelton and his daughter, Sophia, talk with well-wishers.Pelton and his daughter, Sophia, talk with well-wishers.

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Willamette University says farewell to President M. Lee Pelton

The sounds of the Willamette University Chamber Choir singing “Hope for Resolution” resonated through Goudy Commons on Tuesday afternoon, an appropriate closing to President M. Lee Pelton’s 13 years at the helm of the university.

The song — composed in honor of former South African president Nelson Mandela — holds special meaning for Pelton, who heard it performed both on campus during a visit from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and again in South Africa during the Chamber Choir’s 2004 tour of the country.

That trip was just one of the highlights of Pelton’s years as Willamette’s president, a role he will relinquish later this month as he moves to Boston to become president of Emerson College.

On Tuesday, faculty, staff, administrators and students packed Goudy to say one last farewell to Pelton.

Three speakers provided their personal takes on his tenure. Professor Joe Bowersox, Dempsey chair in environmental policy and politics, gave a contrast between the “old” Willamette before Pelton and the accomplishments of the university today.

Vice President Kristen Grainger presented a humorous take on her years at Pelton’s side, and student government President Walter Robinson ’11 offered a heartfelt remembrance of the man he calls a “mentor and a great friend.”

“You’re going to be missed by myself and the Willamette community,” Robinson said.

Pelton said he was appreciative of all the support he received from faculty, staff and students during his tenure.

“In my heart I feel that together, as a community bound by hope and purpose, that we have done good work here,” he said.

But, he noted, their work was only a “prelude to greatness,” as he expressed confidence that his successor would carry on the tradition of excellence that Willamette had built.

He closed his remarks with another appropriate message, one he has delivered every spring at the end of his commencement speech to Willamette’s newest graduates:

“When you depart from this commonwealth of learning, may your life bring work of noble note, may you find meaning in your commitment to others, and may your memories of Willamette be undying. Good luck and good cheer.”

Read more about Pelton’s accomplishments in a recent feature story.


05-04-2011