Schill takes charge.
Michael Schill is now "signed, sealed and delivered and ours" as the University of Oregon's 18th president, professor Geri Richmond said Wednesday at the close of Schill's investiture ceremony.
Richmond was riffing off an a capella version of the Stevie Wonder classic that had just been rendered by UO a capella group On The Rocks, which with the UO Brass Ensemble, the Grand Ronde Singers and the a capella group Divisi colored the traditional presidential seating ceremony at Matthew Knight Arena.
Schill was a disarmingly earnest participant, who greeted from the podium his 94-year-old parents, Simon and Ruth, who were watching via live stream at the University of Chicago.
"I love you dearly," Schill called to them.
Schill's investiture speech was a message of cheer to students - who, he said, are pursuing a worthwhile goal and are on the road to happiness. Schill drew applause for his defense of the liberal arts.
"The argument that the social sciences and humanities are irrelevant and no longer valuable is not just a myth; it is blasphemy," he told the crowd of 500, which included politicians and other dignitaries.
And Schill reiterated for at least the hundredth time the importance of rebuilding the university's capacity for scientific research.
He spoke of excellence, invoked megadonor Phil Knight, the late UO President Dave Frohnmayer and the late track star Steve Prefontaine, quoting the latter: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
After the formal ceremony, Schill stood sweltering in a reception line for more than an hour in his blue Yale regalia, throwing his arms around faculty, donors and other well-wishers, and welcoming them to his self-styled reception buffet of ice cream cones, cookies and sugared popcorn.
Speakers at the ceremony described Schill, who has been at the helm of the UO for 11 months, as decisive and compassionate, a man with an "impeccable academic pedigree" and a "leader in the truest sense."
Professor Paul Peppis compared Schill with Hercules and the task Schill faces at the UO to the Greek god's 12 heroic labors.
"Obviously, Mike Schill is no Greek muscle man," Peppis said. "He prefers working at a desk and eating malted milk balls to performing feats of physical strength. And he certainly hasn't slain the Nemean lion, captured the Cretan bull or corralled the cattle of Geryon - although Hercules' fifth labor, cleaning the Augean stables, does have curious resonance with some of Mike's efforts over the past 12 months." In myth, the Augean stables held 3,000 oxen and had not been cleaned for decades.
"(He's) a hard working leader unafraid to tackle big challenges, and a regular guy with an open mind, a good heart and a soft spot for dopey jokes and malted milk balls," he said.
Three years and one day ago, the last UO president, Michael Gottfredson, celebrated his investiture.
At that ceremony, geography professor Alexander Murphy led the processional, carrying the UO's official scepter.
After the ceremony, Murphy reviewed all the challenges Gottfredson then faced, including fractious union negotiations, hostility between faculty and the president, criticism of his handling of a sexual assault case.
Students protesting tuition hikes even interrupted Gottfredson's investiture.
"There's so many different pressures," Murphy said that day. "There's so many different feelings of fractionalization around issues. It presents a real challenge for leadership right now."
Is Gottfredson up to the job? "I certainly hope so," Murphy said then.
In August of 2014, Gottfredson resigned, by some accounts under pressure to do so.
This year, Richmond, who started at the UO 31 years ago this week, carried the sceptre in the processional.
Afterward, Richmond said the UO has problems to solve, but Schill has the energy, new ideas, and a willingness to push in new ways that's needed to get the job done, Richmond said.
"I have never been so optimistic," she said.