UNC Asheville installs new chancellor after weeklong celebration

UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant receives the chancellor's medallion from Thomas W. Ross, as Grant's husband, Jim Canavan, looks on. Photo by Matt Rose.

Story by Amber Abunassar and Hannah Epperson

On Saturday, Sept. 19, UNC Asheville officially installed Mary K. Grant as the university’s seventh chancellor.

Leading up to the ceremony, UNCA hosted a weeklong celebration showcasing the liberal arts and sciences, including a raku ceramic demonstration, an evening of stargazing, a panel discussion on undergraduate research and more. The week also was full of fun events, kicking off with the Founders Day celebration that brought students, faculty and staff out on the Quad for rides on the Amazing Cycle and the debut of a new ice cream flavor from The Hop in honor of the chancellor.

UNC Asheville's weeklong celebration of the Installation of Chancellor Mary K. Grant included a special stargazing session at the university's Lookout Observatory. Photo by David Allen.
UNC Asheville’s weeklong celebration of the Installation of Chancellor Mary K. Grant included a special stargazing session at the university’s Lookout Observatory. Photo by David Allen.

“Over the course of the week, it gives us an opportunity to talk about who we are, to think about where we’ve been, to imagine where we are going – and to do that together,” Chancellor Grant said at the start of Installation Week. “The events are thoughtful, creative and fun. It reflects who we are.”

The week also brought together students, faculty and staff, and members of the Asheville community. UNC Asheville’s Lookout Observatory, a partnership with the Astronomy Club of Asheville and a regular haunt for amateur astronomers in the area, hosted a special guided viewing of the moon, star clusters and planets.

“We have people of all ages come to these events, kids as young as six and folks as old as 70 and 80 and everywhere in between,” said Brian Hart, a UNC Ashville alumnus and administrative assistant for the Physics Department. “So you get people from all over town coming up there wanting to learn something, wanting to look through the telescope. It really brings people together.

“I enjoy being a part of something that is so alive and so vibrant,” he continued. “It has really struck a chord with the folks not only at UNC Asheville, but with the community.”

Over in the Art Department, student Sarah Adams shared a raku ceramic firing demonstration.

“This firing in particular requires hands, and without the participation of all of our people in our studio, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Adams explained. Raku involves firing glazed pots in a kiln, and then quickly moving them, while they’re still glowing hot, into a steel can full of sawdust and paper. The resulting flames are impressive, as are the beautiful colors and patterns of the glazes on the finished pots.

“People get the chance to watch us all working in harmony and really see that even though you can make stuff in this studio independently, it takes a team to make a fire and to get it complete,” Adams said. “The education experience is really enhanced by all of our knowledge, collectively.”

UNC Asheville students and professors in the Department of Art held a raku ceramic firing demonstration as part of the university's celebration of the Installation of Chancellor Mary K. Grant. Photo by Leslie Frempong.
UNC Asheville students and professors in the Department of Art held a raku ceramic firing demonstration as part of the university’s celebration of the Installation of Chancellor Mary K. Grant. Photo by Leslie Frempong.

Exhibits representing all corners of the UNCA and Asheville community were displayed at the Changing the World Expo during Festival on the Quad last Friday, one of the final events of Installation Week. Covering a vast variety of topics, ranging from wildlife rehabilitation to autism awareness, the collaborative works drew in students, faculty, staff, alumni and other Asheville residents to review the causes that matter to students the most.

“MANNA supplies food to nearly 250 partner organizations throughout 16 counties in Western North Carolina,” explained student Tracey Childers, who interned at MANNA FoodBank and created a food-centric exhibit for the expo. “Food insecurity is one of the major issues plaguing our community. Creating dialog for combatting this can help create the change for a hunger-free WNC!”

The culmination of the week’s events was the Installation Ceremony, when Chancellor Grant officially took the oath of office and received the chancellor’s medallion. In her address, she emphasized that the installation was really less about her, but rather about the UNCA community.

“UNC Asheville’s motto translates to ‘I lift my eyes to the mountains,’” Grant said. “We will lift our eyes, our minds, our hearts, our passions, our hopes, our dreams, our intellect and apply all to a common good. And we will do these things together and with intention.”

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