Chancellor Debbie Ford installed in formal ceremony 

1st March 2024
Chancellor Debbie Ford receives a standing ovation upon her formal installation.

New Albany, Ind – For only the sixth time in the 83-year history of Indiana University Southeast, a formal installation ceremony was held on February 28, to instate Dr. Deborah Ford as Chancellor of the university. 

President Pamela Whitten presided over the sometimes-lighthearted event, with 300 faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members in attendance, in a ceremony lauding Ford and her accomplishments since her arrival at IU Southeast in July 2023.  

For Ford, this was a homecoming, having grown up in Louisville, where she attended school, and working at Spalding University before embarking on academic endeavors at the University of West Florida in Pensacola and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha.  

Noting Ford’s success at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Whitten praised Ford for her continuing efforts to build partnerships between the campus and businesses in southern Indiana and the greater Louisville area.

“Under Chancellor Ford’s leadership, I am confident that the IU Southeast campus—and the entire region—can look forward to even bigger, better, and brighter days ahead,” said Whitten. 

Highlights of the ceremony included performances of the IU Southeast Concert Choir, led by Assistant Professor of Music, Brittny Kempfer, and speakers ranging from New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan to representatives of campus entities including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the Board of Advisors. 

IU President Pamela Whitten formally installs IU Southeast Chancellor Debbie Ford.

A commonality of several speeches was Ford’s unique ability to build bridges or partnerships in her first eight months at IU Southeast.

“She (Ford), has demonstrated an eagerness to work with all stakeholders, build relationships, and continue Indiana University Southeast’s legacy as a hub of educational excellence in this region,” said Beau Zoeller, chair of the IU Southeast Board of Advisors. “With Chancellor Ford, this University and this region have been blessed with a strong, passionate, and intelligent leader.” 

Likewise, alumna and fellow member of the Board of Advisors, Ideisha Bellamy, challenged alumni, “Together, this is our opportunity to recommit ourselves to the mission of our beloved university and to share our time, talents, and treasure. We can take this chance and build a brighter future for students and this community.” 

Faculty Senate President, and Associate Professor of English Composition, Dr. Susan Popham, extolled Ford’s ability to build a team of willing and knowledgeable people.

“Chancellor Ford has never forgotten why this team of faculty and staff do this work; that is, we all work for the success of our students.” Popham went on to liken Ford’s leadership style to her piloting a large aircraft while offering the teamwork and support of the faculty in meeting both the possible turbulence and blue skies that lie ahead.  

In a whimsical welcome, IU Southeast Registrar and President of the Staff Council, Jay McTyier, equated Ford’s leadership to the intricacies of directing an orchestra.

“In Chancellor Deborah Ford, we have found a conductor of accomplished, demonstrated skill at directing a regional campus ‘orchestra,’ one who has returned to her Kentuckiana roots and in the first few months of her tenure has set a tone of inclusiveness of all levels of staff, as well as faculty, to be at the decision-making table and learn together how to be good stewards of the resources the state provides,” said McTyier. 

Finally, representing the students of IU Southeast, Student Government Association President, Dylan Mapp, noted Ford’s ability to make sure everyone is seen and heard, and her ability to enact positive change. 

Following the representative speakers, Vice President for Regional Campuses and Online Education, Susan Sciame-Giesecke, introduced Chancellor Ford for her formal installation.  “She (Ford) is committed to elevating IU Southeast to serve as a center for regional advancement to address community, cultural, workforce, economic, education, and health needs,” said Sciame-Giesecke. “All of us who have had the pleasure of working alongside Debbie in the past few months are confident that under her leadership, IU Southeast will enjoy historic successes.” 

IU Southeast Chancellor Debbie Ford speaks at her formal installation ceremony.

After the official conferral by Whitten, Ford recognized the many people, from family and friends, mentors and colleagues to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners who champion IU Southeast, for giving her energy, purpose, and drive to lead.  

“(I am here) to build from the leaders and visionaries of the past,” said Ford. “To make IU Southeast the best university in our region. We are just beginning to show our strength, our impact on the community, and how we lift generations of families to better lives and futures.”  

Ford spoke of the transformation that attaining her degrees through higher education made in her life and vowed to bring that same opportunity to people throughout the region. “We provide more than an education, we fulfill dreams,” she said. “Because of our pride and commitment, I am unapologetically optimistic about the future of our campus and our region.” 

Ford further pledged to create a learning environment that will position the campus for its best work, focus on student success, and serve as the center for regional advancement. 

“The best is yet to come, and I am proud to lead as your chancellor as we bring on tomorrow.” 

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