Manuel made official: DePaul’s 13th president inaugurated


Quentin Blais

Manuel is bestowed a medallion known as the Chain of Command. The chain represents the leadership of each of the colleges within DePaul, which are engraved on the silver tablets.

Shortly after his 100th day in office, in DePaul’s 125th year as an institution, Robert Manuel was officially inaugurated as the 13th president of DePaul university on Nov. 11.

University community members, Chicago citizens and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul gathered in the Holtschneider Performance Center in Lincoln Park to celebrate Manuel on Inauguration Day.

A sense of excitement hung in the air as proud live brass rang in the procession of university leaders in caps, regalia and robes. The music wafted down from the balcony in a triumphant manner, guiding Manuel as the lights dimmed and the inauguration began.

The theme of the inauguration was dignity. Dignity was embedded in each of the speakers’ addresses, acknowledging the opportunity DePaul has to create meaningful change as we transition into new leadership.

Valerie Coleman, a Master of Fine Arts candidate in the Theatre School, read a Langston Hughes poem as a part of a musical interlude that preceded Manuel’s inaugural address.

Quentin Blais

Coleman said that although “Portraits of Langston, IV. Silver Rain” is a short poem, it was important to deliver the piece the way in which it was meant to be presented.

She found the poem fitting for an inauguration. To Coleman, the poem is about growth, looking ahead and appreciating the newness of life.

“I think this poem represents the new direction that DePaul is going towards,” Coleman said. “We have a new president and he speaks about not running away from the storm, but going towards the storm.”

She felt it represented the way DePaul and its community members can prosper in the university’s new chapter with a new president.

Previous presidents A. Gabriel Esteban and Dennis H. Holtschneider helped welcome Manuel into the university’s highest office. They presented Manuel with the Chain of Office, a symbol of his commitment to all students in DePaul’s ten colleges and schools and his responsibility of promoting DePaul’s mission and values.

Once he was presented with the Chain of Office and the university’s Mission Statement, Manuel stepped up to the podium for his inaugural address.

Before he could speak, Manuel was met with a standing ovation. He placed his hand over his heart, appearing choked up by the overwhelming response from the crowd.

“I haven’t done anything yet, but thank you!” Manuel joked.

DePaul’s 13th president has been consistent in his pursuit to reach out to the community, noting that he has had over 1,800 community conversations in his time at DePaul. He was adamant that he would craft a vision based on what stakeholders, students, faculty and staff want for DePaul.

Thus, it was fitting that Manuel’s address was not a speech about himself, but a speech grounded in the people that he has met and the people he will serve.

He acknowledged the hope that community members share for DePaul’s future. Manuel recognized the potential the university has.

“It’s time to build the DePaul we know the world needs and create the model for higher education in the U.S.,” Manuel said.

In his address to the community, Manuel revealed his aspirations for DePaul. Since he was announced as DePaul’s 13th president, Manuel proclaimed his belief that the university has the tools to become the next leader in higher education in the United States. On Inauguration Day, Manuel spoke about his desire for DePaul to spread its mission to the world and address global problems.

“We will bring forward the gifts of those in our community to harness the power of our social networks and connect our students to global issues,” Manuel said. “We will model the civility we want the world to adopt. We must use our place in this world to act.”


Manuel showed that his administration is acting upon DePaul’s potential by announcing three initiatives that were approved by the Board of Trustees.

According to Manuel, DePaul will set aside $20 million from the university endowment to fund interdisciplinary efforts. The university will also allocate additional endowment funds to reconstruct DePaul’s digital presence to “show DePaul’s story to the world, rather than just tell it.”

Manuel also announced that the Board of Trustees agreed to eliminate the Return to Principle investment strategy and create a DePaul Investment Fund that will be used towards different initiatives that the university needs each year.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Kevin Holechko was supportive of Manuel’s commitment to interdisciplinary efforts. He noted that it was something faculty and staff have wanted from the university.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing that the university needs,” Holechko said. “It’s one of those calls to action that the university asked Rob when he first came to DePaul and he has done an excellent job working with our Board of Trustees to make sure that’s something our faculty and staff can get.”

Holechko was also supportive of allocating more funding to support DePaul’s online presence.

“If you are around me long enough, you’ll hear me constantly say that DePaul does not market itself correctly to the wider Chicagoland community or really the world,” Holechko said. “We are finally [taking] some necessary steps that we need to address issues of enrollment, to address who we are as an institution and what does the world perceive of us. I’m ecstatic about it.”

Manuel has not had any meetings with SGA to talk about what DePaul could do to improve its online presence, but Holechko said that there are many paths the university could take, including revamping its website or changing branding.

According to Holechko, SGA has had a successful relationship with DePaul’s new president. The representatives are in favor of Manuel’s shared governance approach and feel that collaborating with students, faculty and staff is an effective way to address the community’s needs.

“I’m looking forward to the continuing conversations as a university,” Holechko said. “We have people in the right places in all aspects. We have a DePaul community who’s ready to tackle challenges and issues that are not only facing DePaul internally but challenges of the world.”

Other students voiced their confidence in Manuel to put his best efforts towards DePaul.

Senior Samantha McKeown entered the raffle to watch the inauguration in person. While she did not win, McKeown came to the post-inauguration ceremony University Celebration in McGrath-Phillips Arena. She has enjoyed the change of pace from the previous three years she has been at DePaul.

“I was pretty excited to have a new president,” McKeown said.

McKeown has paid attention to Manuel’s efforts to connect to the DePaul community, from adding students on the social media app BeReal, to sending out a university-wide survey, to walking through the Student Center in between classes.

“I’ve been here for three other years, and I never once saw the previous president on campus, and I’ve seen [President Manuel] multiple times,” McKeown said. “It just makes a different type of impression, it makes you want to go to things like this more.”

Jenna Gohmann is a sophomore transfer student. While both she and Manuel are new to the university, Gohmann feels that Manuel is trying to be more involved at DePaul.

“He’s trying to get a connection with the students and not just being at the school to be at the school,” Gohmann said.

Holechko noted that while the inauguration was meant to celebrate Manuel, it also celebrated DePaul’s future. When the president is committed to the success of the university, everyone at the university succeeds.

“When DePaul succeeds, we all do, regardless if we’re current students, alumni or faculty and staff,” Holechko said. “When the university is successful, that’s reflective of a great community that is equally invested in it.

Connect with Lily Lowndes: @LilyILowndes | [email protected]