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What is an Investiture? – And A Look Back At The Chancellors of The University’s Past

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In anticipation of Chancellor Jeff Vitter’s investiture on Thursday, many people have wondered, ‘what is an investiture?’

Webster’s dictionary defines an investiture as “a formal ceremony at which someone is placed in an office or given an official rank.” A derivative of the Medieval Latin word Investitura, an investiture formally invests the new official, Jeff Vitter in this case, with the authority of their office. When the term was first coined in the 14th century, it was used as the term for the clothing of high-ranking officials in the garments of their new office. The clothing was meant to symbolize power.

Another question that has come about is how does an investiture differ from an inauguration? The first known use of the term inauguration according to Websters was the early 1600s. An inauguration is to simply “introduce someone into a job or position with a formal ceremony” while the investiture bestows the power of the Chancellor’s office upon Vitter. Thursday’s investiture will officially make Jeff Vitter the 17th Chancellor in the 168-year history of the University of Mississippi.

The complete list of former Chancellors of the University of Mississippi can be viewed below. Pictures and information are courtesy of The Chancellor’s Office.

George F. Holmes 1848-1849

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A native of British Guiana, the university’s first president taught in Quebec, Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina before being appointed to lead Mississippi’s first state university at the age of 28. He returned to Virginia less than a year later when his daughter became ill, and he later taught at the University of Virginia for 40 years.


Augustus Baldwin Longstreet 1849-1856

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A lawyer and Methodist minister, A.B. Longstreet served in the state Legislature in his native state of Georgia and was president of both Emory College and Centenary College before being named the second president of the University of Mississippi. His tenure included the institution of entrance exams, strengthening of the honor code and strict discipline. After his resignation, he served as president of the University of South Carolina.


Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard 1856-1861

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Widely regarded as the university’s most influential leader, Massachusetts native Frederick A.P. Barnard was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at the University of Alabama for 16 years before joining the UM faculty to teach mathematics, physics and civil engineering. After he became president, he lobbied for more money to add faculty and buy equipment, and the title of president was changed to chancellor. His vision was to turn UM into one of the nation’s great scientific institutions, and he amassed a huge collection of scientific instruments and built an observatory to house the world’s largest telescope. The Civil War interrupted his plan, though, and Barnard left after the university closed during the war. He became president of Columbia University in 1864 and was recognized around the world for his scholarship and educational leadership.


John Newton Waddel 1865-1874

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A charter member of the university’s board of trustees, John Newton Waddell resigned his position when the university opened to become one of the first four faculty members, teaching ancient languages. A Presbyterian minister, he was passed over as chancellor when Barnard was appointed and left to lead LaGrange Tennessee Presbyterian Synodical College. He returned when the university reopened after the war.


Alexander P. Stewart 1874-1886

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A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Alexander P. Stewart taught mathematics at Cumberland University and the University of Nashville before serving as a Confederate general during the Civil War. He guided UM through Reconstruction and is credited with increasing enrollment, reinstating the law program and leading the movement to admit women.


Edward Mayes 1886-1892

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Hinds County native Edward Mayes was the first native Mississippian and UM alumnus to lead the university. Enrolling in the university after the Civil War, he earned a baccalaureate degree in 1869 and a law degree in 1869. He joined the faculty in 1877 and became chairman of the faculty (the title of chancellor was abolished in 1886) and then chancellor when the title was restored in 1889. After leaving UM, he worked as an attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad and a law professor at Millsaps College.


Robert Burwell Fulton 1892-1906

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The second alumnus to lead his alma mater, Robert Burwell Fulton earned his bachelor’s degree with highest honors in 1869. He taught in Alabama and Louisiana before returning to Oxford in 1871 as a tutor in physics and astronomy. After earning his master’s degree, he became a full professor. Under his leadership, the UM campus expanded dramatically and modern conveniences such as steam heat, running water, telephones and a sewer system were added. He also oversaw the creation of the schools of Engineering, Education and Medicine.


Andrew Armstrong Kincannon 1907-1914 

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Effective in dealing with the state Legislature, Andrew Armstrong Kincannon secured the university’s largest state appropriations to date, using the funds to build new academic buildings, a new power plant, a laundry, a student infirmary and a large men’s dormitory. Before coming to UM, he was president of the Industrial Institute and College (now Mississippi University for Women). After leaving Oxford, he was school superintendent in Memphis for 10 years before becoming president of West Tennessee Normal College (now University of Memphis), In 1929, he was hired as a history professor at what is now the University of Southern Mississippi.


Joseph Neely Powers 1914-1924 & 1930-1932

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Hinds County native Edward Mayes was the first native Mississippian and UM alumnus to lead the university. Enrolling in the university after the Civil War, he earned a baccalaureate degree in 1869 and a law degree in 1869. He joined the faculty in 1877 and became chairman of the faculty (the title of chancellor was abolished in 1886) and then chancellor when the title was restored in 1889. After leaving UM, he worked as an attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad and a law professor at Millsaps College.


Alfred Hume 1924-1930, 1932-1935, 1942-1943

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Alfred Hume joined the faculty in 1890 as a professor of mathematics and later also taught civil engineering. He became dean of the College of Liberal Arts in 1905 and served concurrently as vice chancellor until becoming chancellor in 1924. Enrollment grew rapidly during his tenure, and campus was expanded to accommodate the growing student body, with the addition of new gymnasium, dormitories, a football stadium, a new building for the School of Law and a high school. Gov. Theodore Bilbo fired him in 1930. He taught at Southwestern at Memphis before returning as chancellor in 1932. He served again as acting chancellor in 1942-1943 while Chancellor Butts was on military service. Still teaching at the time of his death, he served the university for 58 years.


Alfred Benjamin Butts 1935-1946

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A visionary leader, Alfred Benjamin Butts guided the university through the problems of the Depression and World War II and then helped cope with enrollment that more than doubled in one year after the war. Butts came to UM from Mississippi A&M, where he was a faculty member and vice president. During his tenure at UM, the athletics teams were christened the Rebels. After leaving the university, Butts worked in Washington, D.C., to help direct the post-graduate work of army officers at universities nationwide.


John Davis Williams 1946-1968

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President of Marshall University before coming to UM, John Davis Williams moved swiftly to help the university deal with the post-WWII enrollment boom by constructing many new academic and housing buildings and dramatically increasing the faculty. He also helped steer the university through the tumultuous time of integration. A member of Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa, he also helped lift the university’s academic prestige by serving on the executive committee of the American Council on Education, as vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board and as president of the National Association of State Universities, State Universities Association, the Southeastern Athletic Conference, the Southern University Conference and the Southern Association of Land-Grant Colleges and State Universities.


Porter Lee Fortune Jr. 1968-1984

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The university made strides as a cultural center under the leadership of Porter Fortune, who came to UM after serving as executive secretary of the National Exchange Club and professor of history and dean of the graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi. During his tenure, the university purchased Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home, and the Stark Young house and constructed the Skipwith Museum. Fortune also oversaw the creation of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the Sarah Isom Center for Women’s Studies, the School of Accountancy in oxford and the schools of Dentistry and Health-Related Professions at the Medical Center. He also helped launch the annual Faulkner Conference, which continues to attract scholars from around the world each summer.


Gerald Turner 1984-1995 

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Texas native Gerald Turner had served as an administrator at Pepperdine University and the University of Oklahoma before being named chancellor. He used his inauguration to launch a campaign to raise $25 million for academics, the first private fundraising campaign in UM history. Under his leadership, the university’s endowment grew from $8 million to $64 million, six national centers for research and service were established with federal funding and externally funded research increased more than 300 percent. He resigned after 11 years in office to become president of Southern Methodist University.


Robert C. Khayat 1995-2009

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One of the most popular and successful UM chancellors ever, Robert Khayat set high goals for his alma mater and then achieved them. Under his watch, the university boosted faculty salaries, renovated dozens of building across campus, established a world-class honors college and achieved a long-sought goal of sheltering a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. He launched a massive private fundraising drive, the Commitment to Excellence campaign, that raised $525.9 million. The university attracted widespread attention for its growing academic stature and hosted the 2008 presidential debate between then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. An outstanding baseball and football player, he was a kicker for Coach johnny Vaught and later played for the NFL Washington Redskins. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education and J.D. from Ole Miss and his L.L.M. from Yale University. Since retiring as chancellor, he has continued to help raise private support for the University Foundation.


Daniel W. Jones 2009-2015 

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Under Dr. Daniel W. Jones’ leadership, the University of Mississippi undertook a major initiative to promote diversity across all its campuses and launched an unprecedented construction boom, including new academic, residential and athletics facilities. Enrollment surged nearly 26 percent, and donations to the university also hit record highs. One of Jones’ passions is volunteer service, and he led UM faculty, staff and students to contribute thousands of hours to causes across the community, the state and around the world. Before his appointment as UM chancellor, Jones was vice chancellor for health affairs, dean of the School of Medicine and Herbert G. Langford Professor of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Designated as a specialist in clinical hypertension by the American Society of Hypertension, Jones was named one of the “Best Doctors in America” from 1996 to 2008 and is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha national honor medical society. A native Mississippian, he earned his M.D. at UMMC. He has rejoined UMMC to help lead obesity research there.


Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at steven.gagliano@hottytoddy.com.

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