Widener Inaugurates Stacey Robertson, Ushering in the University’s Next Chapter
On a beautiful day in April, Widener University installed Stacey Robertson as its 11th president in a ceremony that officially ushered in the university’s next chapter under Robertson’s stewardship.
The historic ceremony, which celebrated a leadership change that has happened only ten times in more than 200 years, brought together members of the Widener community and distinguished guests to celebrate the Pride – its past, present, and bright future.
In her inaugural address, Robertson reflected on her journey to wear the presidential medallion, which symbolizes the office of the president, and the personal and professional experiences that shaped her into the leader that she is today.
“I have come to believe that humility, combined with a willingness to learn from mistakes, is the most important trait any leader brings to the table,” said Robertson. “Let us commit as a community to empowering ourselves and each other.”
Humility – along with belonging, exceeding expectations, and agility – served as the themes of Robertson’s address, as she laid out her vision for Widener. She highlighted a commitment to Widener’s a strategic approach known as “agility experienced.”
“We are implementing a vision for the future with short- and medium-term goals and strategies,” said Robertson. “The success we are experiencing with our current three strategic priorities –enhancing undergraduate enrollment; augmenting student success; and fostering belonging across our community – exemplify agility experienced.”
The milestone event marked the end of inauguration week which offered a series of celebrations on Widener’s Chester, Delaware, and Harrisburg campuses that included scholarly lectures, alumni gatherings, social festivities, and community service events.
Delaware Law School held a breakfast and panel discussion on dignity law. The dignity law clinic at Delaware Law is the only dignity law clinic in the world. The panel included Sara Evans ’19, Alicia Dugger ’22, Domonique Grimes ’24, Marc Brown ’23, Taylor Brady ’22, and Sarah Plasse ’24, along with moderators Professors James May and Erin Day. They discussed issues of dignity in practice, in environmental justice, in children, in well-being, and in criminal justice. They also discussed that the root of dignity law is changing people’s lives and helping people reclaim and find their worth through dignity. The panel stressed how dignity law connects deeply to Widener’s focus on belonging.
The installation ceremony drew esteemed guests including Widener Presidents Emeriti Bob Bruce and Jim Harris, members of the university Board of Trustees, government officials, and delegates representing institutions across the nation and abroad. Speakers included students, staff, faculty, and alumni representatives, as well as local and state elected officials.
Remarks offered by the speakers reiterated Robertson’s commitment to student experience and success, belonging across all three campuses, and positioning the university to withstand challenges in the world today.
Ijjae Hill ’23, ’25, the university’s student trustee and one of the student representatives on the presidential search committee, spoke about Robertson’s impact on students in her first year in office.
“We see her everywhere – on campus, on her Instagram page, at our campus events – and that means so much to us,” said Hill, who reflected on Robertson’s natural warmth and ability to make students truly feel seen, heard, and able to be their authentic selves.
“She has created a culture and climate that encourages and supports students’ success and excellence. In everything that she does, she brings a spirit of belonging. It is a constant reminder to students that ‘You Belong Here!’” Hill said.
Two higher education leaders and personal friends of Robertson, Janet Gooch, chancellor of the University of Illinois Springfield and Nancy Niemi, president of Framingham State University, also spoke. Robertson, Gooch, and Niemi all assumed presidential roles at their respective universities at the same time.
Delivering remarks in tandem, the pair illustrated Robertson’s character as both a leader in higher education and a dear friend. In both instances, Gooch and
Niemi credit Robertson’s endless desire for personal connection and her love and sense of community for positioning her to navigate Widener through dilemmas facing higher education.
“Stacey is a leader who naturally sees not only the connections between us but can help Widener and by association the entire higher education community in finding ways to make new supportive fibers that will serve to weave the educational structures we so keenly need,” said Niemi.
The ceremony concluded with a recessional to music performed by Keepin’ It Trill, Widener's student-run a cappella vocal group, and was followed by a community-wide celebratory reception in University Center.