Friends, family, dignitaries and members of the school community gathered at Gloucester County College on Tuesday afternoon as the school officially inaugurated Frederick Keating as the school's seventh president in its 45-year history.
The ceremony comes more than 16 months after Keating began serving as the school's interim president in June of 2011. He took over the position after former president Russell Davis resigned in April of that year in the wake of forgery charges. Keating was the interim president until February 2012, at which point the board of trustees removed the interim tag from his position.
The rough patch that the school went through last year was mentioned in passing, but the message of Tuesday's ceremony was not to reflect on the past, but how to make progress to keep the school moving toward the future.
“Whenever I was out on the court, I used to say I was in the arena,” said Keating, talking about his college basketball playing days at The College of New Jersey. “I now find myself back in the arena at Gloucester County College.”
Keating focused his inauguration speech around the students that attend the college, of which he said “the school wouldn't be there if it wasn't for them.” He encouraged students to do what he was about to do and “enter the arena.” In concluding his speech, Keating called up nine current GCC students who have made exceptional achievements in their academic careers to share the stage with him.
Steven Sweeney, president of the New Jersey Senate, was in attendance at the ceremony and has a strong friendship with Keating. When talking about the new GCC president, Sweeney mentioned some of his past achievements in higher education as well as when Keating served as the superintendent for Gloucester County Special Services School District.
“We've had some stressful times at this college,” said Sweeney. “It was sad. But I knew that when Fred came in to become president, that he would be the guy who could fix it.”
Other speeches were given by school officials as well as Rowan University President Ali Houshmand, who has a good relationship with Keating. Rowan and Glocuester County College have a partnership to help GCC graduates transfer to Rowan to continue their education.
Keating's impact on the campus has been felt in many ways since he took over. He has helped establish partnerships with four-year schools such as Rowan and, . The school has also established a similar dual-enrollment program with Wilmington University. In addition, Keating has overseen the completion of the school's new University Center, which opened at the start of the fall semester.
The popularity of Keating as the school's new president was evident in the large crowd turnout, the kind words by the speakers and the long standing ovation that he received at the very end of the ceremony.
“I came here looking for a new job and a new horizon,” Keating said of when he came to GCC to become the vice president of student services in 2010. “But I never thought I'd be entering this new horizon right here.”