T.J. Arant spoke humbly Friday during his inauguration as the 13th president of Friends University.
“I’m not here because of my own work, but because of the work and worth of others,” he said. “I am honored, I am humbled, and I will do my best.”
More than 500 students, alumni, faculty and staff members joined delegates from several other universities for the celebration in McKay Gymnasium in the Casado Campus Center.
Arant, who took office on July 1, received a standing ovation when he was introduced and at the close of his speech.
During his remarks, Arant quoted several others who have served as president of Friends since its founding in 1898. He said he would continue the tradition of those presidents by trying to encourage every Friends student to take up three challenges: Improve the world, adapt to change, and make a difference.
Arant said he has found it comfortable working at a university where students are encouraged to integrate their academic, social and spiritual lives to meet those challenges.
Arant, 56, was executive vice president at Mount Olive College in North Carolina when he was selected unanimously by the Friends University Board of Trustees to become president. Arant has a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University, a master’s from the University of North Carolina and a doctorate in English from Duke University. He held professor positions at Duke, Appalachian State University, Notre Dame College and Mount Olive before moving into administration in 2000.
Arant said he and his wife, Susan, also have found comfort in hearing the chimes that mark the hour and half-hour on the Friends campus.
In his previous university assignments, he said, “even if I had a wristwatch on, I didn’t quite know what time it was.”