Zeal for Zingg
By the time Chico State University President Paul Zingg finally was inaugurated earlier this week, it seemed as if he had already faced more obstacles in his 14 months in office than most university presidents do in their entire careers.
But Zingg has handled it all with unwavering confidence and composure, garnering the respect of the faculty, students and community members. And on April 18 they filled Laxson Auditorium to officially welcome him as the 11th president in the university’s 118-year history.
Since taking office in February of last year, Zingg has dealt with lean budget times and a fair share of embarrassments and even tragedies. Most notable was the recent fraternity hazing death of student Matthew Carrington, which captured national headlines and prompted Zingg to address the entire Greek community and order a complete review of the system.
Although one could say it’s been a rough first year for the president, Zingg said in a February interview with the CN&R that he’s never been accused of being a pessimist.
During the ceremony, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said choosing a new president is one of the most important decisions a chancellor can make and that he knew Zingg’s leadership and passion would serve Chico State well.
And, despite some bumps in the road, Zingg insists that he wants to be the one who steers the university into the future.
“I love what I do. I thoroughly love it,” Zingg said before Monday’s ceremony.
Faculty members paraded into the auditorium wearing the traditional academic dress of caps, gowns and hoods for the occasion. Also in attendance was Zingg’s wife of 25 years, Candace Slater, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at University of California, Berkeley.
The ceremony, which Zingg insisted on keeping low-cost, was a relatively modest affair filled with just enough feel-good speeches and well-timed musical interludes to keep things moving.
Malcolm Jackson led the CSU, Chico Gospel Choir through an energetic rendition of “Walk in the Freedom,” and the A Cappella Choir also kept things light with a re-written version of The Coasters’ “Zing(g) Went the Strings.”
Many of the music numbers and gifts presented to Zingg emphasized his fondness for baseball.
A pop ensemble, directed by Rocky Winslow, belted out “On the Ball,” which segued smoothly into John Fogerty’s classic “Centerfield.” A.S. president Adam Dondro presented Zingg with an official Louisville Slugger engraved with the president’s signature.
Zingg, who’s written two books on baseball, even found a way to use his love of the game as a metaphor for his path in life.
“Indeed, as Bart Giamatti [former Major League Baseball commissioner] observed, baseball is a game, an odyssey even, that compels one to leave home and seek ever to return to it,” Zingg said. “It is a journey we choose to undertake because we must, in order to find reward and closure.”
Murray Galinson, who chairs the CSU Board of Trustees, presented Zingg with the presidential medallion. Later the president quipped, “This is fun … and jewelry, too.”
Chico City Councilwoman Ann Schwab presented President Zingg with a piece of Hooker Oak with a bridge and a creek engraved on it, with the passage, “Always it is by bridges that we live,” from British poet Philip Larkin. Zingg explained before the ceremony that he liked the metaphorical power of bridges, calling them “contemplative, powerful and unique.”
In his address, Zingg said that while expectations put upon faculty and students are high, the university needs to go beyond routine.
“We need to dare as an entire university community to define more challenging expectations and to exemplify behaviors that will enable us to fulfill our promise more actively.”
Before the ceremony, President Zingg said he was glad that it took 14 months for the inauguration finally to take place. He said he was able to discover more about the campus community before giving his address as well as help finish work on the university’s strategic and master plans.
“It’s nice to be the focus of attention,” Zingg said. “But it’s more about the university.”