Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 was a key day in Wilkes history: Greg Cant, was officially inaugurated as the University’s seventh president. A week of unique events preceded the morning ceremony at the F.M. Kirby Center for Performing Arts and led into the traditions and festivities of Homecoming Weekend.
Cant, a native of Australia, was officially announced as the University’s next president on Dec. 12, 2019 and started in May 2020. Due to the pandemic, the inauguration was postponed until this fall. The ceremony on Oct. 1 celebrated the past, present and future of the University while paying homage to Cant’s Australian roots.
Below are some additional things you may not know about inauguration of Greg Cant, including surprises and special touches to celebrate the day.
- A family affair… Though Dr. Cant’s family and friends from Australia were unable to travel to the states due to the pandemic, they watched the inauguration live at a relative’s home. Not easy considering it started late night Australian time! Dr. Cant was joined at the Kirby Center by his wife Angela, and two of his four children, Eliza and Jackson.
- Whether near or far. Dr. Cant’s family surprised the president with video messages at some of his favorite places from home. Messages from his 87-year old mother, Dorothy, his adult children, Callum and Genevieve, and his sisters, Robin and Merilyn, and their families were played during the post-inauguration luncheon to a smiling Cant family. A highlight was a special message from Dr. Cant’s infant great niece, Frankie.
- A sweet touch… Attendees were given a special “taste of Australia” as they exited the Kirby Center: a box full of Australian candies and treats, including Cherry Ripe and Violet Crumble, as well as some of Cant’s favorite American candies. The packages were topped with a keepsake medallion featuring the date and the Wilkes seal.
- For a new (ish) sensation: A string quartet played a selection of modern hits from bands with Australian roots during the luncheon. The playlist included hits from INXS, AC/DC and Men at Work.
- Forever Colonel… A gift from the inauguration steering committee included original artwork from Wilkes alumna, Ana Perez. Perez’s digital design featured a compilation of illustrated images of the Wilkes campus, including Weckesser Hall, the gateway during Commencement and the inaugural sausage sizzle held this spring. A framed version was gifted to Dr. Cant and will be displayed in his office in Weckesser Hall.
- With gifts that keep on giving. Additional gifts to Dr. Cant included a framed copy of the University’s charter and seal and a boomerang hand painted in Wilkes blue and gold and inscribed with the inauguration theme and date. Boomerangs are often associated with Australia, since they were previously used as a hunting device by Aboriginal people.
- Inauguration by the numbers… Approximately 400 people attended the ceremony including more than 30 delegates from other institutions, 60 alumni class representatives and a variety of Wilkes faculty, students and staff.
- For one incredible day and Homecoming weekend. The inauguration kicked off Homecoming Weekend 2021. Last year’s homecoming celebration was held completely online. This year, a variety of campus groups celebrated their reunions, including classes ending in zero, one, five and six; Wilkes cheerleaders of past and present and the 50th reunion for the classes of 1970 and 1971. It also included the dedication of Stephens Plaza at Ralston Athletic Complex. Made possible by a gift from Wilkes alumni, Panos Kalaritis and Debi Stephens Kalaritis, this new pavilion and surrounding plaza is named in honor of Joseph Stephens, DDS, a 1951 graduate of the University.