The 640 freshmen whose classes start this week at Pacific Lutheran University were not yet born the last time their future alma mater installed a new president.
But on Tuesday, at the inauguration of Thomas W. Krise as PLUs 13th president, the Class of 2016 was made to feel they had much in common with him.
"We all become Lutes together today, Krise said.
Hundreds of students, faculty, clergy and delegates from universities across the nation turned out as PLU opened its 123rd academic year.
Krises inauguration marked the start of a new era for the private Christian liberal arts university located in Parkland. The last inauguration was on Sept. 8, 1992, for Krises predecessor, Loren Anderson.
University leaders outfitted Krise with a presidential robe and medallion worn by a PLU leader for the first time before declaring him the new president to thunderous applause inside Olson Auditorium.
Krise drew laughter when he joked that changing clothes in front of hundreds of people made him just as nervous as the freshmen of his first class must feel.
The 50-year-old president said he was honored and humbled to lead PLU and stressed his commitment to student excellence, academic freedom, environmental sustainability and diversity during his tenure.
"This robe and this seal feel very heavy to me and they remind me of the weight of responsibility that they symbolize. I promise I wont forget it," he said. "I pledge my constant care and concern to the universitys people for its tradition, for its excellence, for its ambition and for its future."
Krise topped a field of 57 applicants for the job. He was hired in February.
An English professor and retired Air Force flight commander, Krise previously worked as a dean at the University of Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
An Episcopalian, he is the first non-Lutheran to become PLUs president. The universitys board of trustees changed its bylaws two years ago to allow presidents who follow other faith traditions to deepen the pool of qualified candidates. One of every five PLU students today are Lutheran. The university enrolls about 3,500 students.
Scandinavian immigrants founded the university in 1890 and it remains affiliated with the Lutheran church. That religious heritage was on display Tuesday.
Prayers opened and closed the ceremony. A cross on stage was flanked by ceremonial banners that symbolized academic excellence, campus unity and university heritage, among others. Students, administrators and alumni asked to pledge their commitment to learning responded with the refrain, Yes, I do, with Gods help.
The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, noted to the audience the importance of never losing the significance of the universitys middle name.
The ceremony began as a procession of PLU faculty members, religious figures and delegates walked to the auditorium from Centennial Square, where a bell is rung to announce the arrival on campus of a new class. Leading the procession was the universitys marshal, Dr. Norris Peterson, an economics professor, holding the university mace featuring a descending dove on its head and a silver pine cone on its base.
"Its very exciting to have a new president. Its a new era for us," said Christina Pepin, a PLU nursing instructor. "We had a wonderful president before and now have a equally wonderful president.
Freshman Anna Dolyniuk, 18, of Newberg, Ore., liked that she and the universitys new president could share in first-day jitters. She is studying to become an English teacher and will compete on PLUs swim team.
"I get a fresh start, and Im coming into a school that is getting a fresh start, as well, she said at the outdoor reception following the ceremony