In the United States, collegiate presidential inaugurations originated with the nation’s nine colonial colleges in the 17th century.  The inauguration of a new president serves as a rite of passage that formally acknowledges a change in leadership within the context of continuity and tradition.


When a president is inaugurated, it is traditional for a formal academic processional to include academic leaders and/or delegates from other colleges and universities, delegates from learned societies and associations, the faulty, trustees, speakers and other dignitaries as well as the president being inaugurated.

wmu's bronze medallion

The Presidential Medallion

Originating in the middle ages, chains of office are massive metal necklaces worn by presidents on ceremonial occasions as part of their regalia. They can be made of bronze, sterling silver, or gold plate, and are usually anchored by a large medallion depicting the school seal.

The WMU Medallion is inscribed on the back with the names and dates of service of all nine WMU presidents.

The University Seal

Now in its fifth incarnation, the WMU seal was designed by the late John Kemper, a WMU professor emeritus of art, when the institution became a university in 1957.

  • The five stars symbolize WMU's five original schools, Applied Arts (Engineering and Applied Sciences), Business, Education, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Graduate Studies.
  • The tree symbolizes WMU's continuing growth. Its roots acknowledge the institution's firm planting when created by the Michigan Legislature in 1903.
  • The stone arch signifies a gateway to knowledge as well as solid growth, but the missing keystone indicates that WMU's growth is incomplete, as there is much more to accomplish and discover.
  • The pyramid, which also may indicate the building of knowledge, features a flame at its apex to signify enlightenment--WMUs true purpose.

Alma Mater

Western, we sing to you, brown and gold.
Western, we cling to you, faith untold.
You challenge and inspire.
Your hope is our desire.
We sing to you our alma mater,
Brown and gold.

History of the University

Established by the state in 1903 as the Western State Normal School, the placement of the institution in Kalamazoo represented a successful campaign by community leaders to secure the school by demonstrating their support through the acquisition of land and building funds for the school and showing their deep commitment to education. The community coalitions that led to the founding of WMU eventually evolved into the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce and ultimately Kalamazoo's present-0day economic development structure.

Since 1903, the institution has grown first to a four-year college and then to full university status in 1957. Today, WMU is a Carnegie-designated research university with students from every state in the union and 100 nations. In its 114-year history, just eight presidents have guided the University's growth. Dr. Edward Montgomery is now the ninth person to assume the presidency.