Dr. Susanna Baxter official inaugurated as LaGrange College second female president

Published 8:00 am Saturday, April 23, 2022

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By Chase Davis

Special to the Daily News

After two years serving as LaGrange College president, Dr. Susanna Baxter was finally inaugurated Friday, another sign that the college, and LaGrange community, has moved forward despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baxter, who was named president in April 2020 — right at the start of the pandemic — joked throughout her inauguration speech Friday that her start at the college felt like the background to a spell-bounding thrilling novel about a presidential transition.

Of course, she said if anyone had written it, the author would’ve been accused of “jumping the shark,” a tale too outlandish to be believed.

“Selecting a president via Zoom?” Come on,” Baxter said.

“Only able to recognize the eyes of students, faculty and staff through all the mask-wearing and then having to re-learn everyone once they came off? Don’t be silly.”

But that’s exactly what happened, and until a few months ago, plans for her inauguration as the college’s second-ever female president were put on hold. In an ironic twist, Daisy Davies, the other female LaGrange College president, also served during the Spanish flu pandemic from 1915 to 1920.

“That’s right. Two women, two pandemics,” Baxter said to a loud applause from the audience at Callaway Auditorium.

Baxter is the college’s 26th president and was honored all week during a five-day celebration, which included a campus community luncheon, a special contemporary worship service, and several academic panels, highlighted the perseverance and excellence of the college over the past two years.

During the ceremony, former presidents Stuart Gulley and Dan McAlexander presented Baxter with the presidential medallion.

“Lazhrange College has been transforming lives since 1831, and I stand on the shoulders of many great presidents,” Baxter said.

Baxter highlighted her enthusiasm for the future of the college, and noted that the students were the primary motivator behind her presidency.

“You remind me of my purpose. You are the reason that we put the hours in and greet each day with joy and anticipation,” Baxter said while addressing the student body. “You are going to transform the world.”

With a big emphasis on improving the quality of the college experience for the student body, Baxter announced several parts of her five-year strategic plan, which will include the expansion of tutoring facilities, the renovation and revitalization of academic and athletic facilities, and the modernization of the technological infrastructure of the school.

Baxter concluded her remarks with some inspirational words for the college community.

“We have only just begun,” she said. “We lift our eyes to the horizon to envision the possibilities, feeling God’s presence, and hold fast to our mission to challenge the mind and inspire the soul.”