Chatham inaugurates Dr. David Finegold as 19th President

By: Teri Bradford

It was with great excitement on October 13, 2017 that Dr. David L. Finegold, DPhil was inaugurated and officially became Chatham University’s 19th president.
Finegold started his presidency a little over a year ago in July of 2016, taking the place of Esther Barazzone, who led Chatham for 24 years. It was during the first year Chatham was completely coeducational, a time full of growing pains and tension, that Finegold arrived. He was skeptical about the position for this reason, but the community quickly welcomed him.
“It’s been great. I’ve not had a lot of pushback about [replacing a woman president].” Said Finegold in a pre-inauguration interview. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the [alumnae] and students. And I think people get that I’m very supportive of equal rights and all we’re doing to promote women’s leadership.”
Over this past year, Finegold has made bold changes on campus to move the community forward. Chatham has seen two of the largest incoming classes in the past two years, which prompted turning Dilworth from an office building back into a residence hall. The Eastside campus has been expanded, so it now holds the growing Health Sciences majors and the Center for Women in Entrepreneurship (CWE) office. Finegold also showed his commitment to diversity by creating an office of Multicultural Affairs led by Dr. Randi Congleton, and the Diversity and Inclusion Council, which helps diverse voices become part of the campus’s next steps. Finegold said these changes are part of bringing Chatham’s core value of opportunity into the 21st century.
“I think we’re promoting that same core value of opportunity, but we’re doing it in different ways. In ways that affect more men and women,” said Finegold. “I think we’re championing rights across the full gender spectrum to be a real leader in inclusion there. And we also want to get more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. We have a strong African American population but, like Pittsburgh, very few Hispanic students, very few Native American students, very few Asian students. So I would love to be able to broaden that to look more like the US and not just Pittsburgh in that way.”
Finegold has also been a strong presence in his new home of Pittsburgh. He’s been growing the Eden Hall campus and its sustainability efforts and making connections with service sites in surrounding areas like Wilkinsburg that need more community engagement.
“The places where we think we have a chance to be a true national, international leader are around sustainability, the health sciences and wellness, and the intersection of the two,” said Finegold about growing our strongest resources. “While we’re going to continue to do well in a wide range of areas and champion the liberal arts, we also want to put an emphasis there. We want to attract more of those people and partners and resources from around the country, around the world to help us grow those things that are truly unique, distinctive in what we’re doing.”
The week of the much-anticipated inauguration was filled with events surrounding the theme, “Happy People, Happy Planet.” Finegold himself chose the theme and the events, which kicked off with the Barbara Hollander Lecture featuring Director of the International Institute for Public Health Laboratory Management, Dr. Jeanne Jordan on Wednesday night. The week concluded with the annual Chatham University Make a Difference Day and a Food & Climate Change conference at Eden Hall that took place the following Saturday.
“The idea was to try to do a spectrum of things that would represent some of the great diversity and strengths of Chatham and our core values. The calendar is already pretty crowded, so we didn’t want to create a whole set of things just for the inauguration and still have everything else, and not leave people with enough time to go. So we had to leverage some of the things we knew would already be happening and made them coincide,” said Finegold.
On the day of the inauguration, the campus was abuzz. Students, faculty, and staff dawned purple in anticipation of the event that hasn’t happened at Chatham in over two decades.
Chatham community members lined up to create a precession for honored guests like former president Esther Barazzone, alumnae, and of course, President Finegold walking from Mellon to the Chapel in the caps, gowns, and stoles of their alma maters. After taking a moment to embrace Chatham’s mascot Carson the Cougar heartily, Finegold finally made his way into the chapel where English Professor Dr. Lynn Bruckner announced the start of the induction.
Speakers from different areas of Dr. Finegold’s life sung his praises. From close friends and colleagues to political leaders such as Mayor Peduto and State Representative Dan Frankel, to Executive President of Student Government Diarra Clarke. Jokes about how long it took for the inauguration to take place and even a few jabs at Dr. Finegold’s balding head created a friendly atmosphere before the chair Chatham’s board of trustees and alumna Jennifer Potter led the process of investiture and conferral of the presidential medal for President Finegold.
Greeted with a standing ovation, Finegold came to the podium and gave his remarks. He paid homage to Barazzone and presidents of Chatham’s past and led the audience through the history of Chatham from its origin until today. He then answered four questions he often gets about Chatham and his position. The first question was why would he or anyone want to be a college president, to which he answered by thanking Barazzone for transforming Chatham and acknowledging that, while it is difficult, it is also “one of the best jobs in the world.”
The second question was “why Chatham?” He explained his apprehension and seeing the transition with Douglass Residential College during his time at Rutgers University. Though he asked “are you sure you want to hire a guy?” he found that Chatham welcomed him with open arms. He also enjoys “walking two minutes down Woodland Road to my office in Andrew Mellon’s old bedroom.”
His third question was what surprised him most about Pittsburgh. He praised the city’s history, growth, and innovation. And finally, he answered the question of why the inauguration took so long, explaining that he and the board of trustees wanted to release the strategic plan simultaneously.
Discussing the plan briefly, he mentioned big plans for Chatham ranging from the next 12-18 months. The most noteworthy plans included making sure low-income Pittsburgh Promise students pay no tuition or fees and have a voucher to help with housing costs. Joining Stanford University as the only private institutions with a platinum sustainability rating is also a priority. Finegold also mentioned strengthening Chatham’s art resources and had already helped move the student-curated African art exhibit to the August Wilson Center.
Concluding his remarks, the audience was encouraged to move to the Athletic and Fitness Center (AFC) for high tea organized by Sue Finegold.
Chatham has responded positively to our new president’s arrival, which could be seen in the amount of students supporting Finegold at his inauguration. Personal anecdotes about meaningful encounters with the President were shared before and after the event, as Finegold made sure to talk to as many guests as possible. This isn’t surprising considering what Finegold has deemed his favorite part of Chatham.
“I’ve been so impressed by the people, how welcoming [they are], the values that they have. Sue and I are really loving that,” said Finegold, wrapping up his interview. “We joke about going from empty nesters to now having over 2,000 kids. We have a whole new family, and we love that.”