With a ceremony rich in artistic expression, Naropa University inaugurated Chuck Lief as the president of the university on February 16, 2013 at Nalanda Events Center, with close to three hundred in attendance. Even before the ceremony began, artistic offerings surrounded the guests as they entered through a hallway adorned with colorful banners and wafting juniper smoke of the Lhasang, as distant music slowly grew louder and clearer. At the end of the hallway, guests encountered an art installation by longtime Naropa Visual Arts faculty member Cynthia Moku.
The percussive bells of Denver-based Gamelan Tunas Mekar orchestra invoked feelings of uplifted excitement and celebration, as well as expressing Lief 's strong connection to the island of Bali. As is tradition, a procession of Naropa staff, faculty, and trustees entered with bagpipe music, which was provided by Chris Doyle. The ceremony then continued with the traditional Balinese music of Gamelan Tunas Mekar, accompanied by Balinese dancers adorned in peacock-like headdresses and skirts. Religious Studies Professor Emeritus and Naropa's second World Wisdom Chair Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, "Reb Zalman," offered the invocation, followed by Master of Ceremonies and Transpersonal Counseling Psychology Professor Michael Franklin, who reminded us of the importance of artistic practice. Franklin asserted that "the arts keep us honest" and are the most accurate expression of human emotion, enabling us to simultaneously lose and find ourselves.
Distinguished Professor of Poetics Anne Waldman offered the poem "Generatively Speaking, Looking into the Darkness of One's Own Time" with characteristic fervor. Following Anne, Performing Arts Center Technical Coordinator Shevek Majors-Peer and BFA in Performance student Marcella de la Paz performed "Home" by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
The inaugural ceremony continued with Jerry Colonna, Naropa board chair, presenting the sash of office to Chuck Lief, followed by the taking of the oath, led by board of trustees founding member and Lief 's friend of forty-five years, Martin Janowitz. Lief then made a creative offering of his own, executing the calligraphy stroke of Ashe, a ceremonial brush stroke that ignites confidence and draws down the blessings of Naropa's lineage.
Symbolizing the joining of heaven, earth, and humanity, the stroke represents the commitment to bring forth a harmonious and just society. Sakyong Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, Naropa's lineage holder, offered the lineage blessing via video, emphasizing Naropa's relevance in today's world in terms of social engagement. In his inaugural address, President Lief acknowledged Naropa's deep, inseparable connection to its lineage, encouraging us to stop and reflect on what has worked well over the last forty years, as well as how we can grow and improve our influence in the world. Lief expressed his commitment to educating students who will transform the world, emphasizing the need to weave community outreach into the fabric of Naropa and to become an institution where sustainability is a spiritual value underpinning all of our endeavors.
Another musical interlude featured the Naropa Chorus, accompanied by Music faculty members Paul Fowler and Bill Douglas, who performed the "Karmapa Song." Interdisciplinary Studies faculty Father Alan Hartway offered the benediction, reminding us that the true mark of a good leader is basic goodness, the willingness to open and expose one's heart to others. In his closing remarks, Michael Franklin concluded with an invitation to usher in Naropa's waiting potential, encouraging students, faculty, alumni, and friends to reframe challenges as opportunities to clear what blocks us.