McKendree University President Daniel C. Dobbins and his wife, Mickey, met on campus as McKendree students and graduated in 1981.
McKendree University in Lebanon officially marked a new era of leadership with the installation of Daniel C. Dobbins, a 1981 graduate, as its 33rd president at his inauguration on Feb. 19.
College or university inaugurations are traditionally held six to 12 months after a new president takes the helm, to allow for a period of transition. While Dobbins became president on Jan. 1, 2020, the coronavirus outbreak shortly after postponed his inauguration until McKendree’s 193rd Founders Day observance in 2021. It was staged virtually, with a limited number of guests in attendance, at a ceremony live streamed from the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts on campus.
“There is no doubt little has been customary about President Dobbins’ first year as president,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Dan Lett. “He has served the university throughout this last year with perseverance, dedication, and flexibility so today we celebrate not only his inauguration, but also his leadership and the strength of the university during this difficult time.”
Dobbins, an O’Fallon, Ill., resident and Pittsfield, Ill. native, served for 32 years on the University Board of Trustees, which he chaired from 2007 to 2015, and is a past president of the Alumni Association. A wealth of business acumen and leadership, supported by years of service and commitment to his alma mater, guide him in his new role.
“Throughout my business career, my service to McKendree has co-existed,” he said. “Without knowing it, without a purpose beyond helping McKendree deliver on its mission and achieve its vision, I now realize I was also receiving over three decades of training to serve the university as president.”
His inaugural address, titled “One McKendree,” reflected his focus on unity, interdependence and servant leadership. “I chose ‘One McKendree’ as the theme of my presidency, to reinforce the concept of unity,” he said. “Together, we work for a common purpose—and that is McKendree’s mission: to provide a high-quality education to outstanding students.We will never lose sight of that focus. It is the reason we exist.
“As future teachers, scientists, performers, and business and health care professionals, know that you are our purpose and our hope,” he said, addressing McKendree students. “Know that we will continue to create an environment that is diverse, inclusive, and welcoming to all. I aspire to serve you, as you pursue your academic and co-curricular dreams, and to help you become the very best version of yourselves.”
The installation became official with the placement of the presidential medallion around President Dobbins’ neck by Dr. Tami Eggleston, provost, and a formal declaration by Chairman Lett.
Extending congratulatory greetings were Amy Shreve, coordinator of higher education and campus ministry for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference; Belleville Catholic Diocese Bishop Michael McGovern; and the Reverend Allynn Walker, Mississippi River District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church Illinois Great Rivers Conference, who spoke on behalf of IGRC Bishop Frank J. Beard. Representing McKendree were senior Shelby Benn, president of the Student Government Association; Ryan Furniss, president of the Alumni Association; and the Reverend Dr. Tim Harrison, university chaplain and director of church relations.
The ceremony also included videotaped remarks by Dobbins’ predecessor, Dr. James Dennis, who served as McKendree’s 32nd president from 1994 until his retirement in 2020.
At a virtual Inauguration Celebration Chapel Service streamed on Feb. 21, President Dobbins received symbolic gifts: a bell, representing 193 years of education and tradition; a copy of the University Charter, reflecting McKendree’s storied history and its founders; a book, symbolizing the institution’s mission and commitment to academic excellence; and a basin and towel, signifying the values of humble servant leadership.
A web page with links to the installation ceremony and chapel service, the inauguration program, and letters of congratulations is at www.mckendree.edu/inauguration. Photos from the event are posted in an online gallery at mckendree.edu/photos.