TV cameras. A Jumbotron (or equivalent). Men with earpieces who look really serious. The governor. If these are present at your party, you know you’ve done something special. In fact, you may have realized a dream.
Dreaming – and doing – was the theme at the inauguration of Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin, the eighth president of Salt Lake Community College, last Friday. Sitting beside her son Max, Huftalin smiled, laughed and even cried as a string of politicians, alumni and faculty praised her as an accomplished dreamer who works tirelessly so that others may achieve their own goals.
“I’m equally grateful and excited about this new opportunity the leadership and skills of President Deneece Huftalin brings [to SLCC],” Governor Gary R. Herbert said to hundreds who filled chairs and bleachers at the Lifetime Activities Center on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. “The future,” continued the Governor, “is bright for Salt Lake Community College. We have reason to be very optimistic.”
Gov. Herbert called Dr. Huftalin “diminutive” and “dynamite,” and pointed out she’s no stranger to SLCC. Huftalin joined SLCC in 1992 as Director of Academic and Career Advising and, over two decades, worked her way up to become Dean of Students. When Dr. Cynthia A. Bioteau left to head Florida State College at Jacksonville in late 2013, Huftalin became interim president. Her hard work and “personality-plus” led the Utah Board of Regents to ask her to consider taking the job on a permanent basis.
Guest speakers like Timothy Huval, Chief Human Resources Manager for health insurance company Humana – as well as a SLCC alumnus and former employee, echoed the sentiment. Huval, whose SLCC office was a storage closet, says Huftalin frequently reminded him that the office “does not diminish you. I promise you – you’re okay.” Huval then stated emphatically, “It is a great day for Salt Lake Community College and the State of Utah.”
Associate Professor of English Lisa Bickmore read “Considering the Future: A Poem for Peace” by Emma Lou Thayne. A friend of Huftalin and SLCC, and namesake of SLCC’s Thayne Center for Service and Learning, Thayne wrote the poem just for Huftalin’s occasion. The lines “…I have only one voice, one language, one set of memories to look back on, a thousand impulses to look ahead” are especially poignant because Thayne passed away last month.
The acoustic duo Joy & Eric – featuring SLCC Public Relations Direction Joy Tlou, offered inspiration in a stunning rendition of Phillip Phillips’ “Home.” The lyric “Just know you’re not alone/‘cause I’m gonna make this place your home” made for a powerful welcome to the new president.
Utah System of Higher Education Commissioner Dr. David L. Buhler and Vice Chair of the Board of Regents Pastor France A. Davis had some especially powerful words for Huftalin in the “Charge To and Investiture of the President.”
As Commissioner, Buhler is frequently involved in presidential searches. The search for SLCC’s president was a little different, he said, because “I was constantly asked by members of the community, faculty, staff and students of this institution, ‘Why are you searching? We already have the best possible president.’ A rigorous and inclusive search process confirmed that what I was hearing was true: The woman serving as interim president, who had already devoted much of her life and career to the College, is the best person to lead it forward.”
Davis, filling in for Board of Regents Chair Daniel W. Campbell, then delivered the Charge. After reiterating that Dr. Huftalin has the “full confidence” of the Board, Davis outlined four areas of focus for the new president. He charged her to educate and equip students to compete and excel in the world, stay true to SLCC’s mission, build unity within the institution and strengthen relationships with the community you serve.”
Before taking the podium for her inaugural address, Max Huftalin gave his mother a warm introduction, calling her “one of the greatest embodiments of good that I’ve ever witnessed.” After a standing ovation, Huftalin said she is “proud and humbled to accept the president’s position and the charge that I have been given at this institution, which I have come to love deeply.” She expressed her “deepest thanks” for the “sacred trust” in allowing her to lead “our voyage to make Salt Lake Community College the premier community college in this country.”
Dreaming big, Huftalin said, “is part of America’s collective psyche” and that the “evolution of the community college itself is a product of dreaming and doing.” In order to realize these dreams, we must adopt a “positive restlessness.”
“Dreams without action only mark time,” said Huftalin. “My hope is that our dreams will eclipse our fears and our actions will transform our words into the reality, for many students, of a life filled with greater personal power. Power to make a real dream come true that may only be now a glimmer.”