Amid a backdrop of colorful regalia and academic tradition, Soraya M. Coley was officially conferred as the sixth president of Cal Poly Pomona at a historic Investiture ceremony on Feb. 5.
University leaders, campus representatives and colleagues from academic institutions donning robes were among the participants in a colorful processional. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and the guests were part of an audience of over 1,000 that packed Kellogg Gym.
At the conclusion of the processional and a parade of speakers, Coley shared her vision for Cal Poly Pomona, incorporating three sets of tenets: encourage and enable; educate and enrich; and engage and extend. Those tenets were the underlying thread of her Investiture theme, “The Impossible Made Possible.”
“I believe we have an imperative to help others see the possibility of achieving the impossible, through our renewed commitment to excellence in all areas, through our reexamination of our polytechnic identity in a 21st-century global environment where we ask how best can students learn, what must they learn, and what applications, experiments, or experiences are best suited for achieving our educational goals,” Coley said.
She also traced her path to the presidency from her humble upbringing in the legally segregated South.
“Through the strength, sacrifice, and support of so many who have gone before me, and because of those who have guided my personal and professional life (including many of you in this room today), the doors of opportunity were pried wide open, so that I could proudly walk through and achieve the improbable dream of standing before you today as Cal Poly Pomona’s sixth president,” Coley said. “My journey compels me to continue keeping the doors open for all who aspire to enter, regardless of background and circumstances.”
Coley underscored her commitment to the mission of Cal Poly Pomona by announcing the establishment of the Ron and Soraya Coley Endowment Fund.
Among the dignitaries at the Friday afternoon ceremony were the chancellor of the California State University system, the chair of the CSU Board of Trustees, presidents from CSU campuses and leaders from other institutions of higher learning. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an advisor to President Barack Obama, was the featured speaker.
Hilda L. Solis (’79, political science), chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and U.S. Rep. Norma J. Torres of the 35th Congressional District were part of the legislative contingent, many of whom sent congratulations through video. Councilmembers from Pomona, Diamond Bar, Walnut and Montclair also sent congratulatory videos.
Chancellor Timothy P. White, and Bob H. Suzuki and J. Michael Ortiz, two of the emeriti presidents of Cal Poly Pomona, conferred the University Medallion upon Coley. Suzuki was given the medallion, which is a symbol of the president’s authority, responsibilities and commitment to the university. He then passed the medallion to Ortiz, who then handed the medallion to White. In the final gesture, White placed the medallion around the neck of Coley to complete the transition.
“I know the first day the feeling of being new on a campus. I was new as the chancellor of the country’s largest system of higher education, of learning the unique culture of the institution or system you work in and try provide vision but embracing all of the voices to make sure that it is a shared vision,” White told the audience.
“I know that President Coley thrives in this situation. She draws from her experience in the CSU,” White said. “Just think about it. She draws from being a professor, a department chair, a dean, a vice president, a provost and now president. The best is yet to come.”
Coley became the president of Cal Poly Pomona on Jan. 1, 2015. She has more than 30 years of experience as a faculty member and administrator in higher education.
For more photos from the Investiture, go to the Cal Poly Pomona Facebook page.
View curated social media from the event on Storify.