Gene D. Block was officially inaugurated as UCLA's chancellor today in a festive ceremony at Royce Hall.
The celebration began with a procession by more than 300 dignitaries in caps and gowns — including Block, UCLA faculty members, staff leaders, delegates from more than 40 American universities and colleges, the University of California Regents, former California Gov. Gray Davis and other civic leaders, UC President Robert C. Dynes, and chancellors from UCLA's nine sister UC campuses.
The procession, which strode across campus from the UCLA Faculty Center, was greeted at the steps of Royce Hall by a trumpet fanfare written and performed especially for the occasion.
Richard C. Blum, chairman of the UC Regents, presided over the program.
"The investiture of a new chancellor is a landmark event in the life of a campus and in the life of the people of that university," Blum said. "The chancellor inspires, energizes and leads. Gene Block has epitomized this with extraordinary leadership and vision throughout his distinguished career."
Also offering welcome remarks were Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss, USC President Steven B. Sample, UC Davis Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef, UCLA Academic Senate Chair Elizabeth Ligon Bjork, Staff Assembly President Sabrina Lux Wright, UCLA Foundation Chair James T. McCarthy, and leaders of the alumni and graduate and undergraduate student associations.
UCLA alumnus and basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar delivered the ceremony's keynote remarks.
"I have always believed the person running this place has to be as exceptional as the school itself," Abdul-Jabbar said. "There is always a renaissance going on at UCLA ... UCLA is in the forefront of achievement in the arts, in science, in scholarship and in sports. Naturally, it follows that the person guiding this campus must be a renaissance man, and that's exactly what we have in Chancellor Gene Block."
The pomp and circumstance befitting such a ceremony was punctuated with music and dance representing UCLA's diverse and talented student community — from a gospel choir rendering of the national anthem to a performance by the Mariachi Uclatan folklorica group.
UC President Dynes performed the final ceremony of installation, draping Chancellor Block, who wore a purple robe and gown, with the gold chancellor's medal.
"This is a monumental day for me. I do not take this responsibility lightly," Block said in his inaugural address. "We have before us a remarkable opportunity: to define for California and for the nation what it means to be a public research university in contemporary urban America."
Block said that his agenda as chancellor would focus on academic preeminence, campus diversity, financial security and societal engagement.
"I believe that UCLA can have its greatest impact by focusing our expertise from across the campus to comprehensively address, in a focused way, problems that plague Los Angeles," he said. "I have charged a group of campus and community leaders to recommend how we can marshal our campus-wide intellectual resources toward this kind of intense civic engagement."
Participants and guests departed Royce Hall accompanied by the exhilarating drumbeats of the UCLA Brazilian Music Ensemble and continued to celebrate during a reception in Royce Plaza.
Vivek Shetty, immediate past president of the Academic Senate and a professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry, said, "What we saw here today reminds us of what ... a university is — a community of scholars. The pageantry and pomp very nicely provide a sense of this community, and I could see the audience revel in it. It is inspiring. I'm delighted."
Neal Stulberg, lecturer and visiting director of orchestra studies in the department of music, lauded the students' performance of "wonderful music" and added: "My sense is that Chancellor Block is an ideal leader ... our leader for the future. It gives me a terribly optimistic feeling and makes me very proud to be a part of the university."
Among the many staff members attending the event was Dierdra Lake, billing supervisor for the Campus Technology Office, who said she made a special effort to attend the inauguration. "This is historical. I wanted to see it and be a part of it."