April 13, 2011
The University of Virginia community came together Wednesday in an interfaith celebration to honor its new president, Teresa Sullivan, as she continues the tradition set by Thomas Jefferson.
"This was so inspiring," Sullivan said. "It was almost overwhelming."
The interfaith service was held at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and served as the kickoff for Sullivan's days-long inauguration celebration.
"[It's a] way of acknowledging the importance of the many different faiths that are present on this university campus," said Rev. Stephen Alcott, minister for the Catholic Student Ministry.
Student and community groups took part in the service singing songs of praise and offering blessings as Sullivan begins her tenure at the helm of Thomas Jefferson's university.
"We take our music very seriously and we're very honored we were asked to be a part of this," said Daniel Brown, general manager of the University Singers.
"The music, the words of wisdom that were shared, the blessings from the students I thought were very moving," Sullivan said.
Sullivan has said the inauguration isn't just about her, but about the university as a whole. Wednesday's interfaith service is an example of just that.
"It's rare at a school with so much religious and cultural diversity to have an event that takes all of those and brings them together," said Emily Skiba, president of the University Singers.
"It's part of what makes the university community such a rich tapestry," Sullivan said.
The inauguration is only just beginning. An all-day academic symposium is scheduled for Thursday. Friday is the inauguration ceremony itself.
Saturday, Sullivan will join UVa. students in service projects throughout the area, and Sunday will be the inaugural 10K walk around Charlottesville.
Wednesday's service is seen as a fitting start for the Sullivan years.
"I loved every minute of it," Sullivan said.