Mary A. Papazian outlined her vision for Southern during her inauguration Sept. 28, held at the university’s John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts. She said she will work to ensure that her university is a highly significant player in the higher education landscape of Connecticut and the region, and will prepare students for a knowledge-based economy in the years ahead.
“Public universities like Southern must lead the way in showing that what we can accomplish here is vitally important to the future of our society,” Papazian said. “We must make it clear to the public, to the business community, and to the political establishment that investing in an institution like Southern is not only an investment in the students who attend the university, but also by extension, it is an investment in the whole community and – and this isn’t overstating it — in the very future of America.”
Papazian is the 11th president of the school in its 119-year history. She is the second woman to become president at Southern, following Cheryl J. Norton, who served from 2004 to 2010. She is also believed to be the first Armenian-American woman to lead a U.S. university, according to the Armenian Weekly.
Lewis J. Robinson Jr., chairman of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education, presided over the ceremony and administered the investiture charge to Papazian. Other speakers included Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3), New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Hamden Mayor Scott P. Jackson.
Papazian, 53, is an accomplished scholar, particularly with regard to British literature. She has studied and written about John Donne, a metaphysical English poet from the late 16th and early 17th century. She and her husband, Dennis Papazian, have two daughters, Ani and Marie. They reside in Woodbridge.
“Together, we will work to ensure that Southern continues to develop into an outstanding, comprehensive, public university of significant value to the local community, the state that supports us, and indeed, our nation at large,” Papazian said. “This is a university where we strive to give the students every opportunity to acquire a first-class education with a global vision in an enlightened, compassionate, supportive and diverse environment. And we intend to do more in the future…Together we will work to make Southern the most successful university in its class.”
Wyman expressed confidence in Papazian’s ability to lead the university, calling her dedicated, hardworking and innovative. “I have no doubt this is just the beginning of a great era for Southern Connecticut State University,” Wyman said.
Papazian also expressed her desire for Southern to reach out even more to attract out-of-state and international students. She said not only does that help the university financially, but it enriches the social and education experiences of Connecticut students.
And while much of her message focused on Southern’s role in the public and its commitment to students, she also shared a glimpse into her management style. “This I pledge: I will have an open administration,” she said. “I will provide equitable treatment for all, and I will fulfill without fail all official and unofficial responsibilities. My administration will be evenhanded and predictable.”