MOORHEAD - As he stood on stage, William Craft couldn't help but smile as he overlooked the crowd in Memorial Auditorium.
He saw friends, family members, students, faculty, staff and other community members who all stood and clapped in his honor for his inauguration as the 11th president of Concordia College.
Distinguished members from Concordia's campus and many other organizations, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Council of Independent Colleges and Luther College, where Craft previously served as dean and vice president for academic affairs, spoke at the ceremony Saturday at 2 p.m.
Each speaker told stories about Craft's character and their confidence in his ability to lead this liberal arts college well.
Dr. Katherine Narveson, associate professor of English at Luther College, had a lot to say about Craft's time there. She recalled a time when he told students to be "lovers of truth and makers of community" as an example of his passion for education and students.
"Bill is also one of the most eloquent witnesses of the liberal arts education," she added.
Dr. Thomas Flynn, president of Alvernia College in Pennsylvania, had many stories to share about Craft and their friendship, which has spanned 30 years.
"I have the dirt on this guy," Flynn said, pointing to Craft, "and nothing to lose."
Audience members chuckled, and Craft was crying with laughter as Flynn recounted various memories, including an email he sent that included the line "Your response would be useless" instead of "useful."
After other speakers said kind words about him, the audience broke into an uproarious applause and standing ovation, leaving Craft smiling widely once again as he stepped up to the podium to make the inaugural address.
He focused on liberal arts, one of his main passions, saying now is the time for it.
"At Concordia, we should pursue those arts in a curriculum centered not on collecting credits but on developing the competence, creativity and good judgment students will need to thrive as citizens and professionals," he said during the ceremony.
"This is the odd thing about the arts and humanities," he added later. "They invite us to play --to try on others' lives and new ideas --and in that imagined world we discover who we are and might become."
Secretary Linda Keup, who spoke on behalf of Concordia's faculty and staff at the ceremony, said Saturday was the start of a new era and new beginning.
"A day like today, all things seem possible," she said.
"I don't know if he could be any more enthusiastic and positive," she added.
Concordia junior Meg Henrickson, next year's president of the Student Government Association, spoke on behalf of the students on campus.
"We thank you for a great first year," she said, "and we appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and 'craft' a new future."
"With him it's been a really kind, passionate approach to student learning," she said. "Delightful is the first word that comes to mind about him. He's always smiling, always friendly, always remembers your name."
After the ceremony, Craft and his wife, Anne, greeted people in the Atrium in the Knutson Campus Center for a reception.
JESSICA BALLOU is writer for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Bemidji Pioneer and The Forum are Forum Communication Co. newspapers.