Presidential gateaux: Welcoming a new president to the DePaul community

Patricia Chavez
September 14, 2017

As DePaul University welcomes another new school year, we will also be welcoming a new President, A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D. Dr. Esteban assumed the presidency on July 1, 2017, becoming DePaul's 12th president and first lay president. In joining the legacy left behind by the university's former leaders, Dr. Esteban also joins a long-standing tradition of inaugural events meant to welcome the new president to the DePaul community.

program for the inaugural banquet of Reverend Michael J. O'Connell

The program for the inaugural banquet of Reverend Michael J. O'Connell. (DePaul University/Special Collections and Archives)

Digging back into the archives as far back as 1935, one can find multiple artifacts remaining from the inauguration of the Reverend Michael J. O'Connell, C.M. on Dec. 9, 1935. "The DePaulia's" recounting of the ceremony was overwhelmingly positive, stating that the ceremony's theme of goodwill served not only to welcome the incoming president, but also to ensure that the students, staff and faculty present also felt welcome and accepted. This theme was highlighted in the much-lauded inaugural address, given by the Reverend Walter E. Case, C.M., who was then head of the English department. Fr. Case's address celebrated the mission and vision of the DePaul community, defining it as an idealism that encourages its members to strive for and achieve something greater. An excerpt of the speech included in the same issue of "The DePaulia" read:

"Although DePaul's endowment cannot match that of our sister colleges, we have an even greater endowment - an idealism that says, 'Be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect;' a realism that exists in stretching its head to the stars; and a love that embraces all men.'"

The article goes on to describe both a luncheon at Webster Hotel and a dinner banquet in the Grand Ball Room at Palmer House. The program for the dinner banquet is an especially interesting glimpse into the past, as it includes a menu featuring cream of asparagus, presidential gateaux - known more commonly, perhaps, as cake - and, to finish it off, a large coffee.

More recent inaugural relics are from the celebrations for the Reverend John T. Richardson, C.M. Fr. Richardson's inaugural ceremony was the focal point to a week of events that included masses, reunion events, luncheons, musical and theatre performances, and other various activities. Both Illinois Governor James R. Thompson and Chicago Mayor Jane M. Byrne declared the week of Oct. 25 to Nov. 1, 1981 DePaul University Week. A booklet contains Fr. Richardson's inaugural address, delivered on Oct. 31, 1981 at Navy Pier. His speech, titled "The Tradition of DePaul in Chicago," focused on how the university fulfilled its Vincentian mission as a member of the Chicago community. Fr. Richardson captured the unique and vibrant spirit of the university community, saying, "DePaul is a particular kind of university in a particular kind of city - resourceful, more than a little feisty, complex, never dull, inquiring, enthusiastic, never lacking courage, open, always determined. It is not much for proclamations or fixed positions." According to the January 1982 issue of "DePaul University Magazine," a banner bearing both DePaul's colors and those of the City of Chicago flag was commissioned for the inauguration in order to further emphasize the relationship between the university and the city.

Like Fr. Case before him, Fr. Richardson's acknowledgement of DePaul's spirit of service and dedication to academic success emphasized the type of community the new president would lead. These inaugurations made clear the goals that the DePaul community sets out to accomplish, and welcomes the new president both as a member of the community and as the person chosen to lead the community towards accomplishing these goals. If history is any indicator, Dr. Esteban will receive a very warm reception at his inauguration ceremony this November. 

More information about Dr. Esteban's upcoming inauguration can be found on the President's website