President Dr. Van Brunt made history on March 17, 2023 after being inaugurated as the first woman president of Spring Hill College. The inauguration ceremony was held in the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center.
President Van Brunt’s Renovaré-themed ceremony began
with the academic procession which included flag bearers, selected delegates from other colleges and universities, faculty, staff, administration of Spring Hill College and the Board of Trustees. The national anthem was sung by Quentin Brackenridge, who received a standing ovation.
“The theme that Mary chose for her inauguration—Renovaré—is so perfect. It means renewal, and that is what she is bringing to our campus. Our next 200 years will be stronger because of her leadership,” said Spring Hill’s provost, Rebecca Cantor, Ph.D.
Special guests who spoke during the inauguration included the Honorable Bradley Byrne, CEO and president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Fred Pestello, president of St. Louis University, which is part of the 28 Jesuit institutions of higher learning, Jack McKinney ‘68, chair of the Board of Trustees and Dr. Jeff Gingerich, president of St. Bonaventure University and a former colleague of Dr. Van Brunt at Cabrini University.
“I cannot think of a better mission fit between a president and college than you have with Mary and Spring Hill College. The mission of Spring Hill to awaken mind and spirit to the pursuit of truth and your commitment to the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis is in great hands with President Van Brunt,” said Dr. Jeff Gingerich.
Several representatives of Spring Hill and delegates delivered a greeting speech to President Van Brunt and gave her a book they chose to commemorate the beginning of her presidency. Tyloria Crenshaw ‘85, Director of Marketing and Communications for Spring Hill, gave President Van Brunt The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews.
“Through this unique blend of fiction, allegory and inspiration, the message of the book is simple. Life is about choices. While we have little control over the events that occur in our lives, success is determined by the choices we make daily,” said Crenshaw. Crenshaw expressed she possesses a grateful spirit and is glad that Dr. Van Brunt chose Spring Hill.
Student Government Association President Luly Tuñón ‘23 and Student Government Association Vice President Ashley
Burroughs ‘23 gave President Van Brunt Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis. “The student body has consistently expressed a priority
for all campus environments. By partaking in this Laudato Si’ mission not only connects Spring Hill to other Jesuit institutions,
but contributes to the greater vocation that Pope Francis, which is a unified family, respects the earth by honoring God,” said Burroughs.
“We hope in receiving this gift it inspires you to serve our community not only as a member of our Spring Hill family but as a Jesuit mission oriented leader,” said Tuñón.
President Van Brunt’s inaugural speech expressed gratitude for the books she received, the people who supported her throughout
her journey and her family. President Van Brunt emphasized the importance of increasing enrollment, establishing financial growth and creating partnerships within the Jesuit communities.
“We are committed to working together to strengthen the pipeline to make Catholic education accessible to more students. We see this as a time of renewal, a time for success that aligns with our Jesuit values of faith, justice, learning and service. The world needs Spring Hill College and the world needs Spring Hill College graduates,” said Dr. Van Brunt.
There were events hosted throughout the week leading up to the inauguration. On March 13, students celebrated Dr. Van Brunt by hosting lunch with some of her favorite foods in the Barter Student Center. The following night, a volleyball tournament was hosted on the sand volleyball courts.
“I think that, as a freshman, having this volleyball event has really brought the community together. And I have gotten to know Dr. Van Brunt and have been able to see her around campus,” said freshman Tabitha Martin.
A kickball game and tailgate was hosted on Murray Field on March 14. The game was played between faculty and students. In the end, the faculty took the victory.
On March 15, a service project was hosted to help clean up the trails around campus. Additionally, an inauguration golf tournament was held after the commissioning mass on Spring Hill's golf course.
The commissioning mass was held in the St. Joseph Chapel on March 16. The mass was led by Provincial Fr. Thomas Greene, S.J. “I have every confidence that under Dr. Van Brunt’s leadership the college will maintain and strengthen its commitment to academic excellence and its Catholic and Jesuit identity,” he said.
“The mass is really important because, as president, it is my job to make sure we are following the mission, and making sure it is part of our decision making in everything we do,” Dr. Van Brunt said.
According to the Spring Hill College Marketing Department, President Van Brunt’s primary strengths are strategic planning, new program development and assessment, fundraising and team building.
According to President Dr. Van Brunt, she plans on giving it 200 percent and feels very grateful that she was selected. She is excited to lead Spring Hill and wants to be in service to the college in any way she can.
“I do think it shows that we are ready for change and poised for this renewal and the idea that we can’t keep doing everything the same way,” said President Van Brunt. “I’m proud of being the first. It’s always great to be a first and set the stage.”