MANATEE -- The State College of Florida's Neel Performing Arts Center was transformed into a stunning scene as the orchestra took its place in the pit, staff and faculty entered in their caps and gowns and flags from the 45 nations represented at the college decorated the stage.
SCF hosted its official inauguration Friday for the college's sixth president, Carol Probstfeld.
Probstfeld was brought in as president Jan. 22. The college held a welcome reception for Probstfeld in March, but the inauguration was a formal event that included the school's orchestra and choir, dignitaries, community leaders and alumni.
Probstfeld was joined on stage for
the pomp and circumstance by her husband, William Murphy, her brother, Michael Probstfeld, the college's third president, Stephen Korcheck, and the college's fourth president, Sarah Pappas.
A medical scare briefly interrupted the celebratory event when Korcheck collapsed at the start of the ceremony, just after the call to order and the choral invocation of "Spirit of Life."
The curtains were closed as paramedics examined Korcheck. It was determined that he was all right, although paramedics did not indicate what caused Korcheck to collapse. He was taken home by Emergency Medical Services, and the ceremony resumed after a unified sigh of relief that Korcheck, inaugurated in 1980, was OK.
Student Davida Biggins, who learned Thursday that she has been accepted at Columbia University, was among the speakers before Probstfeld gave her inaugural address. Biggins described her relationship with SCF faculty and the mentorship she received from Probstfeld.
Biggins, who plans on studying neurological science and behavioral psychology, dropped out of school in the ninth grade believing she would never succeed.
"SCF, my teachers and even the college president not only told me that I could succeed, but that I would succeed," Biggins said.
Michael Probstfeld, a surgeon and the chief of staff at Tucson Medical Center, said he refers to himself as "the other Dr. P" when he is in the presence of his younger sister Carol Probstfeld.
He gave a brief "history of Carol," reflecting on growing up together.
"It is an example of her wits and hidden talents," Michael Probstfeld said. "Childhood events and influences help forecast our future selves."
Pappas, who was inaugurated in 1997, presented Probstfeld with the College Mace, which has been used in every one of SCF's graduation ceremonies since Pappas was inaugurated.
Probstfeld was also presented with dog treats for her beloved "four-legged children."
The SCF president said she did not consider the festivities Friday to be her ceremony, but a ritual for the college.
As president, Probstfeld said her goal is to offer a full spectrum of opportunity for her students rather than "growth for the sake of growth."
"We must never settle for average," Probstfeld said. "We must be open to innovation. When I say innovation, I do not just mean tools in technology, but tools of the mind."
The inauguration included a catered dinner, a presentation by artist Brian Olsen, and an Evening Under the Stars concert by SCF student musicians for sponsors and VIP ticket holders. The event concluded with a fireworks finale.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081