Hundreds of Lipscomb University students and faculty descended on Allen Arena on Tuesday to witness the inauguration of the university’s 18th president, Dr. Candice McQueen.
The festivities kicked off Monday with a symposium, campus showcase and block party. The inauguration ceremony began Tuesday at 10:30 am. Under a soft film of purple light, Lipscomb professors, teachers from its K-12 academy and delegates representing the college from around the country filled 22 rows of black chairs while wearing academic outfits full of robes and tassels . The college and academy students occupied the seats behind them.
Attendees included Mayor John Cooper and Governor Bill Lee, Lipscomb’s Board of Directors and some of its former presidents. Metro Nashville Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Adrienne Battle and former Gov. Bill Haslam, under whom McQueen served as education commissioner, were also in attendance.
Lee, Cooper and Camilla Benbow, the Dean of Education and Human Development for Patricia and Rodes Hart at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, delivered welcoming remarks.
“Thank you for following God’s call on your life,” Lee said. “This call has uniquely qualified you to fulfill this very important role. Your commitment and love for students and education…has been unwavering.”
Cooper spoke on behalf of the Nashville community.
“I know firsthand the many contributions this institute has made and is making to our community,” Cooper said. “We have every confidence that you, as president, will contribute to the wealth and well-being of our students.”
McQueen received his master’s degree from Peabody College. Benbow spoke on behalf of the college.
“You know how to encourage academic curiosity,” Benbow said. “The light of teaching and learning guides those engaged in scholarship. I am confident that you will continue to advance Lipscomb University to even higher levels of academic achievement and reputation.”
After the investiture and prayer, McQueen addressed the crowd.
“I really appreciate the number of well wishes and ‘good jobs’ you sent me,” said McQueen, who thanked his family for their support.
Then she rallied the students.
“Thank you for keeping me on my toes,” McQueen said. “Thank you for bringing your best, and thank you to your housemates, who strive to bring their best.”
She recounted her experience over the past six months since being named president, saying she enjoyed watching Lipscomb’s sports teams play. She loved the “sidewalk conversations” with the students.
“I have seen Lipscomb from many different perspectives. I can say without hesitation that God has richly blessed our community,” she said. “I see a college letting its light shine for others, so they can see our actions and glorify our Heavenly Father.”
McQueen said Lipscomb “felt like home” and that the last six months of her presidency had felt like “coming home.” She also described the weather as a “whirlwind”, with listening sessions and the expansion of the university.
McQueen also spoke about the legacy of former Lipscomb presidents.
“For 130 years, we dreamed. We grew. But above all, we led,” she said. “We had leaders who knew what it meant to seize opportunities.”
McQueen said “the past will influence” decision-making in the future, but said “we will work together” to keep the university moving in the right direction.
“We have answers, we have experts here. We have to work on solving the problems (here in Nashville),” she said. “Lipscomb has always been a light. We will seek to ensure that all students who wish to obtain a Christian higher education degree can come to Lipscomb.”
In conclusion, McQueen said Lipscomb “will be a light leading the way.”
“We’ll be leading in liberal arts and sciences, we’ll be leading in allied health and engineering,” she said. “And we’re also going to be leading the student experience. Today really marks a pivotal moment. I know that with this pivotal moment, we have an amazing opportunity. Let’s be a light.”
‘Go where you’re trying to go’
Upstairs in the Crisman Administration Building, in the President’s office, McQueen’s office is under a university seal attached to the wall. A large tiered wooden shelf with awards and books sits against the wall in front of a coffee table with a vase as the centerpiece.
When asked, she took a small plate from a lower locker. It was an award recognizing her as an outstanding teacher at Lipscomb.
“It was one of those awards that is such an honor because your peers, faculty and staff vote,” she said, then returned the award to the locker.
Announced as the 18th president of Lipscomb in August, McQueen, 47, is Lipscomb’s first female president and CEO. She graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science. After earning her M.A. and Ph.D., she taught K-12 in private and public schools in Texas and Nashville.
“I’m one of those weird breeds of teachers. I love to plan and prepare,” McQueen said. “I think it’s served me well in leadership roles in education. It’s always about getting where you’re trying to get.”
After serving as the state’s top education official, McQueen returned to where it all began: Lipscomb. Her parents are former college students and her mother, a longtime teacher and principal, has always said the school is her third child. McQueen saw her mother’s passion for helping students and it became infectious.
She first joined the Lipscomb staff in August 2001 and served as undergraduate chair from 2004-2008, then was named Dean of the College of Education in July 2008. Enrollment doubled under her leadership, the College of Education introduced six new graduate programs and helped the college establish its first doctoral program.
McQueen served as Tennessee Education Commissioner from January 2015 to January 2019.
“He was very experienced,” she said of Haslam. “I learned from someone who was an incredibly seasoned leader, someone who had extraordinary political acumen. He was someone who really shared my beliefs about students: putting students first.”
McQueen said his conversations with Haslam were “genuine” and that he brought “a lot of character” to them. She shared some leadership advice the former governor gave her.
“He said, ‘When you’re going to talk to someone about an education issue, first know your audience,'” she said. need. Don’t tell them too much, don’t tell them too little, and really think about what they need.”
Putting advice into action
McQueen knew his audience at Allen Arena on Tuesday. After a standing ovation, she took to the podium, smiled and asked a simple question.
“How are we?” she said to much fanfare from the crowd. At the end of his speech, McQueen announced that Wednesday would be college’s “good day,” a long-standing Lipscomb tradition that cancels classes for a day and treats students to a picnic in Percy Warner Park.
McQueen used Haslam’s advice and taught his audience well during the six months of his presidency. She participated in a dodgeball tournament with students and her team made it to the final four of the tournament. She was also a student at Lipscomb, which seemed to shorten the chain of command between the dorms and her office.
In her spare time, McQueen enjoys running with her family, although she considers herself more of a “jogger” than a runner. She enjoys reading books on leadership and cognitive psychology. His music ranges from everything from contemporary Christian music to Lionel Richie. McQueen loves to travel, both for the pleasure of traveling and for the new experiences.
McQueen is also a Christian and says her faith will influence her leadership and decision-making at the Christian university.
“I lead from who I am and I am God’s child,” she said. “I lead with my faith, and I always seek that discernment (from God).”