Geneva gathers to watch
By Larissa Theodore, TIMES STAFF
Published: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 11:38 PM EDT
Reprinted with permission by the Beaver County Times
BEAVER FALLS — Geneva College professor Paul Kilpatrick remembers, as a college student in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when racial injustice kept black professors from buying houses in the College Hill section of Beaver Falls.
Times photo by CHRISTINA BAIRD
Geneva College student Tiara Lucas, a junior, celebrates after the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, takes the oath of office Tuesday.
“Barack Obama not only couldn’t have been president,” said Kilpatrick, now a linguistics professor, “he couldn’t have bought a house on College Hill.”
About 200 students and professors crammed into Geneva’s student union building Tuesday to witness the historic inauguration of the nation’s first black president. An emotional Kilpatrick adjourned class early so his students could witness it, and he never took his eyes off the ceremony.
It drummed up old memories of his youthful involvement in Vietnam War demonstrations and the civil rights movement, and how he “ended up getting arrested and taken to prison because of my actions.”
Kilpatrick said the inauguration was “one of the most moving things” he’d witnessed in a long time.
“I can hardly stand how excited I am,” he said. “I’m crying with excitement.”
Sitting nearby with a group of friends, Deborah Alexander, 28, of Toledo, Ohio, a Republican and senior communications major, said, “I thought it was amazing.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do,” she said. “We have four years to see if that ambition can come to fruition.”
Cathy Sigmund, professor of psychology, counseling and human services, said she required her students to attend the showing in the student union building.
“Because history and policies all impact special populations, and this is historic, obviously, for a variety of reasons,” Sigmund said.
Geneva College is a Christian school with a largely conservative population of students and staff. But politics didn’t seem to matter Tuesday, as most put aside their political beliefs to watch the swearing-in of the 44th president on a big-screen television.
Ken Carson, vice president for academic affairs, said organizing the inauguration viewing, complete with hors d’oeuvres, was spontaneous. He said there was a big interest among the student body to see it.
“Even those who voted Republican in this election are moved by the power of this election, in really positive ways, and are hopeful President Obama will be a great leader,” Carson said.
Students and professors reacted with applause when Obama took the oath and watched in silence as he spoke.
Dann Yelen, 21, a senior human-services major from Jonesboro, Tenn., caught about half of the ceremony before heading off to class. Yelen, a Republican, said he’s hopeful but still wavers on Obama.
“I thought it was interesting,” Yelen said. “I thought he had some good points to make, but I’m still a little unsure about him and a few of his policy issues.”
Brad Stockdill, 19, a freshman education major from New Castle who is registered as an independent, said he thought Obama started off strongly and made his plans clear.
“I felt he gave citizens some hope that things will get done,” Stockdill said.
Matt Hillyer, 21, of Minerva, Ohio, a senior communications major and member of the Geneva Democrats, said he is glad Obama’s in office and hopes he can live up to the promises he made.
“But at the same time, I think that we still need to put our hope into Jesus Christ and not a man.”