Austin Peay installed its 11th president, Michael Licari, on Friday, Nov. 5. His speech made it clear that he’s looking to the future.
Licari previously held the position of Provost and Vice President for Academic affairs at Indiana State University. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and his Masters of Arts and doctorate in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The ceremony featured various distinguished guests, including political, academic and civic leaders who welcomed Licari’s family, including his wife, Kirsten and son, Daniel.
Many speakers highlighted Licari’s dedication to higher education and commitment to students, as well as his problem-solving skills.
Colonel Andrew Jordan, Fort Campbell’s garrison commander, welcomed Licari and his family, highlighted the relationship between APSU and the installation and thanked Licari for his support of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program and Austin Peay’s veterans.
Jordan described Licari’s commitment to attend the commissioning of APSU’s ROTC cadets last spring. Jordan said he “Drove in and slid in sideways to get to Daniel’s graduation the next day.”
“You have arrived at a time when the town and gown relationship could not be stronger,” added Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, who explained the importance and effectiveness of the bond between the school and the city of Clarksville and his bright view of the future.
Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett spoke after Pitts, officially welcoming Licari and his family to the community and recounting his academic career before providing another vote of confidence.
“We know you are the right choice to continue the growth of Austin Peay, and we look forward to your leadership, vision, and energy at the Peay for years to come,” he said.
After being sworn in, Licari began his speech by emphasizing his belief in the collegiate system, citing himself, his parents and his son as examples of those who have had their prospects expanded by a college degree and used those degrees to pursue better work.
“The ability to be part of these transformations is why I started my career in higher education in the first place,” Licari said.
He spoke on the transformative opportunities provided by education and praised the university’s connection with Fort Campbell, tradition of online learning, flexible calendars for working adults and support structures for low-income and first-generation students.
While he made it clear that many aspects of higher education are commendable, he recognized the need for changes and improvements. Licari decried the idea of doing the same thing you’ve always done, just because it was once successful. He also personally expressed frustration with refusal to update old methods.
“I cannot tell you how many times throughout my career I’ve heard the statement, ‘Well we’ve always done it that way,’ and I’m sure you’ve heard that too,” he said. Licari described the improvements among students he had seen at his previous position after facing problems head on, despite pushback.
He made it clear that the school should be innovative without being cavalier and pledged to protect and grow the creative spirit of Austin Peay while working to serve current and future students.