Dr. Joseph Christopher Maggio was installed as the 19th president of Northwestern State University Sept. 15 in a formal Investiture ceremony attended by students, faculty, alumni, friends, family, dignitaries and honored guests from throughout the state. The installation of Maggio as president capstones a life and career dedicated to service and student success at the university where he has served on faculty and/or staff in numerous leadership and instructional capacities since 1988.
“I am honored to be surrounded and supported today by so many members of my families. The word families is plural because I am referring to my parents, wife, children, siblings and other relatives and to our Northwestern State family of students,” Maggio said. Dr. Maggio and his wife, the former Jennifer Zeagler, were joined by their children, Melanie, Scott and Emily.
A procession of faculty and staff in full academic regalia began the ceremony that incorporated many Northwestern State traditions and acknowledgements of the school’s 133-year history. The Natchitoches-Northwestern State Symphony Orchestra, NSU Concert and Chamber choirs and 68th Demon Battalion participated in the ceremony. Offering welcome to those assembled were Natchitoches Mayor Lee Posey (Class of 1974), Student Government Association President Otha C. “Tre” Nelson of Baton Rouge, Faculty Senate President and Associate Professor of English Dr. Thomas Reynolds and Alumni Association President Monty Chicola (Class of 1980), who during the ceremony presented Dr. Maggio with a presidential NSU class ring and Mrs Maggio with a matching pendant. Rev. Dr. Calvin Phelps offered the invocation.
Pulitzer Prize winning veteran journalist and NSU alumnus Gary Fields (Class of 1982 and 1984) was guest speaker, who said Maggio has a way of connecting with people and bringing them together.
“Chris was headed for this job from the moment he was born,” Fields said, noting that each position Maggio held at NSU throughout his years built upon the previous one.
Throughout the program, the new president and others spoke of the Maggio family’s long relationship with the city of Natchitoches and with the university. The grandson of immigrants, Maggio recognized many members of his extended family in attendance, referencing their emphasis on faith, family, education and hard work.
Dr. James B. Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System and immediate past president of Northwestern State (Class of 1994), assisted Nelson in bestowing the vestments of the office of president and formally installed Dr. Maggio into office with the President’s Chain. The robes, in school colors of purple and white, are a gift from the Student Government Association and represent the mutual collaboration between the students and the administration. The President’s Chain was presented to NSU President Emeritus Dr. Randall Webb in 2009 by the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the founding of Northwestern State University. It bears the engraved names all presidents of the university.
The Investiture program concluded with the university’s alma mater and a benediction by Dr. Hayward “Sonny” Hargrove Jr. (Class of 1964), a member of the NSU Alumni Association Board.
Earlier in the day, the Maggio family was joined by the university and Natchitoches community at a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception with hymns performed by the NSU Chamber Choir. Principal celebrant was Rev. Blake Deshautelle, pastor of Immaculate Conception. Concelebrants were the Very Rev. Scott Chemino, the Rev. John Cunningham, the Rev. Monsignor Carson LaCaze, the Rev. Marc Noel, the Very Rev. John O’Brien, the Rev. Craig Scott (Class of 1986), the Rev. Brian Seiler (Class of 2006) and the Rev. Louis Sklar (Class of 1990). Readings and hymns from the Mass reflected Dr. and Mrs. Maggio’s expressed values of service, faith and diligence.
Maggio served as interim president for four months during a national search before being named president May 4. Since then, NSU reported an unprecedented increase in grants and private gifts for the first half of 2017 and a 7.7 percent increase in enrollment for the Fall 2017 semester. Current enrollment is 10,572 students, the largest in the university’s history.