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At USF, a formal welcome for the new president

Though he started the job in July, Steve Currall is officially installed as president on his 137th day in office.

TAMPA — The University of South Florida on Thursday formally, and warmly, welcomed its seventh president Steve Currall, who reciprocated with an impassioned address during a special ceremony inside Yuengling Center.

Speaking on his 137th day in office, Currall presented his vision for USF’s future as it continues to climb in the world of academia. While excellence is a top goal, he said, the school also must continue to be accessible, a place of opportunity, for students in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.

RELATED: ‘I’m thrilled’: Steve Currall takes over as USF’s seventh president

“My mission is to build on our momentum, fostering a campus environment for innovation where we will relentlessly push forward," Currall said. “So even more exciting than what USF has already accomplished is the extraordinary promise of what it will accomplish in the future.”

Currall’s wife, Cheyanne, his father, a longtime friend and a former colleague attended the event, as did former USF presidents Betty Castor and Judy Genshaft. The friend, Rev. Ronnie Osborn of Missouri, told old stories about Currall, noting his commitment to teamwork and integrity.

Jordan Zimmerman, chairman of the USF board of trustees, presents president Steve Currall with the Chain of Office during Thursday's ceremony. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

He promised those in attendance that Currall will not disappoint, citing 56 years of friendship that started in elementary school. Currall later thanked him as one of the people responsible for helping him in his journey to being named leader of USF in March. He took the job July 1.

“I know without a shadow of a doubt that Dr. Currall will not just build on this great foundation you already have, but he will take you to heights that you’ve never dreamed possible,” Osborn said.

Also in attendance was Ned C. Lautenbach, who currently serves chairman of the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s public universities. He said state leaders have “high hopes” for Currall and what he will accomplish at USF. He praised the university’s success in recent years, as it has become one of Florida’s three “preeminent” universities and continues to move up in national rankings.

“The university, for all its successes, has the potential to be better still,” Lautenbach said. “Dr. Currall is a bold and ambitious leader, and he’s a good match for this bold and ambitious university.”

Currall shared a similar sentiment about what is ahead for USF by reading a quote by the school’s first president, John S. Allen, during USF’s first student convocation in 1960: “We have an unparalleled opportunity to build on the best of the past to produce a new future characterized by excellence.”

That remains true today, he said, thanking leaders who have come before him. “No university has risen faster,” the new president said.

Currall’s former colleague and past president of University College London, Sir Malcolm Grant, noted in a speech that as Currall’s partner, Cheyanne Currall is just as invested in USF as he is. Unlike the school’s last leader, the couple opted to live in the on-campus president’s residence, Lifsey House, to be close to students and university events.

“You’ve not appointed a president, you’ve appointed a team,” Grant said. “Honesty compels me to tell you, you have made an outstanding choice.”

USF professor Charles Stanish, who served on the search committee that helped select Currall, thanked him on behalf of faculty. “We are eager and ready to collaborate and partner with you to help take use to the next level,” he said.

Student body president Britney Deas spoke on behalf of students, thanking Currall for being a mentor to her. She recounted their recent visit to the Florida Capitol, where he gave her a "seat at the table” in important conversations with state leaders.

Britney Deas, USF student body president, speaks during Thursday's ceremony formally welcoming university president Steve Currall. She thanked Currall for being a mentor to her. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

The highlight of the event, called an investiture, was the presentation of Currall’s presidential medallion. He beamed with hands folded in front of him as the heavy necklace was placed over his head by Jordan Zimmerman, chairman of the USF board of trustees.

“By accepting the president’s medallion, you accept the charge to serve with diligence, dedication, energy, vision, integrity and honor," Zimmerman said. “Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the seventh president of the University of South Florida, Dr. Steven C. Currall.”

The room erupted in applause.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of USF student body president Britney Deas.