UMass Amherst Inaugurates Kumble Subbaswamy as Chancellor

AMHERST, Mass. – With academic pomp and pageantry, Kumble R. Subbaswamy was formally inaugurated today as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst during ceremonies at the Mullins Center.

The installation was held in conjunction with a weeklong commemoration of the founding of the campus in 1863, an occasion noted by Subbaswamy during his inaugural address.

“For 150 years, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has served the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by making a world-class education accessible to qualified students from all walks of life, engaging in research to solve our most complex problems, and working in communities to advance the human condition,” he said. “Leading such a magnificent institution at such a pivotal time in its history is an awesome responsibility – one that I have every intention of living up to.”

Subbaswamy said the university’s path ahead will be guided by two key initiatives: a strategic plan and an ambitious fundraising campaign.

“Our strategic plan will guide us to achieve our vision even as we adjust to the changing world around us. We will emphasize active learning over information dissemination. We will expand internship opportunities and community outreach experiences. We will open our campus to the world and the world to our students. And by exploring ways of shortening time to degree, we will emphasize outcomes over inputs and seat-time,” he said.

Subbaswamy also called for making the campus more focused, collaborative and entrepreneurial and for creating a competitive climate that will help retain and attract the best scholars, scientists and artists. 

Off-campus, he added, “We will increase partnership with industry both to help regional companies become more competitive, and to create new commerce.  We will more effectively partner with government, business, and civic organizations, particularly in Western Massachusetts, to help improve the educational, health, and economic outcomes for our citizens, while opening up opportunities for our students to learn outside the campus bubble.”

The fundraising campaign, which he said will be the largest in the institution’s history, will support merit and need-based scholarships, endowed or named professorships, and state-of-the-art facilities.

“This work is both daunting and energizing,” Subbaswamy said. “In a climate where every university is under financial stress, those who are nimble and wily can leapfrog ahead. Someone once described UMass Amherst graduates as all PHDs: prepared, hungry, and driven. The same can now be said about the institution as a whole.”

UMass President Robert L. Caret and Henry M. Thomas, III, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, conducted the investiture rites, presenting Subbaswamy with a medallion bearing the names of the Amherst campus’s leaders since 1863 as a symbol of his office.

“Chancellor Subbaswamy embodies the spirit of this campus and the promise it holds for future generations of students,” said Caret. “We have witnessed his smarts, his heart and humility, his sense of humor, and his vision for advancing the historic mission of this campus and making it an even more indispensable force in the Commonwealth. We have come to know that he is the man for this moment in the history of UMass Amherst.”

Recalling Subbaswamy’s selection last year as chancellor, Thomas said, “I am proud to say that everything we have seen since Swamy arrived reinforces our original instinct that he was the right choice at the right time to move our flagship forward.”

Thomas added, “We are looking forward to a bright, rising future for UMass as we head into our next chapter. And we are certain that we have found a leader who comprehends how important the University of Massachusetts Amherst is to the region and to the entire Commonwealth.”

Other speakers included representatives of UMass Amherst’s Faculty Senate, Student Government Association, Alumni Association, campus administrators, and Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader and UMass Amherst alumnus Stan Rosenberg.

The audience included faculty in colorful academic regalia, students, staff and alumni. Special guests included the members of the UMass Board of Trustees, legislators, the chancellors of the other four UMass campuses, members of Subbaswamy’s family, and delegates of more than 50 colleges, universities, honor societies and professional organizations from the U.S. and Canada.

Also in attendance was Gerald Mahan of Pennsylvania State University, who served as Subbaswamy’s thesis advisor at Indiana University, and Pawel Hawrylak of the Institute for Microstructural Sciences at the National Research Council of Canada, who was a doctoral student under Subbaswamy at the University of Kentucky.

Subbaswamy took office at UMass Amherst on July 1, 2012. A physicist by training, he served as provost at the University of Kentucky from 2006-12. He joined Kentucky’s physics faculty in 1978 after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine. During his first 18 years at Kentucky, he served as associate dean of arts and sciences and as chair of the department of physics and astronomy.

He left Kentucky in 1997 when he was appointed dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Miami. Three years later, he was named dean of arts and sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington. He returned to Kentucky in 2006 when he was appointed provost.

He is active in academia nationally and internationally, serving on a number of panels, including the American Council on Education and the German-American Fulbright Commission.

Subbaswamy holds a bachelor of science in physics from Bangalore University, a master of science in physics from Delhi University, and a Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989.

Contact: Ed Blaguszewski, 413/545-0444, edblag@admin.umass.edu