New University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler used his inauguration Thursday to call on faculty, staff and Minnesotans to transform the university into one of the best in the nation.
To great applause, he announced that his family had created a full-tuition scholarship for four students a year who otherwise couldn't afford to attend the U. He challenged others to make similar commitments.
"Alumni, we need you," he said. "We need your input. We need your energy. We need your financial support. Please consider how you can best give back."
Kaler also called for a change in culture -- "a re-set that drives us to be more entrepreneurial, less risk-adverse and better partners.
"We must reduce bureaucracy, focus on shared values and, as you have heard me say before, pick up the pace."
Kaler is the second of the university's 16 presidents to have graduated from the University of Minnesota. He earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering there in 1982.
He began his speech by remembering first coming to the university in 1978. "That was my first encounter with the excellence of this university, and with the mission and public support that made it accessible to me."
"But those twin pillars of excellence and access at the university... have never been more at risk."
Kaler's speech was just one part of a week of ceremony that crested Thursday with the inaugural ceremony. The occasion was marked by trumpets, faculty in traditional dress and the handing over of the mace and medallion.