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Tessman Investiture: 'NMU is On the Rise'

MARQUETTE, MI— The investiture of a university president is an enduring tradition in academia, typically held during or at the conclusion of the individual's first year in office. Northern Michigan University's 17th president, Brock Tessman, was formally invested with the rank during a ceremony Friday afternoon. The event provided an opportunity for the campus and community to welcome new leadership and celebrate successes early in Tessman's tenure that signal Northern is on an upward trajectory.

“NMU is on the rise in so many ways,” Tessman said. “Faculty excellence in and out of the classroom. Distinctive academic and workforce training programs. Positive enrollment growth. A growing partnership with a vibrant community in one of the most beautiful natural settings in the world. And there is even more to look forward to as we head into the next year, one in which we will publicly launch our next major fundraising campaign and formally celebrate our 125th anniversary as, in my opinion, the flagship university of Upper Michigan.”

Tessman highlighted NMU's redesigned administrative structure, which includes pillars focused on degree completion and career preparation, providing an exceptional experience for all students, and promoting the development and well-being of students, faculty and staff.

The latter pillar was validated when NMU became the 17th campus in the country, and one of the first in Michigan, to sign on to the Okanagan Charter. This global compact among higher education institutions embeds well-being into the campus culture (read more here).

The ceremony weaved symbolism tied to Northern's past, present and future with Tessman's tributes to family, friends and mentors. His mother Dr. Deirdre Tessman, a leader in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, helped to place the Chain of Office around his neck. The chain displays the official NMU seal encircled with two laurel branches. Engraved banners listing Northern presidents and their years in office are linked to the medallion.

The procession included 124 NMU students—one for each year the institution has existed. There were also 94 Graveraet Elementary students, including both of his young daughters' classes, who led the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I want to be very clear when I say that this university always has been, and always will be, defined by our students,” Tessman said. “The 1st and 3rd graders who stood before you will inherit a world that is more complex, and perhaps heavier, than we can imagine. But they can look to our current students to see the opportunity they have—no matter what their background—to lead the kind of change that they believe in and the kind of change that may lighten the load for future generations. And our current students can't help but be inspired by our alumni, women and men who have preceded them and gone on to reshape the world in every field and every far-flung place.

“Northern employs many staff, faculty and, yes, administrators. But our heartbeat is our student body. And as one generation leaves the graduation stage and another generation rolls into their first day on campus, our job as an institution is not to simply hand the baton of change from one generation to the next. It is to be a partner in their race, inside the classroom and out, from the moment they first choose Northern until well after their graduation.”

Gwen Feamster, president of the student government organization ASNMU, said Tessman has made an impact on students, both before and since his Feb. 1 official start date.

“We have seen his openness to change and willingness to help the students here,” Feamster said. “I have seen how he cares to know students, whether over hot wings, casually outside Starbucks, or even playing in the Dead River Games. I believe having Dr. Tessman will benefit the student experience at Northern and ensure our growth as an institution in the years to come. Thank you for diving in headfirst as soon as you arrived, even before you had completed the move. Thank you for taking the time to listen to multiple perspectives and for your dedication to students and to learning. … Just as you've said you have our backs, we have yours.”

With the proliferation of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), Tessman said it will be increasingly important that Northern continues to be defined by uniquely human qualities that AI cannot touch. These include a sense of belonging; a deep appreciation for the area's history, geography and lore; an unwavering commitment to academic freedom; and by demonstrating “sisu” in the context of “a consistent, courageous approach toward challenges that at first seem to exceed our capacities.”

Tessman's ability to inspire others while tackling challenges is among the qualities that convinced NMU's Board of Trustees that he was the right person to lead the university.

“The board sees in Brock someone who will protect all that has made Northern special, yet won't hesitate to take calculated risks to push for transformational change,” said Chair Steve Young. “His vision made him stand out among the many other candidates. It didn't take long for the rest of campus to realize his energy, intelligence and creativity. Under Brock's leadership, we can anticipate a vibrant, innovative and inclusive journey for Northern in the future. He is a leader by example who demonstrates passion and excitement.”

The investiture celebration included three Thursday activities: a community service project at the U.P. Children's Museum; a panel discussion on how three Michigan universities are implementing the Okanagan Charter; and a dedication ceremony and open house for the new NMU WellBeing Center. President Tessman's trail run/walk will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday from The Lodge, with registration at 9. The options are a 5K trail run/walk or a 1-mile fun walk through campus. There is no cost to participate and the event is not timed.

Watch the investiture ceremony online here, or via WNMU-TV encore broadcasts at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, or 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1. Find more biographical information on Tessman on the president's website or in this Northern Magazine feature story.

Nicole was born near Detroit but has lived in the U.P. most of her life. She graduated from Marquette Senior High School and attended Michigan State and Northern Michigan Universities, graduating from NMU in 1993 with a degree in English.