NATCHITOCHES – 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.
“Dr. Maggio is one of the first people that encouraged me to come to NSU,” Nelson said. “When I first met him, I knew he had a deep passion for Northwestern State University. The SGA and NSU have a long history of working together to make sure the voices of the student body is always heard.”
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.
“My siblings and I helped my immigrant grandfather realize his dream by graduating from the university that he held in such respect and esteem,” Maggio said. “This occasion underscores the historic importance of the university to the descendants of those Italian immigrants.”
As Faculty Senate president, Reynolds carried the University Mace for the ceremony, which symbolizes the academic power and authority of the university. The use of ceremonial maces dates back to the 14th century.
“I can think of no one at this university more firmly rooted in Natchitoches and NSU than Dr. Maggio,” Reynolds said. “His years of service have helped NSU survive through tough times and thrive in better times. We as a faculty look forward to working with Dr. Maggio for many years to come.”
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.
Following the Investiture, the Maggio family received visitors at the Arnold R. Kilpatrick President’s Residence. The community event featured the talents of students from NSU’s Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts. Artwork by students, faculty and alumni selected especially for the occasion was on display in the home and refreshments included Italian delicacies made from recipes passed down through the Maggio family.
Concluding the day, NSU’s Department of Military Science hosted a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action National Recognition Day program, annually held the third Friday of September. The program took place at NSU’s Freedom Tree, dedicated in 1973, on the front lawn of the President’s Residence and honored World War II POW Lloyd Ponder of Natchitoches who went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwester in 1949.
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.
Maggio joined the staff at Northwestern State as a track and field coach in 1988. He previously served as vice president for the Student Experience where he led the Dean of Students and the Offices of Admissions, Recruiting, Financial Aid, Student Activities and Organizations, First Year Experience and Leadership Development, Judicial Services, Counseling and Career Services, Student Life, the Student Activities Board, Student Government Association and Greek Life.
Maggio served as assistant vice president of External Affairs for University Advancement from 2013 until 2015. He was named Dean of Students and assistant provost for student success in 2007. He was selected as director of alumni affairs in 1999, director of alumni and development in 2003 and executive director of the NSU Foundation in 2005.
Maggio is a 1985 summa cum laude graduate of Northwestern State. As a senior, he was elected Mr. NSU by his fellow students. Maggio earned his master’s of education at NSU. He received a doctorate in developmental education from Grambling State University.
Jennifer Maggio earned a graduate degree in Student Personnel Services at NSU in 1992 and has worked in education as a teacher and administrator at the elementary, secondary and university levels. As first lady, she has been actively engaged with campus activities and organizations and this semester initiated a literacy project to benefit youth in the region.
Melanie Maggio, 22, is in graduate school pursuing a degree in library and information sciences. Scott Maggio, 19, is an undergraduate pursuing a degree in communications. Emily Maggio, 15, is a 10th grade student at St. Mary’s in Natchitoches.
“As a current student, to get to experience this is great,” said Ty Wright, a junior biology major from DeRidder. “Dr. Maggio will probably serve a long time here at NSU. We look forward to Dr. Maggio’s presidency as a student body.”
The Mass, Investiture and community reception were pinnacle events of a week of festivities that included a Patriot Day observance on Sept. 11, the annual Demons Come Out at Night Pep Ray and concert, the First Lady’s Service Project and activities surrounding NSU’s first home football game.
Maggio said that his interaction with prospective students from many diverse backgrounds and the relationships that continued as those students became productive alumni relate back to the values of his immigrant family who came to America seeking opportunity.
“I have been blessed for three decades to be involved in some of the many different dimensions of our history school. I have taught in its classrooms and those academic experiences are the very core and keystone of any university,” Maggio said. “At the soul of the university is the spirit of innovation, exploration and synergy that keep it vibrant and consequential. Those qualities tie the schools’ past to its future.”