Investiture ceremony held for 20th president of NSU Marcus D. Jones


Nina Ovalle

On Sept. 9, 2022 Northwestern State University of Louisiana held the Investiture of the Twentieth President, Marcus D. Jones.

On Sept. 9, 2022 Northwestern State University of Louisiana held the Investiture of the Twentieth President, Marcus D. Jones.

Jones grew up in Winnfield, Louisiana with 19 brothers and sisters and loving parents that valued education.

Jones’ background shows through his work and encourages his efforts as the 20th president of NSU.

“I think having a keen sense and understanding of family and an understanding that Northwestern welcomed me into a family atmosphere is what Northwestern is about,” Jones said. “That is the focal point and the driving force behind everything that I do for the institution by making sure that those who we welcome understand that they’re a part of our family.”

Jones worked at NSU for 23 years before moving to Baton Rouge in 2020 to work for the University of Louisiana System and moved back to Natchitoches in July 2021.

After returning to Natchitoches, Jones served as interim president for five months until the UL System voted to officially name him the 20th president of NSU in Nov. 2021.

Jones made history as the first African-American NSU president since its opening in 1884.

“The institution has done a great job of not only promoting diversity here among the student population, but you see it among the faculty and staff,” Jones said. “We’ve done a great job of embracing diversity across the board, there’s still work that we can do and that’s what I would like to continue to promote on all levels, in all areas, here at the institution.”

It was not Jones’ original intention during his time as interim president to apply for the official position.

“What sort of changed it for me was working and interacting with the students,” Jones said. “After having worked in the system office, in an administrative capacity and not being on a college campus and not having the ability to work closely with students, when I got back to Northwestern, I realized how much I missed that and that’s what changed my mind about applying to become president.”

The investiture ceremony began with a procession of NSU faculty and staff greeted by the NSU Wind Symphony playing “The President’s Processional” by Charles Fernandez in the A. A. Fredericks auditorium.

The National Anthem was played by Francisco Javier Bellesta Sayas on trumpet as the audience and members of the ceremony sang the lyrics.

Greg Handel, provost and vice president of academic affairs, was the master of ceremonies and introduced the members of the ceremony.

Ronnie Williams Jr., mayor of the city of Natchitoches; John T. Dunn, president of the faculty senate; and Leah Sherman Middlebrook, president of the alumni association, all welcomed Jones as the official twentieth president of NSU on behalf of the city, faculty and alumni.

“71,000 alumni in 41 countries, all 50 states and the 64 parishes of Louisiana are delighted to bring welcome today,” Middlebrook said.

Bailey Willis, junior president of the Student Government Association, welcomed Jones from the students and is excited to work with him for her term as president of SGA.

“I really appreciate the fact that he is so proactive in being more inclusive by bringing more inclusion and diversity to campus,” Willis said. “I can’t wait to serve under him even more and see all the wonderful things that he will do for NSU.”

Kim Hunter Reed, commissioner of higher education on the Louisiana Board of Regents, was happy to recognize Jones as the 20th president.

“Today we gather to officially recognize president Marcus Jones in his new role and to stand with him as an academic community committed to education, innovation and research,” Reed said.

Reed acknowledged that Jones has the experience necessary to excel in his new role.

“As a first-gen student, Dr. Jones knows that education can change lives, improve social mobility, lift families, strengthen communities,” Reed said. “He knows it because he has lived it, and because he has lived it, he is committed to making sure that is the reality for more students who come here to this campus.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards was in attendance.

Edwards spoke on Jones’ past experience as well and is proud to have a Louisiana public education graduate give back to the state.

“He is the product of and champion for public higher education in Louisiana, he knows firsthand the promise and the power of knowledge and the skills that only quality education can provide,” Edwards said. “Quite frankly, it’s not often that someone is able to give back to their alma mater to their state in such a profound way.”

Edwards closed his speech, then shook hands with Jones to commemorate his congratulations.

“My commitment as governor is that I’m going to continue advocating for higher education and supporting the work that you are doing right here at Northwestern State University and all over the state of Louisiana, congratulations president Jones and God bless,” Edwards said.

James B. Henderson, 19th president of NSU and president of the UL System; Lola Dunahoe, board member of the UL System; and Willis took part in the installation of the twentieth president.

Willis and Dunahoe assisted Jones in putting on his presidential regalia and Henderson placed a gold chain of 20 links engraved with the names of each former president around Jones’ neck.

As a former president, Henderson personally congratulated Jones just before the performance of the investiture anthem.

The investiture anthem was performed by the NSU Chamber Choir, who sang “Ave Maria” by Vytautas Miškinis, conducted by Nicholas Cummins, director of choral activities.

Jones gave his presidential address in which he gave his pledge as president.

“The investiture is not about an individual, it’s about the institution,” Jones said. “Yes, a president is formally being brought in and officially being named, but it’s about the institution and its longevity and everything that it has given to all the alumni whose lives have been changed by Northwestern.”

“Thank you all for entrusting me with this revered university. My pledge to you today is that I will never take the responsibility of serving as president of Northwestern lightly,” Jones said.

The Chamber Choir performed “To Thee, Our Alma Mater, Loyalty” with the NSU Wind Symphony as the audience sang along.

Louie Bernard, state senator for District 31, gave a benediction and the NSU Wind Symphony closed the ceremony with “The British Eighth March” by Zo Elliot during the recessional.