On a day rich in history and meaning, the significance of James McCarthy’s inauguration as Suffolk University’s ninth president was not lost on our students.

The cake, ice cream and surprise Michael Jackson dance medley didn’t hurt, either.

“It’s electric,” said freshman advertising major Andrew King. “Campus is on fire today. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Students were everywhere during the day of festivities—guiding guests into historic Faneuil Hall, attending the morning ceremony, entertaining the crowd of distinguished guests, and serving as guests of honor themselves at the student reception.

Presidential inaugurations don’t happen every day, and students in attendance recognized that they were enjoying a rare opportunity.

“It’s really cool that we get to see an inauguration,” said Gabriella Abbondanza, a junior English major minoring in middle school education and a Trustee Ambassador. “How long is it going to be until another one happens?”

Long before the dignitaries arrived in the historic Great Hall, members of Suffolk’s gospel choir Voices of Zion warmed up their vocal cords in preparation for singing the National Anthem at the ceremony—their first time singing the anthem, and their first time being in one of Boston’s most hallowed spaces.

“To be able to sing here is amazing,” said Sabrina Bazile, a junior majoring in global business and marketing and president of the choir. “We’re excited to represent Voices of Zion and Suffolk University.” During the ceremony, Suffolk’s a cappella group, the Ramifications, performed a stirring version of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.”

True to his school, junior entrepreneurship major Chris Maynard said that the ceremony presented a great networking opportunity—he got to chat with a couple members of the law school faculty he said he may not have encountered otherwise.

Stephanie Todt, a senior majoring in marketing and minoring in communication, echoed that sentiment. “It’s awesome that everyone at Suffolk came together.”

The approachable president

As students buzzed about the event, they remarked on how one of the hallmarks of McCarthy’s presidency so far has been his accessibility.

“He makes himself very well known and shows his appreciation, even if it’s only stopping to talk for ten minutes,” said Abbondanza, citing his town halls and “Pizza with the President” events.

“'Pizza with the President,’ come on,” Maynard said admiringly. “It’s a fun name.”

Others noted his attendance at basketball games and student performances.

“Within his first two weeks, he met with students in the SGA. There’s a lot to be said with just that one action,” said Martha Alvarado, a senior majoring in public relations and government, trustee ambassador and SGA treasurer. “His excitement to work with students and get their feedback and take them into account—that makes me, as a student to be alum, very proud.”

“He has a very approachable nature,” said sophomore Matt Eriksen, an advertising major and family orientation scholar. “He’s a great embodiment of what Suffolk stands for.”

An exciting journey

The inauguration was just the latest milestone in Suffolk’s ongoing transformation, as the words emblazoned on the event program—“A Shared Vision, A Journey Ahead”—reflected. Students shared in the optimism.

“In the next couple years, Suffolk’s just going to explode and be the new face of Boston,” said Dan Newell, a senior majoring in political science and history and a resident assistant at Miller Hall. “There’s so much potential, and President McCarthy is just tapping into it right now.”

“I’m excited for what the future holds for Suffolk,” said Alvarado, “I’ve seen a lot of change in my four years, within the university and in how the university is perceived from the outside.”

“I definitely see, from when I toured to now, there’s a shift in how people act on campus,” said Eriksen. “The overall atmosphere of Suffolk has changed.”

“[Suffolk is] headed in the right direction,” said senior Lina Rodriguez, a sociology and government dual major and member of the Student Government Association . “[McCarthy] is bringing about a lot of good change.”

Todt, who is attending Suffolk on a full-tuition scholarship,said she appreciated McCarthy’s call in his inaugural address for alumni to help support the university.

Suffolk alumna Michelle Medeiros, who graduated in 2012 and is now pursuing her MST in taxation at Sawyer Business School, heard that call.

“I want to be able to give back to the university,” she said. “I want students after me to have the opportunities I had.”

Get this party started

The day’s events capped off with a student reception in the lobby of the Rosalie Stahl Center, featuring a “champagne” fountain (sparkling apple cider, actually), ice cream sundae bar, cake and cookies. A live band performed on the second-floor balcony, and students snagged free long-sleeved T-shirts bearing McCarthy’s name and the number nine—for our ninth president.

“This afternoon is just to be here and celebrate with you and thank you for everything you do to make Suffolk the great place it is,” McCarthy told the throng of students. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this great place.”

McCarthy joked that the lobby reception was a “momentous occasion” because he got to ascend the typically roped-off staircase. He also speculated on whether or not he could refer to his presidential medallion as “bling,” drawing chuckles from the crowd.

As McCarthy concluded his remarks, the sounds of the Jackson 5 filled the lobby, and members of the student dance troupe Wicked began strutting their stuff down the staircase.

Finally, the long-rumored reception surprise had its big reveal—a surprise dance performance set to a Michael Jackson medley. Songs included “ABC,” “I Want You Back,” “Rock With You,” “P.Y.T.,” “Beat It,” “Thriller,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Remember the Time,” and “Bad.” The crowd, buzzing with sugar and optimism, clapped and grooved along to the beat.

But as the festivities wound down, a lyric from Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” seemed to capture the prevailing sentiment of the day.

“Today is where your book begins,” the song goes. “The rest is still unwritten.”