Troha sworn in as Juniata’s president

HUNTINGDON – James A. Troha was inaugurated as the 12th president of Juniata College on Friday afternoon, receiving blessings, praise and gifts from the college’s community.

The 900-seat auditorium at the college’s Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts was filled to capacity with Juniata faculty, students, trustees and Troha’s family.

“It’s a great day for Juniata,” trustee and Altoona attorney Dave Andrews said after the ceremony. “Jim Troha continues to recognize past tradition, but he’s also moving the college forward.”

Troha, of Ohio, succeeded Thomas R. Kepple Jr. as the college’s president June 1. Prior to taking office, Troha had worked at Heidelberg University, where he was vice president for institutional advancement and university relations. After an invocation, a presentations of gifts – including golf club covers from the student president, a buckeye representing Troha’s Ohio roots and the tree planted on-campus for him – Troha was introduced by his mentor, Tarleton State University President Dominic Dottavio.

Dottavio introduced Troha as someone with “Grit, determination and fortitude.”

Troha began his administrative career at Heidelberg University, Ohio, in 2002 as vice president for student affairs and dean of students. He was named interim president of that university in 2008. Prior to taking that position, he also served as vice president for enrollment, where he helped increase enrollment by 19 percent in his first year and helped bring in the university’s three largest freshmen classes in three decades.

When his time came to speak, Troha delivered an emotional and personalized speech, not sparing any effort to give gratitude to people in the audience.

He thanked the craftsman who donated the podium he spoke from, he sought “woops” from the few rows of students who attended, and he led the audience through an emotional roller coaster as he addressed his 12-year-old son, Nick, first joking that he should sit up straight, then breaking into tears when he thanked his three children for coping with his work schedule. He also thanked his baby sitter for enabling him and his wife Jennifer, a schoolteacher and his “presidential partner,” to travel from Ohio to Juniata for the job interview.

A seat was left empty for his mother, who recently passed away. Troha said he and his family are starting a Juniata College scholarship fund in honor of his parents. He said after his inauguration that his family plans to start the endowment by donating $50,000.

He emphasized the importance of a liberal arts education at a period when he said it is fashionable to abandon college and focus only on credentials and earnings.

“I unequivocally reject notions that liberal arts education is losing efficacy and value,” he said. “I especially reject it if Juniata is part of that discussion.”

The private liberal arts and sciences college, founded in 1876 on Brethren customs, has gained national and international accolades from the magazine “Colleges That Change Lives” and international educators, who awarded the college with the Paul Simon Award.