Iwama is sworn in as the seventh chancellor with the entire campus community playing a role
October 1 was a momentous day for IU Northwest. As summer ends and fall begins, the university gets yet another beginning—the official start of Ken Iwama’s tenure as chancellor.
While that’s “officially” the case, the reality is that Iwama has been serving the university ever since he was appointed chancellor in August 2020. In the short, yet difficult year, brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, Iwama has already made an impact.
Faculty, students, and community leaders were all too happy to welcome him to the position Friday. Pamela Whitten, president of Indiana University, opened his installation ceremony, recognizing the tireless work of the organization’s trustees and the academic excellence of IU Northwest.
“Regional campuses are a vitally important part of the whole of Indiana University,” Whitten said. “The entire state should take pride in our regional campuses.”
Iwama was enthusiastically celebrated by campus and local leaders with remarks from the Honorable Jerome Prince (on behalf of the city); William Allegrezza (on behalf of the faculty); Tameka White (on behalf of the students); Garrett Wolf (on behalf of the students); and Sharon Johnson-Shirley (on behalf of alumni).
Garrett Wolf, president of the Student Government Association, words to Iwama were especially personal. He said that Iwama took special interest in him, offering advice on applying to law school and even writing recommendation letters.
“He leads our campus forward with the students’ perspectives at the forefront,” Wolf said. “I don’t think we could have found a better leader.”
Following remarks from campus and local leaders, the room dimmed for a dramatic reading from Iwama’s daughter, Midori Francis Iwama.
Francis opened with a spirited interpretation of a scene from Romeo and Juliet. She explained that she once found Shakespeare too complicated to understand, but thanks to an exceptional teacher and a will to learn, she soon discovered a love for the pivotal playwright.
“That is the power of education, and that is the power that my father instilled in me. I don’t need to tell you all this, but this man is crazy about education,” Francis said with a laugh.
The time was fast approaching that everyone had been waiting for—the official installation of Chancellor Iwama and his speech. After thunderous applause and an enthusiastic welcome from Whitten, Iwama took the podium and opened with a joke.
With a sense of humor underlying his serious commitment to education, Iwama proceeded to tell the crowd about his family’s incredible support over the years, especially that of his wife, Joanne. “My accomplishments truly pale in comparison to Joanne’s, and frankly, I would not be here without her partnership and support,” he said.
Iwama also told of his parent’s journey to the United States, riddled with hardships but with a happy ending. His father came to America with little more than a few books and a ceremonial tea set to his name. While he endured language barriers and anxiety about World War II internment camps, Iwama’s father preserved and soon earned a Ph.D.
Iwama said none of his father’s successes would’ve been possible without the support of family, friends, and mentors. “Their beautiful spirit of mentorship, caring, and support of people and students, lives on right here in Northwest Indiana at IU Northwest,” he said.
Concluding his speech, Iwama couldn’t help but look to the future. He envisions even more community partnerships, focusing on non-profit organizations, economic development, business, and youth education.
He sums up his goal concisely, and quite beautifully, in the following statement: “Connecting the energies from IU Northwest and Northwest Indiana—catching that lightning in a bottle—with the resulting whole becoming greater than the sum of our respective parts, becoming something new.”
With a rich background of experience to pull from, as well as the support of the IU Northwest and Northwest Indiana communities, there is certainly a bright future ahead under Iwama’s leadership.