SKC President Robert DePoe, III inaugurated
DePoe starts presidency with an ambitious vision
By Lailani Upham
Chief Judge Winona Tanne swears in DePoe and was joined by his wife, Jamie, Joe McDonald and SKC Board Chair, Jim Durglo. (Lailani Upham photo)
PABLO — It was the first of it’s kind – an inauguration ceremony that brought a touch of the past into the present, marking the commencement the new Salish Kootenai College presidency of Robert DePoe, III, last week at the Joe McDonald Health and Athletic Center.
The ambiance of the Joe McDonald Health and Athletic Center set the stage from past to present to usher in the new president of Salish Kootenai College. (Lailani Upham photo)
A pre-inauguration dinner was held at the KwaTaqNuk Resort last Tuesday, the night before and was filled from wall–to-wall with dignitaries, staff, friends, and family who were present to usher in the celebration of DePoe’s appointment.
During the dinner, the Capturing The Vision campaign was introduced, a five-year $20 million campus wide enterprise that will focus on five priorities: student success, academic excellence, campus infrastructure, increasing community capacity and culture and legacy. (Click here to see related article)
A standing ovation as the honored SKC President Robert DePoe, III shakes the hand of SKC President Emeritus Joe McDonald after a brief warm introduction. (Lailani Upham photo)
$8.3 million has already been raised so far, and more gifts totaling $28,200 came in that night from 11 sources.
DePoe expressed at the dinner and during the inauguration ceremony that purpose behind every decision SKC makes is to ensure student success. “For the students – it’s why we are here. To bring them the highest quality education is our business,” he said.
After the ceremony ends, a tiny-tot jingle dress dancer raises her fan as she trails behind the Veteran’s Warrior Society Honor Guard. (Lailani Upham photo)
DePoe also honored to those who pioneered the college and declared November 7 will now be known as “Founder’s Week Celebration” on campus to remember the sacrifices of the founders of SKC.
“To all who have dedicated their lives to the success of SKC, and learn our history,” DePoe expressed. He told the crowd during his walks through the halls he felt the blessings and the prayers of many.
SKC student, Drew Hartung, performs a delicate, soothing piece on the piano at the request of President DePoe. DePoe said during one of his campus walks, he came across the young man’s piano practice, and decided that moment he would have him play at his inauguration. Hartung is a self-taught musician. (Lailani Upham photo)
The president also revealed other programs being launched at SKC: the Ambassador Leadership Program; and a 15-credit welding course that will start in January; a Tribal Research and Education in Ecosystem Sciences research that will expand nationwide; and the Achieving the Dream Initiative, secured through a grant from the American Indian College Fund.
The Ambassador Leadership Program will allow 10 selected students to serve in the Presidential office to act as liaisons to be spokespersons and public relations for the college.
DePoe said in his address that the journey he sees ahead is blessed; however, the mantel that is placed on all - staff, students, community - and is contingent upon the innovation of ideas and action to carry on the success of the campus.
SKC Student Senate President, Antonio Trembly, is greeted by CSKT Communications Director Rob McDonald who emcee’d the event. Trembly said he believes SKC is the “Harvard of tribal colleges.” Trembly shared in his address the stories of other students. “It’s not about me,” he stated. (Lailani Upham photo)
Francis Auld and Alec Quequesah shared stories before President DePoe presented gifts to key influential people in his life toward the end of the ceremony. Auld shared that during the old times a family of a returning warrior would be so grateful, that a give-away would take place. “They would take all their belongings and give them out; they gave everything up because they were so happy the warrior had returned,” he said.
DePoe’s great-aunt, Jeanie Schwartz, who is the sister of President DePoe’s grandfather, Robert R. DePoe, Sr., had a striking smile for everyone at the inauguration event. Schwartz was one of the elite few in DePoe’s influence of life that received a gift during his give-away. (Lailani Upham photo)
Quequesah, who was the first student to graduate in “Building Trades,” went on to teach at SKC. He pointed out that eight buildings he helped construct are still standing today. “It’s a great feeling to work with SKC,” he concluded.
Representatives from both Senator Tester’s office and Senator Max Baucus’s office sent their support and concern to the future accomplishments for SKC.
President DePoe addressed that when SKC began the founders not only had an “awakening” but a zeal to go forth, a drive he feels has stayed alive to the present, “Education has no bias, it doesn’t care where you came from – education is a gift anyone can capture.” He said SKC gives that opportunity for all to access.
President DePoe takes a moment to pause as emotions flood in during his inauguration speech. DePoe told the present guests, “I am proud to be your servant and humble to be here today to serve a wonderful school and community.” (Lailani Upham photo)
A quote from Helen Keller summed up his calling as president: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
SKC was founded in 1977.
For more information, go to SKC.edu