‘Trailblazer’ at helm

Peter Fos Show caption
Peter Fos

First UNO president, Fos, sworn in Monday

“We can and we will  prosper together.” Peter Fos,   University of New Orleans president

Amid pomp, circumstance, caps, gowns, songs and anthems, Peter Fos was officially sworn in as the president of the University of New Orleans at an investiture ceremony held Monday afternoon at the lakefront campus.

After UNO moved from the Louisiana State University system to the University of Louisiana system in December, the title of chancellor changed to president, thus ushering Fos in as the university’s first president and leader of what was described Monday as a “new pathway” by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Fos succeeds Tim Ryan, who was fired in September 2010 but was present at the ceremony to pass the torch onto the university’s sixth leader. Interim Chancellor Joe King led the university until Fos began his tenure in January.

Fos and his wife, Lori, both received their undergraduate degrees from UNO. A New Orleans native, Fos earned a doctor of dental surgery degree from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and a master of public health degree and doctor of philosophy degree in health care decision analysis from Tulane University. Prior to being chosen in a nationwide search for a new president, Fos was a professor and program director of health policy and systems management at LSU Health Sciences Center.

Referring to the 10 years Fos spent earlier in his career as a dentist in Metairie, Landrieu said that the experience prepared him well.

“Going to Baton Rouge to get money is just like pulling teeth,” Landrieu said, joking — if not even more difficult.

Landrieu praised the university in its rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina and stressed the importance of continued investment in education, with UNO playing a critical role in “making America strong again.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., called Fos the “right fit for this institution,” and the “right leader at the right time.” With Fos at the helm, Vitter said he was “reassured about UNO’s bright future.”

State Sen. Edwin Murray D-New Orleans said that in the current environment of “really huge problems” facing public institutions of higher education in terms of funding, Fos has already been a “strong voice” in front of the budget committee.

Numerous university presidents, chancellors and other educational dignitaries bestowed praise and gifts upon Fos, using descriptions for the new president including “a superb leader and exceptionally smart” and a “trailblazer.”

Fos expressed gratitude and a renewed commitment to the values and goals of UNO.

He spoke of the “broad shoulders” of his predecessors upon which he stands and of the continued growth he envisions for the future.

Fos highlighted the university’s expansive advertising campaign as an aggressive effort to increase enrollment and recover lost numbers, what he described as a top priority. Prior to Katrina, UNO admitted approximately 18,000 students. This year, just over 10,000 students enrolled.

Fos also described efforts to strengthen relationships between local business partners, with the goal of “making the institution more vibrant than ever before,” and raising expectations.

“We can and we will prosper together,” Fos said.

Editor’s Note: This story was altered on Nov. 13, 2012 to correct the spelling of Lori Fos’ name.