One of the most successful tribal colleges in America inaugurated a new president Wednesday.
A tearful Robert DePoe III took his oath of office at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., between two tepees and in front of hundreds of people in an events center named for one of his predecessors, the Missoulian reported.
DePoe takes over at what is widely considered one of the most successful tribal colleges in the nation, but one whose enrollment has fallen below 1,000 students recently.
He announced several new courses of action during his inauguration, including SKC joining a national community college program called Achieving the Dream that DePoe said would help SKC identify four campus-wide initiatives, with “every policy designed to help students succeed.”
“You are why we are here,” he told the students in attendance.
DePoe, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, wiped away tears several times during the 2 1/2-hour ceremony. He and his family were led into the Joe McDonald Events Center by the Veterans’ Warrior Society and dancers in full regalia while SKC students drummed and sang.
McDonald, SKC’s president for more than 30 of its 36 years of existence, introduced DePoe, a former education director for the Paiute Tribe in Utah. DePoe was employed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs when the presidency came open.
He replaced Luana Ross, who abruptly resigned 13 months ago after two years on the job, citing “irreconcilable visions” between herself and the college’s board of directors.
“Education has no bias,” DePoe told the crowd. “It doesn’t care who we are or where we come from.”
- Vince Devlin