Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs ’77, a well-known and beloved member of the Gettysburg community, spoke at this year’s Dedication Day ceremony. This year’s ceremony was held November 19th in Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park.
“I am certain that anyone who is asked to speak here in this setting on this important date feels honored,” Riggs said. “I have to say that along with feeling deeply honored, I feel profoundly humbled to have this opportunity.”
Riggs was appointed the 14th president of Gettysburg College in 2009 after serving as interim president since 2008. She graduated from Gettysburg College with a BA in psychology and mathematics and received her MA and PhD in social psychology from Princeton University. Riggs returned to Gettysburg College in 1981 as a faculty member in the psychology department, where she served as department chairperson. She has worked in a variety of administrative roles, including executive assistant to the president, interim provost, and provost.
Riggs currently chairs the PA Consortium for the Liberal Arts and the Centennial Conference Presidents Council. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Annapolis Group and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of PA, and is currently a member of the Gettysburg Foundation Board and the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Board.
Under her leadership, Gettysburg College has enhanced its commitment to inclusion and internationalization; strengthened its academic reputation and recruitment efforts; and enhanced its campus grounds and facilities.
In her speech, Riggs spoke about Abraham Lincoln’s address as a “timeless and personal call to each one of us, a call truly for the people.” She eloquently discussed how his address still resonates today because there is so much work to be done to achieve goals of equality.
“The unfinished work still before our nation is most certainly personal. And it must be carried out by each one of us, every day. Let us all be led by those better angels,” Riggs said.
Each year since 1938, the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania has commemorated Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and rededicated Soldiers’ National Cemetery where Lincoln spoke. This annual event has grown and is now co-sponsored by Gettysburg National Military Park, the Gettysburg Foundation, and Gettysburg College.
The story of the 1863 dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery is one that is closely woven into the College’s history, as it was an alum of the Class of 1851 who oversaw the construction of the cemetery and invited Lincoln to give “a few appropriate remarks.” David Wills even hosted the president in his home the night before the ceremony.
Over the years, many influential and noteworthy national figures have spoken at the ceremony, including: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Tom Ridge, John Hope Franklin, Shelby Foote, Carl Sandburg, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen Lang, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ken Burns, Steven Spielberg, and others.