By Steve Singer

Daily Journal

OXFORD – The way some people were talking after Robert C. Khayat was sworn in as chancellor of the University of Mississippi, one might think they, too, were inaugurated.

The sense of a shared experience was real for some who watched the ceremony Thursday at Tad Smith Coliseum.

“He’s one of our own,” said Oxford resident Lela Ledford, who attended the swearing-in with her mother, an Ole Miss alumna.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for anything,” said A.L. Daffin, of Vicksburg. Daffin, who originally is from Moss Point, Khayat’s hometown, said she has known Khayat “all his life.”

Willana Thomas Price of Forest in Scott County said she was proud of Khayat. But she might have something at stake in the academician’s success.

Price was Khayat’s 11th-grade English teacher in Moss Point 41 years ago. “He was an excellent student. He wrote well, which of course I liked,” she said. “He was the most outstanding student I ever taught.”

In addition, the retired teacher said that Khayat “was very kind to everybody.”

Jennifer Dance, an undergraduate at Ole Miss, said the day was wonderful. Dance, who is studying pre-med and engineering, said the event and the speakers were “very vivid.”

Echoing the praise directed at the chancellor by other students, Dance said Khayat is “very interested in students and how he can help us.”

Even Khayat made his inauguration an affair that the university, Oxford and the state could join. “We as a community decided this inauguration is a celebration of the university and a tribute to the people of Mississippi,” he told the audience.

“It’s a great day,” said Charles Dennis, a carpenter at the university who lives in Water Valley.

But anticipating the end to the week’s festivities, Dennis said he believes that change over the long-term will be hard to come by. “I think it will be pretty much the same,” said the 35-year employee of the university.

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