Lori Varlotta inaugurated as first female president of Cal Lutheran


Photo by Madison Kosar-Reporter

President Varlotta’s inauguration took place on Feb. 27, 2022 in Kingsmen Park.

Madison Kosar, Reporter

On Sunday Feb. 27 an installation service was held to inaugurate the eighth president of California Lutheran University President Lori E. Varlotta. To kick off her inauguration, events were held within two weeks of her installation service such as a 5k walk with the president, a celebration of academic excellence, and a worship service.

After serving as president for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, she has officially been inaugurated as the first female president of Cal Lutheran, which Varlotta said is exciting and humbling at the same time.

“It’s very important to have roles like this so women can reach the top of their profession and be role models for other women,” Varlotta said.

Before coming to Cal Lutheran, Varlotta was the first female president at Hiram College. Varlotta said she believes her prior experiences have prepared her remarkably well for this position at Cal Lutheran. 

“Coming in to California Lutheran University in the fall of 2020, we were amidst the global pandemic and had I not had the opportunity to work with an extraordinary team at Hiram college and faced the challenges successfully at Hiram, I think the learning curve would have been much more steep here at Cal Lutheran,” Varlotta said.

Varlotta has earned an interdisciplinary doctorate degree in educational leadership with a focus on philosophy and feminist studies from Miami University. She holds a Master of Science in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame.

With the inauguration of a new president comes a new leader of the university. President Varlotta said she has a specific tone in mind for Cal Lutheran.

“I want to set a very positive and hopeful tone but a tone that has a lot of awareness embedded in it as well,” Varlotta said.

Varlotta said she feels positive and hopeful about the future but she isn’t naive.

“We have some challenges we need to address but we’ve come an extraordinary distance at this point in our organizational evolution,” Varlotta said.

Varlotta said that she wants students to know that she is very much like them since she is a first generation college student and knows what that feels like. At the ceremony, Varlotta said that she wants to continue following Cal Lutheran’s mission.

Varlotta’s installation service featured more than 20 speakers which included the Chair of the Board of Regents Bill Camarillo, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leanne Neilson, Mayor of Thousand Oaks Al Adam and many more. Each speaker shared their own appreciations and suggestions.

Varlotta’s husband, Eric Premack, had the honor of introducing his wife by providing a speech. He spoke to Varlotta’s  character and said she’s what his family likes to call an acquired taste.

“I’ll take the liberty of offering gratuitous advice. First off, honesty and forthrightness are very fundamental so be prepared to engage her in the most prepared candid most genuine way. She’s very direct…it can come across as very blunt. Don’t take it personally, she’s pointed with all of us,” Premack said.

Professor Colleen Windham-Hughes issued the Faculty Charge to Varlotta at the installation service and said she appreciates Varlotta’s directness in an email interview.

“I appreciate that President Varlotta always wants to go straight to the topic of shared concern and hear your point of view, even if it differs from hers,” Windham-Hughes said.

Varlotta said that now is the best time to embrace Cal Lutherans mission and what it means for the university. The university’s mission is to educate leaders for a global society who are strong in character and judgment, confident in their identity and vocation, and committed to service and justice.

“As California Lutheran University ushers in 2022, there has never been a more pressing time than now to celebrate our institutional identity and our competitive advantage,” Varlotta said in her installation speech.

At the installation service they displayed a clip of alumni, students, faculty and staff placing valuable items in a time capsule. Each item had it’s own assigned meaning tied to what they hope for the future of Cal Lutheran or what Cal Lutheran means to them. Varlotta placed a document inside that contained information on what Lutheran education looks like.

“I brought a document called Rooted and Open its significant to me primarily because it paints a path forward for what Lutheran education will look like today and many years from now. The pulling together rather than being polarized is my deepest and most important hope for California Lutheran University and for the world,” Varlotta said in the clip.

During her speech, Varlotta emphasized the importance of figuring out what Lutheran means in the name California Lutheran University. She said that the way the school becomes more Lutheran is by being more than just Lutheran.

“Our middle name is crucial to who we are, we must use it, own it, and yes, explain what Lutheran means at this particular Southern California, future focused, value informed university,” Varlotta said in her speech.

Varlotta also highlighted the importance of accepting differences to incorporate a more diverse and inclusive environment.

“In an addition to being racially and ethnically inclusive, Cal Lutheran must also be religiously and spiritually inclusive,” Varlotta said.

In her time as president, Varlotta said she wants to focus on the diversity on campus. She said all of the things that have happened recently, the pandemic and racial injustices namely, have created a “new normal” she hopes will make people pause and think about what is important.

“At the same time they have opened a space for individuals and institutions alike to step back, reflect deeply on what matters in life and in business and to take actions that make the world a better place to live and work,” Varlotta said in her speech.