02/17/2013 12:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Boulder's Naropa University Observes Colorful Inauguration For New President

While his tenure as the 11th president of Boulder's Naropa University began in August, Charles "Chuck" Lief did not have "the keys to car," as his good friend and Naropa's first chief executive Martin Janowitz said Saturday, until his official inauguration ceremony.

It took six months, but for members of the Naropa community, the colorful and tradition-rich inauguration ceremony held for Lief at the school's Nalanda Events Center in east Boulder Saturday afternoon was worth the wait.

"I just think that Chuck Lief is going to be an amazing president," Kendra Sandoval, 42, of Denver said after the nearly three-hour inauguration.

Sandoval, who in 2005 earned her master's degree in environmental leadership from the

university, said her favorite part of the event was a lively tribute poem to Lief written and expertly delivered by Anne Waldman, co-founder of Naropa's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

"I thought Anne Waldman was amazing," Sandoval said. "What a tribute."

Waldman was hardly the only highlight of the eclectic ceremony.

Things got under way with a musical performance by Gamelan Tunas Mekar, a Denver-based community orchestra playing the native music of Bali, Indonesia, under the direction of Balinese composer Made Lasmawan. A procession of the school's faculty, staff and board of trustees was then led into the event hall by bagpiper Chris Doyle, before Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi delivered the invocation. The rabbi, better known as "Reb Zalman," held Naropa's world wisdom chair from 1995 until 2004.

Performing arts student Marcella de la Paz and Naropa technical coordinator Shevek Majors-Peer delivered a stirring acoustic rendition of the song, "Home" by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros.

The centerpieces of Saturday's event were the investiture ceremony and execution of the Stroke of Ashe, a ceremonial calligraphy brushstroke rooted in the traditions of Shambhala Buddhism. Lief's execution of the stroke Saturday ignited confidence and drew down the blessings of Naropa's lineage on the spot, according to tradition. It further represented Lief and the Naropa community's commitment to bringing forth a harmonious and just society.

The investiture ceremony and Lief's taking of the presidential oath, were presided over by Janowitz and Naropa Board Chairman Jerry Colonna.

Lief, a nonprofit executive, entrepreneur and lawyer, helped found Naropa in 1974 and was serving as chairman of its board when he was asked to serve as president. His wife, Judith, held the post from 1980 to 1985. Lief also is an early North American student of Naropa's founder, Ch�gyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Buddhist meditation master, who set forth a 500-year educational mission for the school.

Lief covered a wide range of topics including financial challenges and the planned formation of a new school focused on continuing education during his nearly 20-minute inaugural address. He also took time to thank his family, faculty, staff, students, and many other members of the Naropa community.

"I am blessed to have this opportunity to serve Naropa is this new way," he said. "I look forward to working closely with you all, inviting your ideas and your concerns, and I am particularly looking forward to the 460 years ahead of us."

Though the impending birth of his second child kept him from attending in person, Sakyong, Jamg�n Mipham Rinpoche, son of Ch�gyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Naropa's lineage holder, sent in a video address for Saturday's ceremony.

"I fully support this inauguration," he said. "I think it is wonderful and I think it is coming at a very opportune time, for Naropa has the great possibility for being socially engaged and relevant in taking the principals that my father... held so dearly in his heart when he began Naropa University."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or

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