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Dr. Cynthia Bambara was inaugurated as president of Allegany College of Maryland in a ceremony that featured education and government leaders, former colleagues and family members and representatives of the college.

Several hundred people, including friends and supporters of the college, gathered in the College Center to witness the formal investiture of ACM's chief executive officer with the responsibilities of the post and to officially welcome her into the ACM family.

As it follows a year-long series of activities that celebrated the college's 50th anniversary, the ceremony that inaugurated the president who is leading ACM into a second half-century followed the theme "Launching a Legacy."

Bambara, a veteran community college administrator from Virginia, said, "It is an honor to serve Allegany College of Maryland as its fifth president and I thank all of you for the trust you have placed in me to lead this institution."

Bambara reflected on her commitment to higher education at the community college level, which began in 1992, when she was hired to work part-time in student support services by Lord Fairfax Community College.

Her efforts with students, in a refurbished barn that would develop into LFCC's Fauquier Campus, pointed her to a career helping students achieve their goals and reach toward their dreams. "Transforming lives is what has brought me to you today," she said.

Meeting students at the door of that rustic building would both serve as metaphor for Bambara's work and shed light on her own upbringing and aspirations for life.

"I spent a lot of time in the barn on my family's [Pennsylvania] farm, reflecting, dreaming, imagining what could and might be. So, this was a perfect match for me, a dream come true," she said.

Bambara's encouragement of students and recognition of her own abilities would see her roles with Lord Fairfax expand as both it and Fauquier Campus grew. She would ultimately become LFCC's vice president of student success and chief administrative officer of the branch campus.

"We as a community college and as community college professionals first touch lives by opening doors to all who want to learn," she said. "Through the power of teaching and learning, we facilitate a transformation in the lives of our students. In turn, we change futures for our students and for the communities where we live."

Prior to taking the top post at ACM, Bambara served as interim president of Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg in a state system appointment.

Since becoming president in March 2011, Bambara has worked to reinvigorate ACM's longstanding students-first focus, including boost student success and further student goal completion. Strengthened K-12 partnerships and increased economic impact and community benefit are also among her priorities.

Speakers offering greetings to the college president included District 1 State Sen. George Edwards, Allegany County Commissioners President Michael McKay, Cumberland Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi and Maryland Association of Community Colleges Executive Director Bernard Sadusky.

They remarked on the role of the community college in economic development and quality of life as they welcomed Bambara to the community. ACM, Sadusky noted, chose "a dynamic leader" with a wealth of experience and a collaborative approach to her role as president.

Recent graduate Chris Ullery recounted his mid-20s journey to higher education for strong career prospects by reading "A Chance Encounter With a Good Decision," an essay published in Expressions, the college literary magazine. "Thank you ACM," he concluded. "It was good to see you again."

Personal insights into the new president were provided by Bambara's two sons, Timothy, 31, and Thomas, 27, who offered family reflections, and by Dr. Susan E. Short, who first hired Bambara at Lord Fairfax and introduced the new president.

Timothy Bambara has returned home from Chicago, where he had been an actor, director and producer, to teach theater at Liberty High School in Bealeton, Va., his alma mater. Although his first year has only begun, Timothy said he already realizes that his mother is a "folk hero" in Fauquier County and "legendary" for the number of lives she has touched.

Thomas, a writer, actor and comedian in Chicago, where he co-hosts a late-night talk show, declared: "My mom is awesome!" He predicted such success for her as president that ACM will need to retire her number when she leaves. To be sure that she had a number, he commissioned an ACM basketball jersey, which he presented to her.

Short, now associate vice president of engagement at Virginia Tech, commended ACM for the choice it had made in a president. "She is only one of the most outstanding professionals I have had the privilege to work alongside."

At Lord Fairfax, she said, Bambara "became one of the most respected and sought-out leaders," well-regarded for her commitment to student success and access to education and for sound financial leadership and active engagement with the community.

Short, who is from Western Maryland, wished for her longtime friend the full support of ACM's faculty and staff. "Your successes are her successes," she said. The new leader "needs their insight," Short noted, and the college "needs this president to be hugely successful."

Kim Leonard, ACM Board of Trustees chair, presided over the ceremony and installed Bambara as president, which included presentation of a medallion that depicts the college and symbolizes the responsibilities vested in the office of president.

The presidential medallion was conveyed to Leonard by representatives of the four constituent groups of the college: faculty, associate support staff, professional and administrative support staff and students.

Leonard thanked participants in the presidential process that brought Bambara to ACM. "We got the very best," he said. "We're happy you're here, Cindy."

Other features of the ceremony include the reading of a poem written for the occasion by Dr. Ronald Jenkins, associate professor of English. Titled "Let Us Pause Together for a Day," celebrated the diversity and democracy of the community college and its commitment to making education accessible to all.

The ACM Student Choir, under the direction of music instructor Melody Gaschler, sang the national anthem and the musical selection, "Closer to the Flame." The Laurel String Quartet, a Johnstown-based ensemble, played pre- and postludes.

Dr. Kenton Stone, associate professor of English and philosophy, offered an invocation and benediction.

Calling the ceremony "inspirational," Leonard, closed by saying, "Let's make ACM the very best it can be."

Special guests in attendance included representatives of Maryland colleges and universities as well as other elected officials.

The 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, inauguration was held in the College Center's Dr. Robert Zimmer Theatre on the Cumberland campus. A reception followed in the Dr. W. Ardell Haines Student Lounge.