Former HWS President on Colbert Report – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Former HWS President on Colbert Report

Richard Hersh, L.H.D.’99, former HWS President and co-author of “We’re Losing Our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education,” recently appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” to talk about his new book.

Emphasizing the role of higher education in helping people think creatively, he notes that there is a crisis in higher education that needs to be addressed.

“Too often we ask students to go through college rather than put in the time and effort that allows them to be challenged and develop their highest capabilities, both intellectually as well as emotionally,” says Hersh. “We have lowered the standards we had 30 or 40 years ago.”

Hersh says that some colleges are sufficiently challenging and have students who take a variety of electives and dedicate themselves to the process of learning, but other institutions have students who work towards meeting the required number of credit hours and simply earn their diplomas.

An advocate of a classical liberal arts education, Hersh named Hobart and William Smith among colleges who are sufficiently challenging their students to reach their fullest potential.

“Colleges that are doing it right have cultures that are very challenging and ask students to engage in far more work, including reading, writing and integration of knowledge,” explains Hersh, noting that M.I.T. and University of Virginia are schools that are “doing it right.” “Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where I formerly served as president, is doing some exciting work.”

Hersh, a senior consultant with Keegan & Associates since 2006, served as president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges from 1991 to 1999. He oversaw what was at the time the most successful fundraising program in the history of the Colleges. Under his leadership, the Colleges constructed Napier and Rosenberg Halls, the Winn-Seeley Gymnasium, and the L. Thomas Melly Academic Center.

He has also served as president at Trinity College, Hartford; provost and vice president for academic affairs at The University of New Hampshire and at Drake University; and vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Oregon. Earlier in his career, Hersh also served as director of The Center for Moral Education at Harvard University, was a professor and dean in teacher education, and taught high school.

He was a member of the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ Greater Expectations national advisory panel and served as co-director of the Collegiate Learning Assessment and College and Work Readiness Assessment. Those projects created an innovative approach to measuring and assessing net gains in student learning at the college and high school levels.

Hersh has written much about the importance of a liberal arts education in the 21st century. His 1999 Daedalus article, “Generating Ideals and Transforming Lives” and his book “Promoting Moral Growth” are in use on many campuses. He worked on and appeared in the two-hour PBS documentary “Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk” and co-edited the accompanying book by the same title. The November 2005 issue of The Atlantic Monthly featured an article Hersh, “What Do Colleges Teach?” about measuring student learning.

Hersh received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering and education from Syracuse University and his doctorate in education from Boston University.

To see the clip online, visit


Related Links