October 22, 1999
GENEVA, N.Y. – With flags from 65 nations adorning the front of the Robert A. Bristol Field House on the Hobart and William Smith campus, a large video screen posed ready to show greetings from President Bill Clinton and other friends and former colleagues in Washington, D.C., and with nearly 80 delegates from colleges and universities around the country in full academic regalia, Mark D. Gearan was sworn in as the 26th president of Hobart College and the 15th president of William Smith Colleges in an inaugural ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, October 22. The 65 flags represented all the nations from which Hobart and William Smith students come and to which they travel to study.
Gearan, at 43 one of the youngest president of a major undergraduate institution, came to the Colleges in August, after serving as Director of the Peace Corps from 1995 until that time.
In his inaugural address, Gearan spoke of how he was convinced that it was his own liberal arts education that allowed him to make the career moves he's made and reach the personal goals that he has reached. He challenged the Colleges community to build upon the strengths that are already in evidence at the Colleges, citing their commitment to liberal arts education, community service, off-campus study, diversity, campus life of intellectual vibrancy; excellence within the faculty, and loyalty from the alumni and alumni who helped shape the Colleges.
During the inaugural ceremony a video highlighted by comments from President Bill Clinton was shown to the audience.
“It is a great pleasure for me to join the Hobart and William Smith community in saluting my good friend, Mark Gearan, the next president of your Colleges. Mark, the trustees have made a very wise decision in selecting you. You're a gifted, humane leader, deeply committed to the education of young people. I know you will bring great vision, energy, and good humor to the Colleges as they enter the next century,” Clinton said and later continued.” In 1961, President Kennedy challenged Americans to give of themselves for their country and for the betterment of the world. No one embodies that spirit of service and dedication more than Mark Gearan. Hillary and I wish you, Mary, Madeleine, and Kathleen the very best on this wonderful new adventure.”
Other speakers sending greetings via video included Sargent Shriver, the first Peace Corps Director, who said “Mark Gearan not only has the vision but also the necessary youth to make Hobart and William Smith the leaders in this new world,” Rep. Barney Frank of Mass., Rep. Christopher Shays of Conn., and Richard Riley, the U.S. Secretary of Education who called Gearan a strong leader and a good listener.
“Mark Gearan has a deep and abiding concern for the young people of America. He's committed to helping them build a brighter future for themselves and our great country,” Riley said.
The video also included comments from Washington journalists Robert Novak, a syndicated columnist from CNN; Margaret Carlson from Time magazine; Mark Shields, a syndicated columnist; Al Hunt from The Wall Street Journal; Tim Russert from NBC's “Meet The Press”; and Paul Begala and Ollie North from MSNBC.
Joining Gearan on the stage to offer greetings were Elena Ciletti, associate professor of art, on behalf of the faculty; Jennifer Leshnower and Nathaniel Smith, student trustees, on behalf of the students; and Geneva Mayor Joanne Wisor on behalf of the greater Geneva community.
One of the highlights of the event came when President Gearan left the stage to accompany the singing of the alma maters on the piano. At the conclusion of the formal installation, all guests joined in a buffet dinner reception.
Earlier in the day a symposium “Higher Purpose: Public Service and a Liberal Arts Education,” brought together five members of the Colleges community to offer their insights into how a liberal arts education supports the spirit of public service. Panelists included: Patrisha Blue '77, executive director of Geneva's Community Unified Today; Betsy Hacker Dexheimer '57, educator and community activist; Averill Bauder '81, director of the HWS Office of Public Service; Alan Frishman, HWS professor of economics and returned Peace Corps volunteer; and Donald Stern '66, U.S. attorney from Boston, Mass. Joseph DiGangi, HWS professor emeritus of political science, moderated.
During the symposium, Stern spoke of the “tool kit” he gained from a liberal arts education: an appreciation of a variety of different views; comfort with ambiguity; an appreciation of humanity, in both its suffering and its joy; and a sense of optimism, gained from reading great literature and studying history, that brought him to the belief that he really could make a difference.
Blue reminded the students in the packed auditorium that while they may have lofty goals to change the world, she has come to realize that “the world” is right here where she lives now. She pointed out that it is seeing the new and continued needs that propels her.
The inauguration weekend is full of events to celebrate the new president, including a play in Bartlett Theatre, celebratory fireworks, sports contests, and a dance. It will conclude with a special afternoon service event in honor of President Gearan, in which students, faculty members, and administrators will venture into the city of Geneva to rake leaves for residents for whom this would otherwise be difficult. President Gearan was pleased. “This initiative illustrates not only the Colleges' commitment to public service, but highlights the individual service orientation of so many who work and study here.”
President Gearan's Inaugural Address