October 4, 1999
GENEVA, N.Y. – Former Peace Corps Director Mark D. Gearan will be inaugurated as President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Friday, October 22, on the Colleges’ campus. Students, faculty, staff, and graduates will be joined by area civic and business leaders, legislative representatives, and delegates of colleges and universities throughout the region to celebrate the inauguration.
The former Peace Corps Director will be formally installed as the 26th president of Hobart College and the 15th president of William Smith College at a ceremony at 4:30 p.m. The installation will be the centerpiece of a day-long series of events, all of which will be held on the HWS campus, and all of which are open to the public.
The first of those events will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Friday in the Geneva Room in the Warren Hunting Smith Library — a two-hour symposium titled “Higher Purpose: Public Service and a Liberal Arts Education.” Panelists will discuss the premise that a liberal-arts education imparts a breadth of perspective that naturally and unavoidably leads to the recognition that all who are able ought to give back to the community through good citizenship and service to humankind. Participants include; Patrisha Blue ’77, executive director of Geneva’s Community Unified Today; Betsy Hacker Dexheimer ’57, educator and community activist; Eric Eve ’89, coordinator of Al Gore’s presidential campaign in New York State; 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, will moderate.
The formal inauguration ceremony will take place from 4:30 until 6 p.m. that evening, and will include welcoming comments from members of the Colleges’ and greater-Geneva communities, as well as musical tributes and a keynote address from President Gearan. The inauguration will be held in the Colleges’ Robert A. Bristol Sports and Recreation Center. A public buffet reception will follow.
The festivities will conclude with a celebratory fireworks display on Smith Green (9:15 p.m.) followed by a student-organized Swing Dance. (Surrounding these inaugural events is a slate of cultural, artistic, and athletic events scheduled for the weekend, as well as a community service event on Sunday afternoon; a complete schedule is attached.)
At 43, Gearan is one of the country’s youngest presidents of a major undergraduate institution. He brings to the position extensive experience in public service, a particular orientation to international studies, and a strong commitment to undergraduate liberal arts education. Gearan served as Director of the Peace Corps from 1995 until July of this year, where he worked to support more than 6,700 volunteers in 77 countries and to create more opportunities for Americans to serve in the Peace Corps. He has been credited with increasing public interest and garnering increased governmental support for the Peace Corps.
Charles Salisbury, chair of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees, has said, “Mark Gearan is the leader these Colleges want to take them into the 21st century. Not only does his strong and varied leadership experience make him an ideal president, but his particular sensitivity to internationalism and service makes him the best possible president for these Colleges. His background in public service in the international arena is an excellent fit with these Colleges, where interdisciplinary study, with an emphasis on international experiences and volunteer service, is at the heart of our curriculum.”
Hobart and William Smith Colleges are liberal arts colleges whose progressive, interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizes international study. The Colleges offer 18 study-abroad programs around the globe directed by HWS faculty. Roughly two thirds of HWS students participate in off-campus programs during their undergraduate career, a statistic that, according to the Institute of International Education, ranks the Colleges among the top 10 undergraduate institutions in study-abroad participation. In addition, many of the study-abroad programs include internships or volunteer components, consistent with the Colleges’ integration of service and volunteerism into the curriculum.
“We believe that today’s undergraduates must appreciate, in a way that is broadly applied, the interconnectedness of people and cultures,” noted Hobart and William Smith Provost Sheila K. Bennett. “We find that an emphasis on volunteerism and community-based learning imparts that.”
A native of Gardner, Mass., Gearan earned his B.A. in government cum laude at Harvard University and his law degree from Georgetown University. He is the recipient of 11 honorary degrees. Gearan is married to Mary Herlihy Gearan, and they have two daughters, Madeleine and Kathleen. They have taken up residence at the President’s House on the Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus. When appointed to the presidency this past summer, Gearan succeeded Richard H. Hersh, president since 1991, who is now director of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation in New York City. # # #