GENEVA, NY — Hobart and William Smith President Richard H. Hersh has announced his intention to resign as president of the Colleges, effective at the end of this academic year. A letter announcing this plan was distributed last week to faculty, staff, students, parents, and other key friends of the Colleges.
Hersh is leaving the Colleges to allow his wife, Judith Meyers, to accept a position as executive director of the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, where she begins work on March 15. “I am leaving,” Hersh wrote, “so that I can support her choice, as she has done for me throughout our marriage, and not have us endure a commuter marriage for a prolonged time. It is her turn to follow her dream.”
According to Hersh, the Board of Trustees will begin a search for a new president immediately, with the goal of completing the process by July 1, 1999. If the search is not complete by then, Hersh has volunteered to remain as president through as late as December 1999, should the trustees deem that desirable.
Hersh, a highly respected scholar of teaching, schooling, and moral development, became president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in July 1991. He has overseen the most successful fund-raising campaign in the history of the Colleges, The Campaign for Hobart and William Smith Colleges. As part of the campaign, an award-winning biology/chemistry building was opened in 1994, new women’s athletic facilities opened in 1996, and a new library facility dedicated in 1998. During the campaign, the Colleges’ endowment has tripled.
Earlier in his tenure at HWS Hersh inaugurated a strong program of reform among Hobart’s fraternities; created an innovative summer college for alumni, alumnae, and parents; and initiated the HWS Graduate Attendee Program, a policy that allows graduates to return to the Colleges five years after graduation to take courses free of charge for the rest of their lives. He has raised funds and other support for the faculty’s substantive reform of the four-year curriculum, completed in 1997.
While serving as HWS president, Hersh has authored a number of nationally prominent essays including a “My Turn” article, titled “A Culture of Neglect,” in the September 1994 issue of Newsweek. As the principal investigator of a national public opinion study (with Daniel Yankelovich) surveying Americans’ perceptions of contemporary liberal arts education, he has published “Intentions and Perceptions: A National Survey of Public Attitudes Toward Liberal Arts Education,” 1997, now widely used as the baseline for such studies in the U.S. He has become a prominent and oft-cited advocate for the value of a liberal arts education.
A native of New York City and graduate of Syracuse University (B.A., M.S.) and Boston University (Ed. D.), Hersh was vice-president for research at the University of Oregon, vice-president for academic affairs at the University of New Hampshire, and vice-president for academic affairs and provost at Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa) before assuming the Hobart and William Smith presidency. Earlier, he had served as visiting professor and director of the Center for Moral Development at Harvard University and, concurrently, as visiting professor and director of the Moral Education Project at the Ontario Institute for Studies on Education at the University of Toronto. His books include Promoting Moral Growth and Models of Moral Development, both widely used in colleges and universities throughout the country; and The Structure of School Improvement, which focuses on what makes some schools more effective than others and how best to improve American education.
“My time as President has been an exciting and challenging one and the decision to leave is not easy,” Hersh wrote last week. “However, I am looking forward to the opportunity to explore new ventures for myself and to put to the test my belief that a liberal arts education prepares one for many careers.”
The Institute that Judith Meyers will head is a new venture involving the Yale University and University of Connecticut Schools of Medicine, along with the business, government, provider, and advocacy communities concerned with the health and development of young children. Its mission is to catalyze a sustained process of change to improve the effectiveness of the service and support systems that directly affect the health and well-being of children, and to bring knowledge of research and best practices into the public policy process in Connecticut. It is initially funded by the Children’s Fund of Connecticut.
Meyers is a clinical psychologist with a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Colorado. She has held faculty appointments in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University, the University of Michigan, and the University of New Hampshire, and was a visiting lecturer at Harvard Medical School. She has held senior administrative positions in state human services divisions in Iowa and Massachusetts and was a senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, responsible for awarding grants in the areas of health and mental health.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges are two private, coordinate institutions of higher learning in the liberal arts located along the western shore of Seneca Lake in Geneva, New York. Hobart College for men was founded in 1822 and enrolls 870 students. William Smith College for women was founded in 1908 and currently enrolls 966 students. The coordinate system allows the two colleges to share faculty and facilities and provide coeducational classes. However, each college awards its own degrees, has its own dean and admissions office, and maintains its own student government and athletic programs.