June 1, 1999
GENEVA, N.Y. — Mark D. Gearan, Director of the Peace Corps, has been named the next president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, an affiliated pair of prestigious liberal arts colleges located in Geneva, N.Y.
Gearan will assume his duties in late summer, becoming the 26th president of Hobart College and the 15th president of William Smith College. He succeeds Richard H. Hersh, president since 1991. At 42, Gearan will be one of the country's youngest presidents of a major undergraduate institution, bringing extensive experience in public service and a strong commitment to undergraduate liberal arts education and international studies.
Gearan has served as Director of the Peace Corps since 1995. Under Gearan's leadership, the Peace Corps has seen a resurgence of interest among Americans interested in serving overseas as volunteers. Gearan opened new Peace Corps volunteer programs in South Africa, Jordan, Mozambique, and Bangladesh. In 1996, he established the Crisis Corps, a new program that enables former Peace Corps volunteers to help overseas communities recover from natural disasters and humanitarian crises. As Peace Corps Director, Gearan has worked to support more than 6,700 volunteers in 76 countries and to create more opportunities for Americans to serve in the Peace Corps. He built bipartisan support in Congress for an initiative, announced in 1998 by President Clinton, to expand the Peace Corps to 10,000 volunteers. Two weeks ago, President Clinton signed into a law an authorization bill that puts the Peace Corps on the path to 10,000 volunteers by the year 2003.
“I am deeply honored by the confidence that the Board of Trustees has placed in me. Hobart and William Smith Colleges have outstanding reputations, and I look forward to building on their great traditions of academic excellence, international studies, and public service,” Gearan said. “My family and I are very grateful for this is an extraordinary opportunity, and we look forward to becoming part of the Hobart and William Smith community.”
“Mark Gearan is the leader these Colleges want to take them into the 21st century,” said Charles Salisbury, chair of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees. “Not only does his strong and varied leadership experience make him an ideal president, but his particular sensitivity to internationalism and service make him the best possible president for these Colleges.
“His background in public service in the international arena is an excellent fit with these Colleges,” continued Salisbury, “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 Institute of International Education, ranks the Colleges among the top 10 undergraduate institutions in study-abroad participation. Many of the study-abroad programs also include internships or volunteer components, consistent with Colleges' integration of service and volunteerism into the curriculum.
The Colleges' Public Service Office ensures that volunteer opportunities also abound for students on campus.
“We have made service to community a priority, not only as a foundation of good citizenship, but as an intellectual component of a higher education,” says HWS Provost Sheila K. Bennett. “We believe that today's undergraduates must appreciate, in a way that is broadly applied, the interconnectedness of people and cultures. We find that an emphasis on volunteerism and community-based learning imparts that.”
A distinguished career in public service precedes Gearan's acceptance of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges presidency. Prior to his confirmation as Peace Corps Director, Gearan served as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications, as well as Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Gearan served as Vice-President Gore's campaign manager and was appointed Deputy Director of President-elect Clinton's transition team. He has served as Executive Director of the Democratic Governor's Association, as a senior member of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign, and as an aide to former Congressmen Robert Drinan of Massachusetts and Berkeley Bedell of Iowa.
Gearan's writings have been published extensively, including pieces in the Boston Globe, the Miami Herald, and the San Francisco Examiner. 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 eleven honorary degrees. Gearan is married to Mary Herlihy Gearan, and they have two daughters, Madeleine and Kathleen.
Richard H. Hersh, whom Gearan replaces, is leaving the Colleges to accompany his wife, Judith Meyers, who, in March, became executive director of the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut. 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. That campaign, which ended in December 1998, raised $102 million over five years (surpassing its original goal by a third). Earlier in his tenure, Hersh inaugurated a strong program of reform among Hobart College's fraternities; created an innovative summer college for alumni, alumnae, and parents; and helped fund and support a substantive reform of the College's four-year curriculum, completed in 1997. As the principal investigator of a national public opinion study (with Daniel Yankelovich) surveying Americans' perceptions of contemporary liberal arts education, he has helped shape national policy on re-emphasizing the value of the liberal arts.
“In addition to any single accomplishment, Dick Hersh brought to these Colleges a spirit and vision that carried us through some potentially rough times,” said Board chair Salisbury, “and then energized an array of new initiatives that position Hobart and William Smith for a truly exciting 21st century. History will show that Dick's eight years as president were pivotal in the Colleges ascent to the highest ranks of liberal arts schools. As he departs, we owe him an immeasurable debt of gratitude.”
Thomas B. Poole, a Hobart and William Smith Colleges trustee and president and CEO of Hallen Construction Company in Island Park, N.Y. and a 1961 graduate of Hobart College, chaired the presidential search committee.
“The process through which we were able to offer the presidency to this exemplary individual was inclusive of all the constituencies of this institution,” he said. “We are proud of the hard work put forth by the search committee, and genuinely appreciate the valuable input we received from members of the campus community.”
Other search committee members included trustees Maureen Zupan '72, J. Paul Hellstrom, Jr. '64, L. Thomas Melly '52, and Barbara E. Tornow '65, Ann B. Oaks, professor of mathematics, Owen P. Priest, assistant professor of chemistry, and Donald Woodrow, professor of geoscience, Debra K. DeMeis, dean of William Smith College, Roy Dexheimer '55, vice- president for institutional advancement, and current HWS students Jennifer Leshnower '00 and Alexis Santi '99.
Hobart College for men and William Smith College for women share a distinctive and historic coordinate relationship. The two privat