School year begins with energy, expectation – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

School year begins with energy, expectation

“Your education here, like every other aspect of your new lives, will be challenging and provocative,” said Dorothy Wickenden ’76, executive editor of The New Yorker, speaking at Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Convocation ceremonies. “You think you’ve left home, but you’ve just joined a new one.”

Wickenden related many experiences and anecdotes from her time as a student during her remarks. She described how the faculty at the Colleges energized her academic life. “I listened to them; it was as if I had been half-asleep for 18 years and now was wide-awake.”

Prior to joining The New Yorker in 1995, Wickenden was the executive editor of The New Republic and the national affairs editor for Newsweek magazine. She has been a contributing writer for The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Wilson Quarterly. In addition, she is the editor of “The New Republic Reader: Eighty Years of Opinion and Debate.”

(For more images from the Convocation ceremonies, please click here.)

“Each fall,” said President Mark D. Gearan, “generations of young men and women have traveled from across the globe to the Colleges, beginning a liberal arts education and embarking on lives of meaning and consequence.” Gearan addressed the Classes of 2010 by invoking Elizabeth Blackwell’s own words at her arrival in Geneva, “where I have found at last the right place for my beginning.”

Joining him in welcoming the incoming classes was David Deming, the new Chair of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees. “We have an extraordinarily engaged and committed Board,” said Deming, “who stand firmly behind all of you in our effort to provide the tools and environment necessary to enhance a 21st Century educational community.” Deming, a lifelong veteran of the financial industry, is managing director of Integrated Finance Limited in Manhattan, an investment firm that runs two hedge funds and pension management services with offices in New York, London and Tokyo.

Provost and Dean of Faculty Teresa Amott spoke about the Colleges’ contributions to communities harmed by Hurricane Katrina. “We sent groups of students and staff to help the recovery efforts, we raised money, we read and analyzed the disaster, in all its many facets,” she said. “This coming year, groups led by our Office of Public Service will return to New Orleans to lend hands and hearts to the Sisyphean tasks.”

The student speakers focused on the rewarding experiences of higher education. “One of the greatest lessons I have learned throughout my time at the Colleges,” said Student Trustee Adam Chaput ’07, “is how you must never underestimate the power of both listening and asking questions. The most effective leaders always ask the tough questions, but always recognize when listening is more important than speaking.” Senior Student Trustee Maggi Sliwinski offered other advice: “Take as many opportunities as you can to get to know your professors … join clubs, go out and meet people, do things outside your comfort zone … fall in love with this place.”

At the event, both Wickenden and businessman David M. Rickey received the President’s Medal, in recognition of their outstanding service to the community, the country and their profession.

Rickey is known as a philanthropist in the Geneva community and at the Colleges, where he and his wife created the George F. Rickey ’45 Endowed Scholarship Fund in Chemistry, named in honor of David’s father. In the Geneva area, the family has supported DeSales High School, several Catholic elementary schools, the Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center, the Boys and Girls Clubs and other organizations.

“Mr. Rickey stands as an example of someone who has reached across the arc of his lifetime to give back to his community,” said Gearan. “He has never forgotten his Geneva roots.”

Rickey began his career at IBM in 1981, then moved to Northern Telecom Inc. before joining Applied Micro Circuits Corp, in 1993 as vice president of operations. After a brief period serving as vice president of operations at NexGen Inc., Rickey returned to AMCC in 1996 as president and CEO. There, he engineered a corporate turnaround that resulted in remarkable growth of the California-based company as a worldwide provider of Internet hardware and other information equipment. He retired from his posts at AMCC in March 2005.

The Colleges welcomed their largest and most academically prepared entering classes in 21 years. Of the 601 entering students, 41 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class, compared to 20 percent just seven years ago and 32 percent last year. The classes, representing 32 U.S. states and 10 countries, include 200 students who were captains of their respective athletic teams; 30 editors of major school publications (newspapers, yearbooks or literary magazines); and 188 who were in National Honor Society.

Mirroring the growth of the student body and supporting this upward trend in academic achievement, the Colleges have hired nearly 30 new faculty members for the school year. This raises the number of faculty to 209 and allows the Colleges to maintain their low student-faculty ratio of 11:1 while expanding class offerings.

There is a new face in the dean’s office as well. Earlier this summer, Professor of Philosophy Eugen Baer was appointed Interim Dean of Hobart College, succeeding Clarence E. Butler. Baer, who knows 13 languages, has been president of the Semiotic Society of America twice and a member of the Fulbright Grant Screening Committee, as well as chair of his department at the Colleges. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Yale University.