With the ceremonial conferring of the Colleges’ charter and seals on the steps of Coxe Hall, Joyce P. Jacobsen was officially installed as the 29th president of Hobart College and the 18th of William Smith College.
Rather than pursuing music or folklore, as her mother had hoped she might, Jacobsen, the first woman to lead the Colleges, studied economics and became a professor, administrator and now college president. As she said in her inaugural address, “my mother isn’t the only person to have greeted the news of my current career choice with some reservations. Indeed, people regularly ask me why I, or anyone, would want to be a college president in these difficult times. The general view is that higher education, particularly the liberal arts sector of it, is in crisis.”
However, looking back at the nearly 200-year history of the institution, Jacobsen said this is nothing new. “Numerous colleges started before the civil war perished before the Civil War, and others were unable to survive the war era,” she said. Even after the war ended, “things didn’t get much better for Hobart” financially. “The Class of 1867 had only eight graduates and it took a long time to get the College onto stronger footing. The reason for the founding relationship between Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1906 is because Hobart College needed the monetary support of having the women’s college share equipment and staff with it.”
And yet, the pair of “spunky, scrappy colleges…have survived numerous existential threats over their years and nonetheless just keep on keeping on, hustling and marketing and serving the community in which they are embedded. Aspirational colleges that contribute to keeping the light of learning alive, that keep on trying to get better, but that don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, or the good enough become the enemy of the great,” she said. “Because for all the doubts about the college system, about what the value is of college, about whether it is worth its cost; for all the compromises we make in order to keep a college going, and all the ways in which we fall short of providing the ideal experience, a college still provides the single best bet for having a positive transformational experience that lays the groundwork for a successful adulthood.”
In celebrating Jacobsen’s investiture, guests and delegates from other colleges and universities across North America joined HWS faculty, staff and students, as well as alumni, alumnae and parents, HWS President Emeritus Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17, P’21, former Interim President and Professor Emeritus of Economics Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D. ’12, and many of the Colleges’ community partners. The ceremony also included a rendition of the alma maters by the Colleges’ Cantori led by Professor of Music Robert Cowles, performances by the HWS Jazz All-Stars Combo directed by Associate Professor of Music Mark Olivieri and a troupe of drummers and dancers from Assistant Professor of Dance Kelly Johnson’s “Global Dance II, West African” course.
In his welcome address during the ceremony, Chair of the Board of Trustees Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68, L.H.D. ’18 noted Jacobsen has expressed “a vision for the liberal arts in this new millennia and a confidence in the Colleges’ trajectory,” and “has stood out as a person who understands the kind of community we have at Hobart and William Smith — fiercely independent, forward-leaning, and constructed of people who may have disparate perspectives but who all share a single aspiration: to thrive and to grow.”
Bozzuto, along with Vice Chairs of the Board of Trustees Cynthia Gelsthorpe Fish ’82 and Craig R. Stine ’81, P’17 and HWS Provost DeWayne Lucas, officially installed Jacobsen as President after the Faculty Greeting from Associate Professor of History and Faculty Marshall Matt Crow.
Reflecting on Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and the duty of each member of the community, Crow said “the responsibility for securing, discussing, and constructing [a commonwealth] rests with everyone, and part of the very serious burden, and joy, I hope, that President Jacobsen has taken on, it seems to me, is to help us know and live that responsibility. This, and nothing less, is what we celebrate today.”
President of the Hobart Alumni Association Richard S. Solomon ’75, P’10 and President of the William Smith Alumnae Association Julie Bazan ’93 offered their welcome to Jacobsen on behalf of the more than 20,000 HWS graduates. Offering readings from William Ernst Henley and J.K. Rowling, HWS Student Trustees Edens Fleurizard ’20 and Gianna Gonzalez ’20 welcomed Jacobsen and conveyed the support of the HWS student body.
Rev. Nita Byrd, HWS Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual Engagement, and Julianne Miller, Hillel Advisor and Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life, delivered the Invocation. The Benediction was given by the Rev. Canon James Callaway.
Complete transcripts of addresses and remarks given during the Presidential Inauguration will be available on the HWS website.