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June 23, 2021

Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

I am writing this letter in Coxe Hall, overlooking the sunny and very green Quad where we recently hosted two in-person Commencements – one for the Classes of 2021 and the other for the Classes of 2020. At the Commencement for the Classes of 2021, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden L.H.D. ’21, who also received the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, cited the challenges of the pandemic that have served as a “catalyst for thinking about the nature of work, what is important in life and how to help everyone move into the digital future with equity and dignity.” At the Commencement for the Classes of 2020, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry ’75, D.D. ’20, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, reminded graduates of their responsibilities as they emerge “formed and forged in a crucible of hardship” telling them that the mission statement of the Colleges – to prepare students to lead lives of consequence – means: “…lives that matter, lives that make a difference, lives that leave this earth a little bit better because you passed along this way.” Both their speeches and the ceremonies were especially moving because we were gathered together for them, a reaffirmation of our community during these trying times.

Despite the hardships of the last year, the Colleges move forward with optimism and promise. We again had a record year of philanthropy, with extraordinary support from our alums, parents and friends. Thanks to the prudent stewardship of a committed group of trustees and alums, the HWS endowment has rebounded from the initial pandemic downturn, moving from $200 million in March of 2020 to $296 million today, giving us a greater ability to weather any future vicissitudes we may encounter.

Continuing the good news, Tamara Payne ’88 and her father Les Payne have won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X. Their book previously won the 2020 National Book Award for Non-Fiction and the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. This is an extraordinary accomplishment for one of our own, and we are so proud of the important contributions that Tamara has made toward our understanding the role Malcolm X had in shaping our nation.

Turning to campus news, seven faculty members earned promotion this spring to the rank of full professor: Congratulations to Eric Barnes, Jamie Bodenlos, Christine Chin, May Farnsworth, Julie Kingery, Justin Miller and Caroline Travalia. Best wishes are also due to those retiring members of the faculty who move to emeritus status, Chip Capraro and Catherine Gallouët, who served the Colleges with distinction, including by creating new programs and serving in the Deans’ Offices (Chip as Associate Dean of Hobart and Catherine as Dean of William Smith).

As the summer begins, we are busy preparing for the fall semester and in particular for the arrival of the Classes of 2025. With more than 70% of New York residents now vaccinated, last week the State of New York lifted nearly all COVID-19 restrictions including those related to mask-wearing, social distancing, dining and athletics. Campus will open in the fall with in-person classes and co-curricular activities, a full athletics schedule, and a reopened faculty dining room and campus pub. In order to keep our campus safe and healthy for all, we are encouraging all HWS community members to get vaccinated before they return to campus and, while we hope not necessary because almost all will be vaccinated, we also plan to offer an on-campus vaccine clinic to all members of our community on Saturday, August 21. More than 96% of our faculty and staff are today fully vaccinated, and we aim to have the same or higher percentage of students vaccinated before the fall semester begins.

This summer, planning is well underway for the 2022 Bicentennial of Hobart College, including a yearlong series of events that will culminate in a gala celebration in October 2022. We are one of fewer than 75 colleges and universities in the United States to achieve the 200-year milestone, and I’m looking forward to both celebrating our impressive past and continuing to plan for our remarkable future.

As many across the country plan getaways with friends and family, I encourage you to come to Hobart and William Smith to spend some time with us. Consider returning for Homecoming and Family Weekend (Sept. 24-26), attending an athletics contest, or taking the opportunity simply to walk through the campus and enjoy all that the burgeoning Finger Lakes region has to offer. If you’re coming, please do let us know and stop by to say hello — your friends here on campus, including me, are always happy to greet visitors.

With gratitude for your continued commitment to the Colleges and best wishes for a restful summer,

Joyce P. Jacobsen
President