In keeping with annual traditions, Hobart and William Smith seniors have named two honorary members of the Classes of 2020: HWS President Joyce P. Jacobsen and Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies and chair of the Entrepreneurial Studies program Thomas Drennen.
“President Jacobsen and Professor Drennen being chosen as honorary members is exciting for the Classes of 2020 because they are both phenomenal people who bring a lot to the table,” says Val Cuellar ’20, William Smith senior class president, who notes that “having them as members of our class excites me for the work we can do together.”
McKenzie Frazier ’20, one of several students who nominated Jacobsen, says that “President Jacobsen’s leadership not only in this past year, but as we moved to remote learning has been really inspiring. After working so hard for our class, I think she deserves to be recognized and honored.”
Before Jacobsen began her service as HWS President, Katherine Consoli ’20 had encountered “her contributions to the field of economics, specifically relating to gender, and even cited her in a paper of mine.” Moreover, Consoli says, “I’m grateful to her for being so adamant about holding an in-person ceremony for the Classes of 2020.”
“I nominated Professor Drennen because of his passion for sustainable development and his ability to share that passion with students,” says Connor Solomon ’20, noting that Drennen is not only knowledgeable in his field, but “cares infinitely about his students and is overall an extraordinary professor.”
Zach Sternbach ’20, who completed an independent study with Drennen, notes how Drennen is able “to connect what we’re doing in class with what’s happening in the real world. He’s always encouraged us to take our interest in a topic and pursue it further — and he likes to learn alongside his students, which is fun. That’s what got me most engaged in the material and how it will impact our lives and our future.”
For Kevin Lin ’20, Drennen’s teaching is so effective because he “force[s] you to challenge yourself more than he does. He is someone who utilizes education and academics as a means for us to understand the world outside of Hobart and William Smith, preparing us to reevaluate our situation constantly and critically. His penchant for pushing his students to their potential is all the more relevant in today’s climate and for that, I am honored to welcome him into the Class of 2020 as an Honorary Class Member.”
Each year, seniors induct members of the community into their own ranks at the Hobart Launch and William Smith Toast, the annual HWS senior gatherings where the alumni and alumnae associations welcome the graduating classes. The class correspondents are also named, alum speakers offer reflections and advice, and the soon-to-be graduates are celebrated. The Launch and Toast are the culmination of Senior Week, which this year was hindered by the pandemic, though they will be held on campus when the in-person Commencement exercises are celebrated.
“Getting to know the Classes of 2020 has been one of the joys of my first year as HWS President. I am incredibly proud of how seniors have persevered under exceptionally challenging circumstances, finishing their undergraduate studies at the same high standards they have shown throughout their careers at HWS,” says Jacobsen. “I am grateful that they have thought to include me in their moment. I can’t wait to share my congratulations in person and give graduates the sendoff they deserve.”
Reflecting on the graduating classes, Drennen noted how much “the faculty love to watch their students grow, to see what they accomplish, where they study abroad, to see them take positions of leadership and follow their progress. It’s been really sad not to have the closure we normally have this time of year, all the celebrations the recognition of academic achievements and honors societies and honors. We’re all missing that because of the pandemic. It’s a tough time to graduate from college, but the faculty are there for students, to help and hopefully to celebrate in the near future, face to face, and congratulate them on all they accomplished.”
Class correspondents have been announced — Tanner Arnold ’20 and Gavin Flood ’20 for Hobart and Gianna Gonzales ’20 for William Smith — and a special website to honor the Classes of 2020 was created. In addition, a special edition of This Week in Photos offers seniors, families and the HWS community a chance to connect with campus from afar by downloading the best images of the lakeside campus.
Jacobsen was named president of Hobart and William Smith in July 2019. She is a renowned labor economist, award-winning teacher and experienced administrator with three decades of experience in higher education. She earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University, M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and A.B. from Harvard University. She began her academic career at Rhodes College before joining the Wesleyan University faculty. There, she earned full professor in 2000 and was awarded an endowed chair as Andrews Professor of Economics in 2003. She began her work as an administrator in 2013 when she was appointed Dean of Social Sciences and Director of Global Initiatives at Wesleyan, and then Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs in 2015. When elected president of HWS in 2019, she was serving as Wesleyan’s Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. She is the first woman to lead HWS as president.
Drennen, an expert on the intersection of the economy and the environment, joined the HWS faculty in 1995. Author of the book Pathways to a Hydrogen Future, as well as dozens of articles, he holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University, a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and a bachelor of science degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a senior economist for Sandia National Laboratories, he developed several techno-economic models, including the Alternative Liquid Fuels Simulation (ALTSim) Biofuels Model, which examines the economic and environmental tradeoffs of alternative fuels. At HWS, where he has helped lead campus sustainability efforts and chairs the Entrepreneurial Studies Program, Drennen teaches a number of courses challenging students to consider the relationships between energy, the environment and the economy. In 2006, he received the Hobart and William Smith Excellence in Teaching Award.