The Hour published an article titled, “Former Wesleyan provost is first woman president at Hobart and William Smith Colleges” on Oct. 18. The article shares insight on President Joyce P. Jacobsen’s career as an economist, professor and provost, and excerpts her inaugural address to the Hobart and William Smith community of staff, faculty, students and friends.
Former Wesleyan provost is first woman president at Hobart and William Smith Colleges
By: Tara O’Neill
Joyce P. Jacobsen was unanimously chosen to serve as the 29th president of Hobart College and the 18th president of William Smith College earlier this year. She was inaugurated on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.
Former Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Wesleyan University was inaugurated Friday as the first woman president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York.
Joyce P. Jacobsen was unanimously chosen to serve as the 29th president of Hobart College and the 18th president of William Smith College earlier this year. The announcement was made Feb. 8.
Jacobsen holds degrees from Harvard, The London School of Economics and Stanford University. Her career started in 1988 as an assistant professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., before moving to Wesleyan University in Middletown in 1993.
“People regularly ask me why I, or anyone, would want to be a college president in these difficult times,” Jacobsen said during her inauguration, according to a transcript of her address provided by the colleges. “The general view is that higher education, particularly the liberal arts sector of it, is in crisis.”
Jacobsen said this take isn’t a new one, citing how Hobart’s Class of 1867 only had eight graduates and the struggle of trying to convince people to go to college back in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
“If you think it is hard to convince folks nowadays that a college education is a good bet, try convincing them in a time when most people didn’t finish high school, when the population was mainly rural and engaged in farming or other basic industries, when you have constant bellicosity … and numerous financial crises,” Jacobsen said.
The founding relationship between Hobart and William Smith in 1906 was sparked, she said, because of Hobart College’s need for monetary support by sharing equipment and staff with the women’s college.
And still the 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,” she said.