Former Director of the Peace Corps Mark D. Gearan returns as President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Following Resignation of Joyce Jacobsen, Gearan Returns as President


Five years after leaving HWS for Harvard, President Emeritus Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17, P’21 returns to HWS


President Mark Gearan

The Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees has announced the selection of President Emeritus Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17, P’21 as the 30th president of Hobart and the 19th of William Smith.

Gearan takes on the role following the resignation of President Joyce P. Jacobsen who presided over HWS from 2019-2022, engineering a period of exceptional innovation at the Colleges. Jacobsen will join the faculty at HWS as professor of economics.Gearan previously was president of Hobart and William Smith from 1999-2017 and during that time the Colleges’ endowment doubled as he oversaw a capital campaign that raised $205 million to support facilities and annual giving, established 168 new scholarships, and completed 80 significant capital projects. During his first presidency, Gearan made substantial commitments to diversity and inclusion, propelled the Colleges’ environmental efforts, and grew programming in career services, civic engagement, leadership, student services and study abroad.

After leaving Hobart and William Smith in 2017, Gearan served as President in Residence at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and in 2018 was appointed Director of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School.“There is no one more qualified to lead Hobart and William Smith into our next 200 years than Mark,” wrote Chair of the Board Craig R. Stine ’81, P’17 and Vice Chair Cassandra Naylor Brooks ’89 in a letter to the HWS community. “He has the experience, aptitude, passion and creativity to make a tremendous difference, and is committed to our future.”A former Director of the Peace Corps [from September 26, 1995 to August 11, 1999].

Gearan is known nationally for his work on higher education and national service, and recently served as Vice Chair of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service created by the U.S. Congress. A cum laude graduate of Harvard College and Georgetown University Law Center, he holds 13 honorary degrees.

Gearan will return to Geneva with his wife, Mary Herlihy Gearan L.H.D. ’17, P’21, who was active in the Geneva community during their previous service and has continued to serve on the Board of Happiness House, Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association. At Harvard, she received the John R. Marquand Award recognizing excellence and dedication in the mentoring and guidance of Harvard undergraduates. At Harvard, the Gearans served as Interim Faculty Deans at Winthrop House, one of 12 undergraduate houses on campus. They have two daughters, Madeleine and Kathleen ’21.“Mark Gearan is an exceptional leader with a deep commitment to the faculty, students and staff who make possible the transformational mission of colleges and universities,” says Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow. “That commitment is grounded in a steadfast belief in the power of public service. At the Institute of Politics, as he has throughout his career, Mark helped students find a deeper connection to participative democracy, to service and to public purpose. We are grateful to Mark for his service to Harvard and wish him well as he takes up the presidency of Hobart and William Smith at such an important time.”


“Under Mark Gearan’s leadership during the past four years, the Institute of Politics has been both an integral part of Harvard Kennedy School and one of the largest student organizations for undergraduates in Harvard College,” Douglas W. Elmendorf, Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, said in a statement to the School’s faculty and staff. “The IOP has hosted interesting and varied speakers in the Forum and elsewhere, placed more than a hundred students per year in summer internships, played a key role in the Harvard Votes Challenge to strengthen democracy, convened new mayors and new Members of Congress, supported a large collection of student programs, and so much more…. I am very grateful to Mark for all he has done for the Harvard community and for the broader world…. I offer him my best wishes.”


“Mark Gearan is one of the finest higher education leaders in the nation,” says Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College. “Extraordinarily wise and unfailingly kind, Mark leads with his head and heart.  Among his numerous talents is his ability to bring people of different perspectives and voices together to solve challenging problems.  At Harvard, Mark and Mary were extraordinary faculty deans and community citizens.  It’s a testament to Mark and Mary and the wisdom of Hobart and William Smith Colleges that the Gearans are welcomed home again.”


“I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for entrusting me with this responsibility, to our alumni, alumnae, parents and the Geneva community who are committed to the Colleges’ future, and to the faculty, staff, coaches and students who are the heart of the institution and who work so hard to create an outstanding teaching and learning environment,” says Gearan. “Most especially, I am sincerely appreciative of President Joyce Jacobsen who has led the Colleges through a very challenging time in American higher education, and who has done so with vision, intelligence and empathy.”“I had a highly effective and productive partnership with Joyce and look forward to celebrating her many accomplishments,” says Stine. “We have been very fortunate to benefit from her leadership that resulted in record-breaking fundraising years, an impressive array of new masters and undergraduate programs, and new athletics opportunities.


Joyce dedicated herself wholly to her work while also maintaining an aggressive schedule of research and writing, including teaching a class on campus in the spring. The Board is pleased that she will remain in our community as a valued faculty member.”Jacobsen is the first woman to serve as president of Hobart and William Smith. Previously the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Wesleyan University, she is a renowned scholar of economics, an award-winning teacher and a skilled administrator with more than three decades of experience. She is the recipient of the prestigious 2021 Carolyn Shaw Bell Award, given to an individual who has furthered the status of women in the economics profession. She earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University and M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with her A.B. in economics as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. An expert on labor economics, particularly the economics of gender, Jacobsen is the author of scores of journal articles and book chapters, as well as several books.


Leave a comment
  • Mark Gearan’s outreach to volunteers was a highlight of his tenure as Director during the complex period, the mid-1990, particularly in Central/Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russia. He traveled extensively to posts and often timed the visits to participate in inaugurations or close-of-service conferences, as he did for us in Russia. At headquarters, he had an open door policy for volunteers, and he used that opportunity to learn about the volunteer’s country, projects, living conditions, etc. often in front of the large map on his wall. In 1997 or 1998, he flew early on a Saturday morning from D.C. to L.A., met the Regional Manager, several staff, and myself at the airport, and we drove north to attend a fallen volunteer’s funeral, where he presented a flag to the parents. You could say that Mark Gearan truly did his Peace Corps service as Director. Best wishes, Mark!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2022. Peace Corps Worldwide.