Mark Gearan, former Peace Corps Director, heads to Harvard

Gearan Announces Conclusion of Presidency

Mark D. Gearan, the longest serving president in the history of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, has announced to the Board of Trustees that he will conclude his duties as president at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. At the time of his appointment in 1999, Gearan was one of the youngest college presidents in the nation and a ‘non-traditional’ choice given his background as Director of the Peace Corps and White House senior staff member. When he concludes his presidency in 2017, he will have served for 18 years, leading the Colleges through a period of unprecedented growth.

Under Gearan’s leadership, Hobart and William Smith have expanded its academic reach and advanced its reputation as a prominent liberal arts institution. By strengthening the Colleges’ financial resources and increasing its fundraising range, Hobart and William Smith have transformed the physical campus, adding and expanding facilities while also increasing access and opportunity for students with an expansion of financial aid. Gearan has made significant commitments to diversity and inclusion, propelled the Colleges’ environmental sustainability efforts, and grown programming in civic engagement, career services, leadership, study abroad and student services.

“By every measure, Hobart and William Smith is a better place today because of Mark’s vision and principled leadership,” said Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68, Chair of the HWS Board of Trustees. “I have had the pleasure of working closely with him for the past 17 years and have seen first-hand the unwavering commitment and affection he has for the Colleges, for our students, alums and parents, and for our talented faculty and staff. Mark is an extraordinary leader whose legacy will be measured in the continued advancement of the Colleges. He has sparked a momentum that will echo for generations. He will be deeply missed.”

Following his final year at HWS, President Gearan has accepted an appointment at Harvard University as the ‘President in Residence’ working on important issues facing higher education and the next generation of leaders during the fall semester of 2017at the Graduate School of Education. His new position at Harvard reflects Gearan’s stature in higher education where he has held leadership roles in numerous organizations including chair of National Campus Compact, chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service, chair of the Annapolis Group of selective liberal arts colleges, and chair of the Talloires Network Steering Committee, an international organization of college and university presidents from six continents committed to civic engagement.

Gearan has also served on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, New York Council of Independent Colleges and Universities, New York State Campus Compact and The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. He is a member of the Leadership Council for The Franklin Project, a policy program at the Aspen Institute, and is the co-chair of the National Advisory Board on Public Service at Harvard College.

“It has been an enormous privilege to serve as President of Hobart and William Smith,” Gearan said. “I have been fortunate to work with an extraordinary faculty, dedicated staff and an engaged Board of Trustees committed to our mission to prepare our students to lead lives of consequence. I feel blessed to have lived on a campus with a vibrant student body from around the nation and the globe who bring vitality to this remarkable educational environment in the classroom and outside the classroom, in Geneva and beyond. The decision to leave a place I love, colleagues I value so highly and students that so motivate and inspire me has not been an easy one. But I believe that given the successful efforts of the past years and the momentum we currently enjoy, this is the appropriate moment for a leadership transition for me personally and for the Colleges.”

Bozzuto has announced that he will empanel a committee of trustees, faculty, staff and students to guide the search for the next president, and will retain a professional firm to ensure a broad and studied search process. Details on the committee and firm are forthcoming.

“Finding someone to follow in Mark’s footsteps will not be easy,” said Bozzuto. “However, in light of the extraordinary achievements of the past two decades and the heightened recognition of the Colleges as a well-respected national liberal arts institution, I am confident that we will have a deep and talented pool of applicants. I am grateful to Mark for providing the Board of Trustees with ample time to ensure a thoughtful and well-planned national search and an orderly transition to the next president.”

Reflections on Gearan’s Leadership

“For every metric Mark Gearan has advanced at Hobart and William Smith Colleges – selectivity, philanthropy, enrollment, diversity and awareness – he has done just as much for the field of higher education. A nontraditional president with a background in politics and service, Mark has become a leader among his peers, serving as chair of nearly every organization and governing body related to higher education. In these roles, he has shared his philosophy of leadership, one built on inclusion and dignity, and one that has artfully balanced the expectations of multiple constituencies. He will be deeply missed as a president. In my estimation, he is among the best college and university presidents in the nation.”

–          David Warren, President of National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

“The presidents who have served as ‘president-in-residence’ have been exemplars of extraordinarily successful leadership, and Mark Gearan certainly falls within this category. We look forward to his arrival at Harvard University and to the ways in which his experience can help our students understand the challenges and opportunities of leadership in higher education.”

–          Judith Block McLaughlin, Educational Chair of the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents and the Harvard Seminar for Experienced Presidents; Harvard Graduate School of Education

“At Hobart and William Smith, there is a deep appreciation for the life of the mind, dedication to educating students with global leadership, a collective commitment to service and to Geneva, and an integrity that is shared across the Colleges. At the heart of this community has been outstanding and remarkably committed presidential leadership.  Mark Gearan has fostered a culture of aspiration, respect, inclusiveness, academic freedom and civility that serves as a model to all presidents of colleges and universities.”

–          Daniel R. Porterfield, President of Franklin & Marshall College and Chair of the 2014 Middle States Commission review of Hobart and William Smith Colleges


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