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Mark Gearan returning as HWS President, Jacobsen will return to teaching

Five years after leaving Geneva for a job at Harvard University, Mark Gearan has agreed to return as the 30th President of Hobart College and the 19th of William Smith College.

Jacobsen will return to being scholar, teacher, is also writing a book

Gearan was appointed by the Board of Trustees after President Joyce Jacobsen announced her resignation. Jacobsen has served as President since 2019. She announced in a letter to the campus community that she will be stepping down to return to being a scholar and teacher.

Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

I write this afternoon to let you know that after a great deal of thought, I have made the decision to step down as president and return to work as a scholar and teacher. I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for supporting me in this decision. After a one-semester sabbatical, I will join the HWS faculty full time as a Professor of Economics. My decision was truly challenging as I enjoyed the work of the presidency and value the people I have come to know who have partnered with me on initiatives. For some time, I have felt a pull back into the traditional role of an academic. During this past spring semester, I was fortunate enough to co-teach a class at Hobart and William Smith and enjoyed working in that role with our students. That return to teaching, combined with the book I am working on with Vice President and General Counsel Lou Guard ’07 on the ‘lawyerization’ of higher education, led me to this decision. I look forward to getting back into the classroom full-time and to continuing my research and writing. I have tremendous respect for the faculty at HWS and it will be an honor to join them. Over the next few months, I will do everything possible to support the new president.

The past three years have been an incredibly productive time for HWS. Through the crucible of the pandemic, this community rallied and met all challenges with tenacity and fortitude. As I consider all we accomplished together, a few projects stand out as being ones about which we should all be proud. They include:

  • Curricular Additions: Significant innovations include two new master’s degrees and multiple new minors.
  • Athletics Growth: The addition of six new sports to begin this year, and the head coach hired for the next new sport (men’s volleyball).
  • Philanthropy: The three largest fundraising years in HWS history, resulting in many new initiatives including scholarships, lectures and symposia like the Stern Family Forum, endowed professorships, and the renovations of the Miltenberger and Bennett-Hooper Rowing Center and the Intercultural Affairs Center.
  • Community: The creation of the cabinet level position of a Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and with our trustees, the establishment of a permanent committee of the Board dedicated to Belonging, Diversity and Equity.

I cannot reiterate enough the sense of pride I have in what we have been able to accomplish together, and I leave the presidency with gratitude to the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, alums and parents, knowing that we have strengthened Hobart and William Smith in important ways. I thank you most especially for your kindness and partnership.

It has been a great honor to be the first woman president of Hobart and William Smith and to do so in the Bicentennial year of Hobart College. Bill and I wish Hobart and William Smith much success and will continue cheering on the Herons and Statesmen with enthusiasm!


Joyce P. Jacobsen


Related: New HWS president makes some history

Gearan doubled colleges’ endowment, left for Harvard in 2017

Gearan previously served as HWS President from 1999-2017, overseeing a doubling of the colleges’ endowment through a capital campaign that raised over $200 million. 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.”

Gearan is a former head of the Peace Corps and served as Deputy Chief of Staff and White House Communications Director in the Clinton administration.

“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.”    

Related: Former HWS president will lead Institute of Politics at Harvard