The Search Process

Having guided Hobart and William Smith Colleges through a period of unprecedented growth since his inauguration as HWS president in 1999, President Mark D. Gearan will be stepping down at the end of the 2017 academic year. The Board of Trustees, on behalf of the entire community, now has the responsibility of identifying, recruiting and hiring a new president.

The Board recognizes the importance of this effort and has appointed a search committee representative of the broader community of the Colleges to lead the recruitment process and to recommend to the Board, for its consideration and selection, the candidate or candidates who are best qualified to assume the position of president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Following a rigorous review of proposals, the Presidential Search Committee has engaged the services of Lucy Leske, Robin Mamlet and Jennifer Desjarlais of Witt/Kieffer to facilitate the search process. The Witt/Kieffer team and the search committee have conducted extensive outreach on campus to gather information about the position and the opportunities and challenges that the new leader and the Colleges will face in the coming years. In October, they met with members of the Board, the leadership team, faculty, students, staff and other key stakeholders to assess the varying perspectives of ideal leadership qualities that the candidates should possess.

Members of the Hobart and William Smith community are invited to share their thoughts and comments during the presidential search process. You can offer your perspective by taking a short survey.

Any questions about the search or search process can be e-mailed to

About Witt/Kieffer

Lucy Apthorp Leske, senior partner, Education, joined Witt/Kieffer in 1998 and has been an executive recruiter since 1992. She has led a broad range of searches, including presidential, vice presidential, decanal and provost searches, during her tenure with the company. Her areas of expertise include presidential and CEO positions; academic leadership in arts and sciences, law, engineering, education, and business; finance and administration; inclusion and diversity; international leadership; and advancement. Lucy serves on the board of Witt/Kieffer CCentric Limited, a joint venture which searches globally for academic, executive and clinical leadership talent. Lucy is the co-chair of the Witt/Kieffer Diversity Council and works with clients to enhance diversity and inclusive excellence in leadership recruitment. She received her B.A. in biological sciences from Mount Holyoke College and a Certificate of Completion in ecology from the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Robin Mamlet, managing partner, Education, leads the strategic direction and operations of the practice. She ensures the highest level of quality and superior service to the firm's education clients, while directing search assignments for presidents, provosts, deans, chief advancement officers, and chief public affairs and communications, diversity, student affairs and enrollment officers. Robin is the former leader of Witt/Kieffer's enrollment management and admission search practice. A national leader on access and diversity recruitment, Robin came to Witt/Kieffer after 23 years in academic administration, most recently as dean of admission and financial aid at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. She earned her A.B. in English from Occidental College.

Jennifer Desjarlais is an executive search consultant in Witt/Kieffer's Education practice. Based in Massachusetts, Jennifer supports leadership searches across all academic areas, with special expertise in enrollment and admissions for colleges and universities nationwide. Jennifer most recently spent many years as Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Wellesley College. She received her M.Ed. from the University of Vermont and her B.A. in international relations and Spanish from Simmons College.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is responsible for appointing the next president?

In accordance with the bylaws of Hobart and William Smith, the Board of Trustees is responsible for electing the president. The Board, faculty leadership and senior administrators have collaborated to appoint a committee responsible for managing the presidential search.


What is the role of the Search Committee?

The Presidential Search Committee manages the search process for the next president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Led by co-chairs, the committee is comprised of HWS trustees, faculty, staff and students. During the spring of 2017, the committee will recommend a finalist to the Board of Trustees. Executive search firm Witt/Kieffer is assisting the presidential search and providing personalized consultation to identify the most qualified candidates.


How can I participate in the search process?

Members of the HWS community will have the opportunity to share their perspectives during a series of on-campus forums beginning Oct. 19, 2016. For those unable to attend, questions may be submitted in writing to Witt/Kieffer. In addition, an electronic survey asking for community input will also be posted on this site.


How do I make a nomination for the next president?

Nominations may be submitted in writing to Lucy Apthorp Leske, senior partner of Witt/Kieffer. Presidential nominations will remain confidential.


Will the names of candidates be shared with the community?

Confidentiality is critical for a successful search process and for attracting the best candidates. The names of candidates will not be publicly shared. Once determined, a finalist will be named by the Board of Trustees.


How can I participate in celebrations for President Mark D. Gearan?

As events are finalized, details will be shared on the Office of the President page.



August 2016

Fall 2016

  • HWS Presidential Search Committee announced
  • Presidential Search Committee meets for the first time to discuss search strategy
  • Witt/Kieffer meets on campus to host focus groups. Web survey launched.
  • Search Committee meets second time to finalize leadership profile and recruiting plan. Advertising begins.
  • Witt/Kieffer begins active recruiting efforts; scheduled through January

Winter 2016/2017

  • Search Committee meets third time; discusses candidate pool and review process
  • Active recruiting efforts conclude in January
  • Witt/Kieffer and Presidential Search Committee meet to review candidates and identify approximately 10 semifinalists for preliminary interviews
  • Preliminary interviews are conducted, with three to five finalists selected
  • Interviews with finalists begin

Spring 2017

  • Finalist interviews conclude
  • Final meeting of the Presidential Search Committee held; recommendation made to HWS Board of Trustees
  • Finalist selected. Announcement made in April.

May 2017

  • Mark D. Gearan leads his final HWS Commencement
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