When students arrive at Hobart and William Smith, they become residents of one of the most beautiful small cities in the country. In the past two decades, Geneva has undergone significant changes, positioning itself as a vibrant tourist destination with a revitalized downtown area. This progress is the result of collaboration among government officials, the Colleges, the city school district, businesses and the faith community, among other partners. The result has been very positive for the City itself, for its residents, and for Hobart and William Smith.
Geneva offers our students a unique opportunity to become contributing members to a community that, as Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Jack Harris often says, is on an “actionable scale.” Every single one of our students participates in community service in Geneva with 80,000 hours contributed last year alone. Working on communityidentified projects and under the mentorship of Geneva residents, our students have built playgrounds and helped to construct homes through Habitat for Humanity. They tutor children, intern at the hospital and research invasive species in Seneca Lake. They collaborate with local agriculture to run farmers’ markets, organize film festivals and help revitalize neighborhoods. When our students graduate, they can say with truth and humility that they made a difference in Geneva. It is my hope that they will take the lessons they have learned and apply them to the communities they will one day call home.
As we go to press with this issue of the magazine, we do so within a heightened national focus on sexual misconduct on college campuses. The Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating how institutions across the country are handling the enforcement of Title IX laws, including Hobart and William Smith. As I wrote to all alums and parents in May, the Colleges have in place a comprehensive sexual misconduct policy, a robust educational program, and a full-time Title IX coordinator responsible for managing our response and investigation of allegations. Despite these and other efforts, sexual misconduct does happen. When it does, the Colleges respond with compassion and care, ensuring that our students have the services and support they need. And while I am confident in our processes, there is always more we can learn and do – new practices, paradigms and organizational structures that can better serve our students. As our efforts continue, we have created a web page (www.hws.edu/studentlife/ocr) that includes messages to the HWS community, resources on sexual misconduct and Title IX, and frequently asked questions. The web page will be updated as new information becomes available.
The Colleges have had a momentous spring semester highlighted by two significant events detailed on the pages of this magazine: the groundbreaking of the new Performing Arts Center and Commencement. Currently under construction and scheduled for completion in January 2016, the new Performing Arts Center will provide critical academic and performance space for theatre, music and dance as well as a screening room for the department of media and society. It is fitting then, that this year’s graduation paid tribute to three alums and two Geneva community members who have dedicated their lives to the arts. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, it was my privilege to confer honorary degrees on Bradley Falchuk ’93, the co-creator, writer and executive producer of the Fox series “Glee” and FX network’s “American Horror Story;” Reynold Levy ’66, the recently retired president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Dorothy H. Wickenden ’76, the executive editor of The New Yorker; Nozomi Williams, local philanthropist and arts patron; and Carl W. Fribolin, Geneva agricultural entrepreneur whose efforts led to the preservation of the Smith Opera House in downtown Geneva.
In a poignant and thoughtful Commencement address about the nature of failure and the birth of heroes, Falchuk reflected on returning to campus 21 years after his graduation: “It’s a great gift you have all given me – the gift of perspective and memory and acknowledgment….” As we plan for the completion of the Performing Arts Center, I invite all alums to return to campus to receive that same gift of perspective, memory and acknowledgment.
Mark D. Gearan
Tracking The Renaissance