Advancements at Hobart and William Smith Colleges


Strategic Planning
At the close of his first year at Hobart and William Smith, Gearan began the development of a five-year strategic planning initiative called HWS 2005. Since then, he has led the next two phases, HWS 2010 and HWS 2015, as well as Campaign for the Colleges, which raised more than $205 million to support facilities, endowment and annual giving. These strategic plans and the campaign have provided a clear road map to achieving academic excellence, intensifying student engagement, improving and enlarging facilities, advancing financial stability and expanding access. In his final year as president, he will conclude a new strategic plan with an emphasis on the financial model and diversity and inclusion.

Academic Reputation and Accomplishments
One of the traditional hallmarks of a Hobart and William Smith education has always been the lifelong and rewarding partnerships that students and faculty form around topics of mutual interest. When a student can make a powerful connection with a faculty member, they are more likely to thrive academically and socially. Under Gearan’s leadership, the Colleges have invested in faculty, creating an environment in which more of these partnerships can flourish. The result is a corresponding increase in national recognition and academic awards.

  • During Gearan’s tenure and under the mentorship of faculty, HWS students have earned numerous prestigious scholarships and fellowships, including:
    • 31 U.S. Fulbright Student Awards; in 2016, the Colleges were named among the top colleges and universities with the most recipients of 2015-16 U.S. Fulbright Student Awards, placing 13th in the nation. In two back-to-back record years, 14 members of the Classes of 2015 and 2016 have earned a Fulbright.
    • 1 Rhodes Scholarship
    • 9 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships
    • 3 Princeton-in-Asia Fellowships
    • 1 Marshall Scholarship
    • 1 Gates-Cambridge Scholarship
    • 3 Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholarship
    • 6 NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarships
    • 2 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowships
  • The Colleges have advanced 20 spots in the U.S. News & World Report’s best national liberal arts college ranking since 1999, moving from No. 81 to No. 61.
  • Becoming more selective, the Colleges’ acceptance rate has moved from 75% in 1999 to 48% in 2014.
  • In 1999, the number of students applying early decision was 17%. Today, about 42% of students apply early decision, making HWS their first and only choice.
  • Other metrics since 1999 include:
    • the average SAT scores for incoming first year students increased by 100 points
    • the first year retention rate increased by 5%
    • the graduation rate increased by 11%
    • Interest in an HWS education also intensified, with overall applications increasing 66%
  • Since 1999, the student to faculty ratio has decreased from 13:1 to 11:1
    • The student population has increased by 28% (1,828 in 1999 to 2,344 today)
    • The number of full time faculty has increased by 34% (168 in 1999 to 225 today)
  • Since 1999, 57 full-time faculty positions have been added.
  • In 2014, the Colleges received an outstanding accreditation report from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education indicating that HWS fulfilled all standards and characteristics of excellence. Since the last Middle States reaccreditation, the team reported, Hobart and William Smith “have enhanced academic quality, expanded the faculty, improved campus resources and facilities, strengthened its competitive position, completed a successful $205 million campaign, contributed creatively to Geneva, developed signature programs in co-curricular learning, and nurtured its tradition and engagement of alums – all while weathering extremely well the national financial difficulties of the past six years,” the report states.
  • Early in Gearan’s tenure at HWS, the Colleges created the Center for Teaching and Learning serving faculty and students with initiatives that invigorate instruction and embed student learning assessment in faculty practice. With a focus on analysis, improved course design, assessment of learning outcomes, and a developmental model of the scholar-teacher and the undergraduate student, CTL has made a substantive difference in how the Colleges consider, plan, assess and reinvent its academic program.
  • Hobart and William Smith recently completed a comprehensive, multiyear process to review and revise the curriculum. The new curriculum, which has begun its implementation phase, adopts “Explore, Collaborate, Act” as an animating principle for common and engaged discourse. With an emphasis on writing enrichment, the revised curriculum also includes an enhanced First Year Seminar experience and the requirement of a capstone project in every discipline.
  • In a 2015 survey of alums:
    • 9 out of 10 alums would recommend the Colleges to a friend or family member
    • 9 out of 10 alums say that the Colleges are Effective or Extremely Effective at preparing students for the future

Financial Health and Fundraising
A hallmark of Gearan’s presidency has been shrewd attention to the overall budget of the Colleges, innovation in seeking new streams of revenue, and ambitious and far-reaching fundraising goals.

  • Citing the Colleges’ long history of positive operating performance, the Standard & Poor’s Rating Services (S&P) has assigned an “A” long-term rating and underlying rating of HWS. An “A” rating reflects S&P’s confidence in the stability of the Colleges and the institution's ability to successfully manage its finances and operations.
  • Since Gearan took office in 1999, the HWS endowment has nearly doubled, growing from approximately $107 million to about $200 million today.
  • $317 million has been raised in support of HWS since Gearan took office in 1999.
  • Campaign for the Colleges, which concluded in 2012, raised more than $205 million. It was the largest fundraising effort in the Colleges’ history, impacting every aspect of life at HWS including the academic program, student life, the endowment, annual giving and facilities.
  • The 2016 fiscal year was among the best on record with the largest number of alumni and alumnae donors in the past 15 years. In total, members of 76 classes, going as far back as 1934, made a gift during the 2016 fiscal year.
  • Thanks to the generosity of many, since Gearan was named president, the Colleges have created 168 new endowed scholarships, providing greater access to students.
  • Recognizing that affording a college education can be daunting, since 1999 and thanks to the investment of donors, the Colleges’ financial aid budget has more than doubled, going from $19.6 million in 1999 to $42 million today.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges sit in one of the most stunning locations in the country. A carefully designed campus master plan and the efforts of talented grounds keeping staff have resulted in a campus of incomparable beauty, with modern facilities nestled near structures that have served faculty and students for nearly two centuries. Since taking office in 1999, Gearan has led Hobart and William Smith during a period of unprecedented growth and expansion of the physical plant, constructing new buildings and renovating dozens of others.  

  • During Gearan’s tenure, six new buildings have been constructed including:
    • Bozzuto Boathouse (2003)
    • Stern Hall (2003)
    • Caird Hall (2005)
    • de Cordova Hall (2005)
    • The Katherine D. Elliott Studio Arts Center (2006)
    • Gearan Center for the Performing Arts (2016)
  • Since 1999, there have been more than 80 significant capital projects completed ranging from major athletic facility expansions and additions to renovations of residence halls and academic buildings, including:
    • H.J. McCooey Memorial Field (2001)
    • John H. Cozzens Jr. '41 Memorial Field (2001)
    • The Salisbury Center (2004)
    • The Finger Lakes Institute (2004)
    • Goldstein Family Carriage House (2006)
    • Rosensweig Learning Commons (2007)
    • Abbe Center for Jewish Life (2007)
    • Carr McGuire House (2007)
    • Rosensweig Learning Commons (2007)
    • Centennial Center for Leadership (2008)
    • Caird Center for Sports and Recreation (2010) 
  • In January 2016, the Colleges celebrated the grand opening of the Gearan Center, an extraordinary 65,000-square-foot facility that brings together music, dance, theatre and media and society in a unified academic space for the first time. Made possible thanks to the generosity of countless alumni, alumnae and friends of the Colleges, the facility is the largest capital project in the history of HWS. The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to name the building in honor of Mark D. and Mary Herlihy Gearan. In October 2015, during a commemorative cornerstone installation ceremony, the facility was officially named the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts.
  • A substantial investment in technology has been made at the Colleges in the past decade, including advances in wireless services across campus, the creation of innovative and ‘smart’ classrooms, and the centralization of all campus information technology systems.

Geneva and Civic Engagement
A national expert on the intersection of higher education and service, Gearan has made Geneva and civic engagement a priority of his presidency. Over the course of the past 17 years, the Colleges’ Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning has become a leader in the field promoting positive community change and enhanced student learning.

  • In order to further deepen the Colleges’ relationship with the City of Geneva, N.Y., Gearan created the Geneva Partnership, an initiative to increase community engagement and develop graduates who will be agents for change in their own communities. Hobart and William Smith have made a number of investments in the City of Geneva including direct payments to assist the City budget, donations to non-profit organizations, and support of civic projects.
  • As part of the Colleges’ longstanding partnership with Geneva, in 2012, HWS established a 10-year, $1.7 million commitment to the City that assists in balancing its budget.
  • Collectively, HWS students contribute more than 80,000 hours of service and engagement annually to local, national and international communities, generating approximately $110,000 in fundraising efforts for non-profit organizations.
  • Under Gearan’s leadership, HWS partnered with the Geneva City School District (GCSD) in an initiative called Geneva 2020 which seeks to harness the resources of the Colleges and the Geneva community to provide assistance in key areas identified by GCSD as being critical to the future of Geneva’s children. With the goal of ensuring that students in the local community have the skills necessary to graduate from high school and to effectively pursue college and careers, the program has helped move the local high school graduation rate from 70.7% in 2010 to 87.6% in 2016.
  • The Colleges partnered with the City of Geneva in its successful bid to become a 2015 All-America City, a highly-selective honor awarded annually by the National Civic League to only 10 cities across the country.
  • The HWS Day of Service, a tradition of nearly two decades, became Days of Service in 2008 when Gearan added new Days of Service throughout the year so that more students and local organizations could participate. All HWS students take part in community service.
  • In 2011, the Colleges’ were named Business of the Year by the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce.
  • HWS were one of only 28 baccalaureate colleges selected for the 2010 Community Engagement Classification designation by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  • The Colleges were ranked 8th in the nation among liberal arts colleges by Washington Monthly in its 2012 "College Guide" rankings for community service participation and hours served.

Diversity and Inclusion
Gearan has worked throughout his presidency to increase diversity and inclusion at the Colleges, participating in and leading meaningful conversations with students, faculty, staff and alums through events like the Posse Plus Retreat and the Multicultural Career and Networking Conference. He has sought the counsel of national authorities in the fields of inclusion and social justice, exploring strategies to make Hobart and William Smith a place where all members of our community are respected. Gearan has also supported significant programs to advance these efforts including: 

  • In 2016, Gearan appointed the Colleges’ first Interim Chief Diversity Officer in HWS history and formed a committee of faculty, staff, students and trustees to complete a Strategic Diversity Plan. The committee is charged with articulating issues, creating plans of work, and envisioning a campus community in which all members are valued.
  • In 2007, Gearan launched the Commission on Inclusive Excellence to address issues related to equity, diversity and justice.
  • Gearan initiated a $5 million partnership with Posse, one of the most successful college access and youth leadership programs in the country. To date, the partnership has created access for 40 students who would otherwise face significant challenges to attend HWS.
  • The Colleges host the New Jersey SEEDS (Scholars, Educators, Excellence, Dedication, and Success) program, preparing promising students for life on a residential campus.
  • Under Gearan’s leadership, the Colleges have identified and partnered with successful community-based organizations in order to recruit high achieving students. These organizations include KIPP, City Squash, Street Squash, and ABC.

Environmental Sustainability
Environmental sustainability has been a core value under Gearan’s leadership. In 2007, Gearan signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, making HWS a charter member of a national effort to reduce emissions of the gases responsible for global warming. Since then, the Colleges have completed several comprehensive greenhouse gas inventories, cut energy consumption by more than 10%, and created robust recycling and composting programs. Today, 100% of the Colleges' electricity comes from wind.

  • In 2016, HWS took another meaningful step toward climate neutrality with the construction of two local solar farms, which will deliver 50% of the Colleges' power. Once completed, the combined arrays will provide five megawatts of power, the largest solar installation at any institution of higher education in New York State. Nationally, the combined solar farm will be one of the top 10 solar projects on campuses, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
  • The Colleges continue to be named to Sierra magazine's annual list of the greenest colleges and universities, moving ahead 63 spots since first appearing on the list in 2009.
  • For the fourth consecutive year, HWS was named a 2015 Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota.
  • The Colleges have increased recycling rates by nearly 6%, increased waste diversion by more than 11% and reduced the amount of waste per capita on campus. HWS was a 2015 leader in composting, ranking 18 out of 147 colleges and universities participating in the Recyclemania national competition.
  • In 2014, the Colleges acquired 35 acres of farmland from local agricultural innovator Carl W. Fribolin L.H.D.’14. The site has become an academic center hosting classes and seminars.
  • Recognizing the importance of the health and vitality of the Finger Lakes to the region and the Colleges, Gearan led an effort to establish the Finger Lakes Institute to promote environmental research and education about the Finger Lakes and the surrounding environments. Established in 2004 with initial funding from State Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio L.H.D.’07 and former U.S. Congressman James Walsh, Gearan’s vision has become a preeminent source of research, education and community outreach for the Finger Lakes region. 

Student Life
Since Gearan joined HWS, every facet of the student experience has been enhanced and improved, providing students with a broad array of experiences through athletics, career preparation, leadership programs, study abroad and speakers series. Gearan is a frequent guest at club gatherings and meetings, attending athletic competitions and culture club events. Some areas of advancement include:

  • Athletics
    • With more than 80% of HWS students participating in intercollegiate varsity sports or intramurals, club sports or outdoor programs, athletics is a key component of the student experience at HWS. Since Gearan’s arrival, the number of scholar-athletes has increased significantly. Between the founding of the award in 1952 and 1999, HWS boasted 12 Academic All-Americans, one of the most prestigious and select awards program for scholar-athletes. Under Gearan’s tenure, 25 more students have earned the ranking to date, including the Colleges’ first Academic All-America of the Year.
    • Since the start of the 1999-2000 academic year, the Colleges have added women’s golf and women’s ice hockey. In addition, Hobart rowing and the William Smith squash team have been elevated to varsity standing.
    • The Colleges have invested in athletics in the past 17 years through the creation of a full time compliance officer as well as new facilities like the Caird Center for Sports and Recreation which have modernized athletics and wellness facilities.
  • The Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education
    • The Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education has become a pioneer in collaborating with internal and external partners to facilitate a comprehensive and developmental process that assists students in realizing and fulfilling their career objectives.
    • When Gearan began his presidency in 1999, the office had largely provided consultation on job searches and resume writing. The office now has more than 3000 student appointments each semester at which experienced counselors guide students through assessments, internships, job shadowing and networking, all intended to help students fully articulate, explore and realize their professional goals.
    • The number of internships has grown from 70 in 2005 to more than 600 this year.
    • In 2014, the HWS Guaranteed Internship Program further distinguished the Salisbury Center ensuring that all students who complete the Pathways Career Services program are guaranteed an internship or research opportunity. For summer internships that are unpaid, the Colleges provide a stipend.
  • In the winter of 2000, Gearan established the President’s Forum lecture series, which for the past 16 years has brought more than 130 national and international speakers to campus including Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, GOP Presidential Candidate Alan Keyes, veteran political strategists Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, sociologist Michael Kimmel, and ABC Chief Political Correspondent George Stephanopoulos. 
  • The Centennial Center for Leadership, which was dedicated in 2007 in conjunction with the William Smith Centennial, has become a point of distinction for the Colleges offering noted programs such as the annual Stu Lieblein '90 Pitch Contest, HWS Leads Leadership Program, Beyond Borders global leadership program, the two-day Leadership Institute, HWS Idealab and most recently, the Hackathon, a 24-hour social innovation program.  
  • In 2015, the Colleges significantly expanded its Office for Title IX Programs and Compliance. The office now includes a Title IX coordinator, Deputy Title IX Coordinator, and a Prevention and Education Coordinator, increasing its outreach to students and facilitating the timely resolution of cases.
  • Study Abroad:
    • Under Gearan’s leadership, the Colleges have broadened its study abroad program, growing its offerings from about 33 programs in 2000 to more than 50 programs on six continents. The Colleges’ commitment has resulted in the awarding of the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for CAMPUS Internationalization.
    • While the national average is just 2%, today at HWS 60% of students study abroad.
    • Through support from the Mellon Foundation, the Colleges have added pre-departure and re-entry programs that enhance and extend the abroad experience.
    • In the past 17 years, the Colleges have also significantly expanded the number of exchange programs, allowing students to study directly at foreign institutions and bringing international students to HWS. A decade ago, the Colleges hosted one or two exchange students a year; today HWS averages about 25.
  • Student groups and clubs have increased 80% under Gearan’s leadership going from 50 organizations in 2001, to now about 90.

Guidebooks and Recent National Attention

  • Money magazine (2016): HWS was named among the “50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges” for the second year in a row.
  • Princeton Review (2015): The Colleges were named one of the nation’s 50 best colleges and universities for providing students with outstanding outcomes in its “Colleges That Create Futures: 50 Schools That Launch Careers by Going Beyond the Classroom” guide.
  • Forbes (2016): Thanks to record philanthropy from HWS alums, the Colleges were namedamong the nation's top colleges and universities with the best return on investment (ROI). Ranked No. 80, HWS made Forbes Grateful Grads Index for the third year in a row as part of its annual “America’s Top Colleges” ranking.
  • Kiplinger Personal Finance(2016): HWS was named to Kiplinger's list of 100 Best College Values.
  • The Princeton Review's Colleges That Pay You Back (2016): Hobart and William Smith were named among the nation's top schools for delivering the best in education, affordability, career preparation and outcomes.
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges (2017): Fiske noted: HWS is a place where students are “rewarded with small classes, caring faculty, and a place where tradition still matters.”
  • The Princeton Review's “Guide to 353 Green Colleges” (2015): recognized HWS as one of North America's most environmentally responsible schools. It was the fourth consecutive year the Colleges have been honored.
  • Washington Monthly (2014): HWS was ranked 8th in the nation among liberal arts colleges for our dedication to service. 
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (2014): Selected HWS for its Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for commitment to service-learning and civic engagement, for the fifth consecutive time.
  • Hillel included HWS in its list of “Top 20 Small and Mighty Campuses of Excellence.”



Media inquiries should be directed to:
Cathy Williams
Vice President for Communications
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, NY 14456
315-781-3696 (office)
315-759-3584 (cell)
585-727-6471 (home)


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.