Office of the President

Mark D. Gearan

President, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

President Gearan

Appointed President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1999, Mark D. Gearan has led the Colleges during a period of unprecedented growth and development. Under his leadership, Hobart and William Smith have expanded their academic reach providing students with a rigorous, interdisciplinary learning environment strengthened by a commitment to global understanding, study abroad, civic engagement, sustainability and inclusive excellence. As a result of significant innovations in advancement efforts, the Colleges are now able to offer these elements in contemporary facilities with state-of-the-art technology. With a progressive enrollment program that prioritizes access, the Colleges are highly selective with about 50 percent of the student body applying early decision, making HWS their first and only choice.

One of our nation’s leading experts on the intersection of higher education and civic engagement, President Gearan has held numerous leadership roles in public service. As a member and former chair of the Talloires Network Steering Committee, an international association of more than 200 institutions on six continents committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education, he has fostered a global culture of service. As the past chair of the Board of Directors of both National Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community Service, he has similarly supported civic engagement activities in the United States.

President Gearan is the co-chair of the National Advisory Board on Public Service at Harvard College and serves on the Presidential Advisory Group for the NCAA. He is the past chair of the Board of Directors of the Annapolis Group, a nationwide consortium of liberal arts colleges. He is a Board member of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities and a former Board member of The Partnership for Public Service. With extensive credentials in public policy and service, he served as Director of the Peace Corps and was Assistant to the President, Director of Communications and Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House.

Outside of the education and service arenas, President Gearan is an appointee of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform. The national commission focuses on policy recommendations on electoral system reform, congressional reform and encouragement of greater public service, and is chaired by Senators Tom Daschle, Trent Lott and Olympia Snowe, and Secretaries Dan Glickman and Dirk Kempthorne. He is a former member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, a group of cross-sector leaders appointed by President Barack Obama to recommend collaborative solutions to increase civic engagement. He also has been active on the advisory board of The Presidential Appointee Initiative, a project of the Brookings Institution that has worked to revamp the process through which U.S. Presidential appointees are chosen. Locally, he serves on the advisory councils of the Happiness House Foundation, Ontario ARC and the Geneva Community Center. In 2014, President Gearan was appointed chair of the New York State Gaming Commission, a volunteer assignment that provides oversight of the state's newly created agency for the lottery, horse racing and casinos.

President Gearan with students

At the close of his first year at Hobart and William Smith, President 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.

Under Gearan’s leadership, the Colleges have expanded its study abroad program to include programs on six continents. Today, nearly 60 percent of HWS students study abroad and the Colleges are the recipient of the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for CAMPUS Internationalization.

With all students taking part in community service projects, the Colleges have been named with distinction to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the highest federal acknowledgement a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.

In 2007, President 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. Six years later, the Colleges have completed three comprehensive greenhouse gas inventories, have cut energy consumption by more than 10 percent, and have created robust recycling and composting programs. Today, 100 percent of the Colleges’ electricity comes from wind. Sierra magazine recently ranked Hobart and William Smith as 40th in the nation for sustainability efforts.

In 2007, Gearan also established the Commission on Inclusive Excellence to address issues related to equity, diversity and justice. In a recent report by Campus Pride's Campus Climate Index, Hobart and William Smith were recognized as a leader for LGBT-inclusive policies, programs and practices. The Index awarded HWS an excellent score, receiving five out of a possible five stars.

President Gearan with students

In order to further deepen the Colleges’ productive relationship with the City of Geneva, N.Y., in 2007, President Gearan developed the Geneva Partnership. Since then 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. The Colleges contribute on average about $2 million each year to the community. Under his leadership, HWS partnered with the Geneva City School District in an initiative called Geneva 2020 which seeks to harness the resources of the Colleges and the Geneva community to provide assistance in three key areas identified by GCSD as being critical to the future of Geneva's children: graduation rate, career and college preparedness, and literacy. The Colleges’ commitment to the community has been recognized in a variety of ways, such as being named Business of the Year by the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce.

When he first arrived at Hobart and William Smith, President Gearan established the President’s Forum lecture series, which for the past 13 years has brought national and international speakers to campus. On campus, he stays connected with students, participating in HWS and community events as well as service projects. He is a member of the political science department and is a guest lecturer in the classroom. He and his wife, Mary Herlihy Gearan, frequently host events for students in their home.

A native of Gardner, Mass., President Gearan earned his B.A. in government cum laude at Harvard University and his law degree at Georgetown University. He is the recipient of 12 honorary degrees.

President Gearan resides on campus with his wife, Mary Herlihy Gearan, and their two daughters, Madeleine and Kathleen.


Office of the President
337 Pulteney St.
Geneva , NY 14456
(315) 781-3309



Peace Corps

The former director of the Peace Corps, President Mark D. Gearan is a national expert on the service movement. He is Chair of the Talloires Network Steering Committee and former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

President Gearan

In election years, President Gearan co-teaches a course on campaigns and elections with Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman.

President Bill Clinton

During the Clinton administration, President Gearan served in the White House as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications, as well as Deputy Chief of Staff.

In 2007, President Gearan signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and authorized the creation of The President's Climate Task Force, with the immediate goal of delivering Hobart and William Smith Colleges to climate neutrality.

George Stephanopoulos

The President's Forum Series brings to campus important politicians, intellectuals and social activists such as presidential candidates Alan Keyes and Michael Dukakis; journalist George Stephanopoulos; author Michael Tanner; Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathi.


While serving as Director of the Peace Corps, President Gearan opened programs in South Africa, Jordan, Mozambique and Bangladesh and returned volunteers to Haiti after a five-year absence. He also created the successful Crisis Corps, which sends volunteers to crisis areas to help during emergencies.