President Mark D. Gearan, Geneva NAACP President Lucile Mallard L.H.D. ’15, Chief of Police Jeffrey Trickler and Geneva City School District Superintendent Trina Newton volunteer with HWS students and community members at the local farmers’ market.

It’s Not “Town and Gown”

by Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Jack D. Harris P'02, P'06

Many years ago my wonderful honors student, Wren Gleason ’04, did her project on the relationship between HWS and the community of Geneva. When she interviewed President Gearan he gently chided her about the use of the phrase “town and gown.” Mark understood that the simple phrase used to characterize a college and its relationship to its host location generally emphasized separation, and even conflict, between the two entities. Due very much to Mark’s leadership and immersive involvement in the Colleges and in Geneva, accompanied by the great work of Mary Gearan throughout our Geneva community, the relationship between the Colleges, the city and community has flowered and flourished. The partnering of the Colleges with the City of Geneva and the larger community is now firmly planted and sustainable. This is a truly exceptional achievement of Mark and Mary Gearan during their 18 years with our community.


The City’s and the Colleges’ relationship seems natural because the Gearans make it look so easy. But ours is a rare unity of purpose, sewn together by Mark’s and Mary’s bridging of our two worlds. Mary’s active involvement in organizations such as Happiness House, Mark’s leadership in Geneva 2020 and his support for extensive community engagement and service-learning, have infused HWS with a strong sense of place, with the Geneva partnership at its center. Under Mark’s direction, we are testing what we know by doing, making a difference in collaboration with our community partners.

On campus or in the city, it seems wherever you go, there they are – Mark, Mary and their girls. Whether it is the Asian Student Union Chinese New Year dinner, or a William Smith soccer game, or a celebration of Hobart’s history and tradition, the Gearans are, more often than not, there (and this does not include the Garage Band!). Their presence has enriched every event as they tucked their family into our collective families.

This is only one of President Gearan’s and his family’s legacies. Their modeled engagement has been so important to this place, and it will leave a “Mark” on our Colleges and our community, not “town and gown.” I will especially miss them for this lasting gift.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.