Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

Hugh Hewitt and President Mark D. Gearan

This issue of the HWS magazine includes interviews with numerous alums whose careers engage the theme of conversations – a magazine editor, a family attorney, a screenwriter, a priest and a linguist, to name a few. It also includes a conversation with faculty and interviews with 15 students who were asked by our editor to reflect on the kinds of conversations occurring on campus. The entire issue with its theme of conversations provides a fascinating overview of our talented alumni, alumnae, faculty, staff and students who make up our community.

One of the sustaining conversations of my adult life has been with my college roommate, Hugh Hewitt. The photo that accompanies this letter was taken last year at my college Reunion. Following my graduation, I went to work on Democratic political campaigns, served on President Bill Clinton’s White House staff, led the Peace Corps, and in 1999 arrived in Geneva, N.Y., for the job of a lifetime. Following his graduation, Hugh went to work for former President Richard Nixon and then served in the Reagan administration. He hosts one of the most popular conservative talk shows in the nation and has written a slew of books extolling the virtues of conservatism. He’s a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and the Sunday morning talk shows. During this election cycle, he served as a panelist for several Republican presidential debates.

In Hugh’s book titled If It’s Not Close They Can’t Cheat, he writes the following:

“As I have explained many, many times over the years in print and over the air, my closest friend since 1977 has been Mark Gearan. Mark is currently the president of a fine old college in upstate New York, Hobart and William Smith Colleges…. Mark and I are political opponents and very close, indeed, inseparable friends. He’s just wrong about nearly everything, and I hold out very little hope of his ever changing.”

In nearly four decades of friendship, Hugh and I have celebrated the milestones of one another’s lives, participating in weddings, holidays and graduations. Our families have happily vacationed together and we speak or text frequently.

What makes our friendship work, I believe, is our capacity to listen to one another and to engage in conversation. Despite our differences of opinion or ideology, our conversations have never been spiteful or unkind. Instead, we have found things on which we agree – a shared love of family and country, and an optimism for the future.

With 2,300 students and more than 20,000 alumni and alumnae around the world, it would be impossible for everyone in the HWS community to agree on everything. But as Danny Schonning ’16 says on page 59, “There’s a humanity at HWS, and an expectation that we will go into the world and do good things.” That humanity and that expectation unite us, giving us a foundation upon which we can have the kinds of conversations that will continue to make Hobart and William Smith an exceptional place.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the Board of Trustees who voted to name the new performing arts center for Mary and me. As you can imagine, this is a singularly unique experience for Mary, for our daughters Madeleine and Kathleen, and certainly for me. We are beyond honored by the thoughtfulness of the Board and have pledged ourselves to continue to promote the performing arts on campus and in Geneva. This is a space that matches the excellence of our students and talent of our faculty and staff. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the HWS community in reaction to this honor and we thank the Board most sincerely.

With every best wish, I am

Mark D. Gearan


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.