June 2, 1999 - Finger Lakes Times: HWS picks Peace Corps Director Gearan as president

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Mark D. Gearan: August 11, 1995-August 11, 1999 : Gearan: June 2, 1999 - Finger Lakes Times: HWS picks Peace Corps Director Gearan as president

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HWS picks Peace Corps Director Gearan as president

HWS picks Peace Corps Director Gearan as president

HWS picks president

By Louise Hoffman Broach

Times Staff Writer

GENEVA - Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan, whom President Clinton said has the "understanding and ability to build bridges and the tenacity to cross them," will be Hobart and William Smith Collegesí next president.

"Mark Gearan is the leader these colleges want to take them into the 21st century," said Charles Salisbury, chair of Hobart and William Smithís board of trustees. "Not only does his strong and varied leadership experience make him an ideal president, but his particular sensitivity to internationalism and service makes him the best possible president for these colleges."

The appointment was announced Tuesday, after Gearan met with Clinton in the Oval Office and then with several hundred staff members at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., to announce his departure. Gearan, who has headed the Peace Corps since 1995 after serving as Clintonís deputy chief of staff and head of the White House Communications office, will replace Richard Hersh, the collegesí president since 1991. Hersh is leaving this summer to join his wife, Judith Meyers, who is executive director of the Child Health and Development Institute.

Assuming his duties in late summer, Gearan will become the 26th president of Hobart College and the 15th president of William Smith College. The private, liberal arts institutions share faculty, facilities and curriculum but maintain separate deanís offices, athletic programs and student governments. The combined enrollment is 1,800.

"I am deeply honored by the confidence that the board of trustees has placed in me," Gearan said. "Hobart and William Smith Colleges have outstanding reputations, and I look forward to building on their great traditions of academic excellence, international studies and public service."

Clinton, in a statement released by the White House Tuesday, called Gearan "one of the most successful Peace Corps directors since President Kennedy established the agency in 1961."

But the man Clinton credits with rejuvenating the agency and demonstrating the deep commitment to its legacy of service has no qualms about giving up the prestigious post for academia in a small, upstate New York city.

"Hobart and William Smith are (colleges) of academic excellence that are committed to international study and service,íí Gearan said, adding that he and his family are happy to be moving to the area. "This is a beautiful part of the country and we are looking forward to becoming part of the community.íí

Gearan and his wife, Mary Herlihy Gearan, have two daughters, Madeleine and Kathleen.

He said he also is looking forward to working with his colleagues, as well as the students.

"I can bring a commitment to excellence, quality and education that will hopefully move the colleges into the 21st century. The colleges have a great legacy and I now have the opportunity to build on that. Iím honored by this appointment."

Geneva Mayor Joanne Wisor said she met with Gearan when he was interviewing for the position and she was impressed.

"He asked very thoughtful questions and seemed genuinely interested in the Finger Lakes Region," Wisor said. "We welcome him and hope that he will be as interested in the city and how the city functions as the past two presidents of the colleges have been,"

At 42, Gearan also will be one of the countryís youngest presidents of a major undergraduate institution, bringing extensive experience in public service and a strong commitment to undergraduate liberal arts education and international studies, college officials said. Under Gearanís leadership, the Peace Corps has seen a resurgence of interest among young Americans interested in serving overseas as volunteers.

There are presently 6,700 Peace Corps volunteers in 77 countries. On May 21, Clinton signed a bill that will push Gearanís agenda to fund the Peace Corps so there will be 10,000 volunteers by 2003.

During Gearanís tenure, new Peace Corps programs opened in South Africa, Jordan, Mozambique and Bangladesh. In 1996, he established the Crisis Corps, a program that enabled former Peace Corps volunteers to help overseas communities recover from natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

Gearan himself has traveled to more than 25 countries in Africa, Central America, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Pacific to visit with hundreds of volunteers. When he worked in the White House, Gearan accompanied the President to the Middle East, Japan, Russia, Ireland, Germany and Italy.

Salisbury said Gearanís background in public service and the international area make him a perfect fit for the colleges, where nearly two-thirds of the students take advantage of the 18 study abroad programs HWS Colleges offer that also include volunteer components.

Volunteer opportunities also abound for students on campus.

"The process through which we were able to offer the presidency to this exemplary individual was inclusive of all of the constituencies of this institution," said Thomas Pole, a trustee and a 1961 Hobart graduate. Pole headed the search committee.

Several students who took part in the search process also had high praise for the incoming president.

"(He) will be a president many student will be able to relate to in terms of his interests in international experiences and public service,íí said Jennifer Leshnower, a William Smith junior from Brighton, Monroe County. "He clearly embraces the current generationís interests and understands the challenges they face in the real world."

A native of Garner, Mass., Gearan earned his bachelorís degree in government from Harvard University and his law degree from Georgetown University. He is also the recipient of 11 honorary degrees.

Besides working in the White House, Gearan has served as executive director of the Democratic Governorís Association, a senior member of the former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakisí presidential campaign, and as an aide to former Rep. Robert Drinan of Massachusetts and to Berkley Bedell of Iowa.

Gearanís writings have been published extensively, including pieces in The Boston Globe, the Miami Herald and the San Francisco Examiner.

When Clinton announced his intention to nominate Gearan as Peace Corps director, the President told the press assembled in the Rose Garden "itís fair to say that if we had a secret ballot for who the most popular person working in the White House is, Mark Gearan would win it in a walk."

Staff writer Andrea Deckert contributed to this report.

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Story Source: Finger Lakes Times

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