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Party Celebrates Renaming of The Presidents’ College


Posted 05/13/2011
Posted by David Isgur

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How do you move an apostrophe? One way, of course, is with a couple of keystrokes.

But maybe a better way is to give a party and invite three presidents. That’s what The President’s College of the University of Hartford did on Wednesday, May 4, when it renamed itself The Presidents’ College after 20 years under its old name.

On hand for the event were two former University of Hartford presidents, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg (president 1977-1988) and Humphrey Tonkin (1989-1998), along with current president Walter Harrison. The occasion was a dinner, held at the Bloomfield home of Presidents’ College supporter Louise Wilder, to raise funds for the relocation of library offices to make room for a new state-of-the-art seminar and conference space in the Mortensen Library. The new room will serve as a home for the renamed Presidents’ College and will also be used as an additional teaching and conference space for other programs housed in the Mortensen Library. Included in its equipment will be full videoconferencing capability, allowing for the expansion of Presidents’ College programming to off-site locations.

The Presidents’ College is an outreach program of the University Libraries offering short non-credit courses to members of the Greater Hartford community. Operated in part by volunteers, it describes itself as a learning community for adult learners. It also aims to build audiences for events on campus and to create stronger links between the University and the larger community.

The renaming of the Presidents’ College, explained Tonkin, its current director, signifies that the College has become an important part of the legacy of its various presidents. The space to be occupied by the new seminar and conference room was added to the library when the Gray Center was built during the presidency of Stephen Trachtenberg, the Presidents’ College was founded during Humphrey Tonkin’s presidency, and the College owes much of its continued expansion to the support of President Harrison.

Referring to his time as president, Trachtenberg remarked, “What was clear then to the pioneers in the school’s development, and even more evident today is that universities are organisms that must constantly renew their spirits. On the one hand, we teach history, philosophy, mathematics, and appreciate age-old traditions. On the other hand, without an eye toward the future, we become stagnant and out of date in a nano-second.”

Tonkin added, “New developments in communication and new ways of conserving knowledge make libraries like ours far more valuable than they used to be, when everything depended on the acquisition of printed materials and the space to house them. Books continue to matter, but now we can share old knowledge and new with ever-increasing circles of learners. The Presidents’ College is one way in which we share the riches that we possess with the community that surrounds us.”

Chartered in 1957 with the mission to be a “private university with a public purpose,” the University of Hartford offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in the arts, humanities, business, engineering and technology, education, and the health professions. The University’s student body of nearly 7,200 represents 48 states and more than 60 countries. For more information, visit www.hartford.edu.