Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford, informed the campus community today that he will retire on June 30, 2017. Harrison, 69, signed a five-year presidential contract in 2012, and told the University's Board of Regents at that time that he believed it would be his last contract. Today, he formally informed the board of his decision. When he retires, Harrison will have served as the University’s president for 19 years.
“Serving as president of the University of Hartford has been the highest privilege and greatest honor of my life,” Harrison said in a letter to University students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends. “Many friends tell me that being a university president is the most stressful position they can think of, but I must tell you that as I look back on the last 17 ½ years I recall only the joy I have felt and my continuing gratitude for serving the University,” he continued. Harrison also made a brief video announcement that is available on the University's social media and YouTube channel (Click here to view it.).
Harrison has served as University president since July 1, 1998. Despite two significant national economic downturns in that span of nearly two decades, the University has experienced a period of energy and vitality unmatched in its history and has dramatically improved its academic quality, finances, and fundraising. New academic programs in technology, engineering, health sciences, and other areas have been added during his tenure. The University has also completed a number of building and beautification projects, engaged in a vigorous branding initiative, and established a strategic blueprint for its future.
Harrison has cultivated an exceptional relationship between the University and the Greater Hartford community. He is a board member of Hartford Stage, where he was president from 2007-2010; St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center; MetroHartford Alliance, where he is treasurer; Suffield Academy; Hartford Consortium for Higher Education; and the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, where he is chair. He was also a founding board member of the Connecticut Science Center and a member of a number of other boards.
Thanks to his vision, the University is a recognized leader in helping to improve public schools and the education of students, from kindergarten to college. The University of Hartford was the first private university in the country with two public magnet schools on its campus—the University of Hartford Magnet School and the University High School of Science and Engineering.
Harrison has always been committed to efforts that provide access to higher education to qualified students regardless of their economic status. He has held tuition increases as low as possible, has continued support of the Hartford Scholars program which was started by President Emeritus Humphrey Tonkin, implemented budgetary changes that resulted in more money for student financial aid, directed all Anchor Fund gifts to financial aid for the next two years, and with his wife, Dianne, has endowed a scholarship.
President Harrison has been active nationally as a leader in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). He is the 2015 recipient of the prestigious NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award for his work to improve the academic success of student-athletes. He became a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in 2015.
University Board of Regents Chair Lucille Nickerson announced today that a national/international search will be conducted for Harrison's successor. The search committee will be chaired by Regent Kathy Behrens ’85, who is president, social responsibility and player programs, for the National Basketball Association. Before joining the NBA, she served as executive director of New York Cares and served in the administration of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. While a student at the University, Behrens served as student government president and was a member of the women’s tennis and basketball teams. She received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010 and was inducted into the Hartford Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.
The search committee, to be composed of regents, faculty, staff and students, will be constituted over the next few months and will begin its work in spring, 2016. They will be supported by Shelly Storbeck of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates search consultants.
“The University has flourished under President Harrison’s leadership,” Nickerson says. “We appreciate his thoughtful and caring stewardship of the institution and will miss the guidance of his strategic visioning and exemplary values. We are indeed fortunate to have had the benefit of his extraordinary leadership.”