When Emeritus Professor of Economics, Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D.’12, was named as Interim President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, it was another homecoming for the thrice-retired Professor. Having lived in Geneva since 1968, McGuire has served the Colleges for over 40 years. After retiring as Professor of Economics, McGuire was tapped by then-President Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17 to serve twice as Interim Provost and Dean of Faculty. In the summer of 2014, McGuire was also Co-Chair of the Culture of Respect committee which focused on dialogue across differences, a curriculum review, and a look at safety and wellness on campus.
Coming out of retirement in 2018 to serve as Interim President was another instance of McGuire serving HWS and the Geneva community over his long and distinguished career. As he said, “when Tom [Bozzuto ’68, Chair of the Board of Trustees] called again and asked me to step in, I just had to because it was Hobart and William Smith calling.”
After being named Interim President, following the resignation of former President Gregory J. Vincent ’83, McGuire met with the Herald for a wide-spanning interview in which he discussed his love of HWS and his plans for the institution moving forward. Since it had only been ten days since his appointment, McGuire noted that he was “still processing. But I’ve got a sense of what’s happening. There are a lot of issues, some of which I can address, a lot of issues I need to learn a lot more about before we can do anything. It’s a challenge.”
McGuire noted that the Colleges will keep going. For as long as he’s known the Colleges – which is across a fifty career – he’s observed the ups and downs. He said, “Look at all the different curriculums we’ve had and the new courses that we’ve added, the new programs… And that’s just the start. There are other things that we can do, we can make these things much better. So lots of potential. And I think that conversation is going to continue. I hope so, because I’ve got a lot to say.”
Something that McGuire emphasized he wants to do is communicate – and meet – with students more. Since our meeting he has attended the Block H dinner, the William Smith Athletics Awards Banquet, and the final joint Student Government meeting of the year, along with hosting a meet-and-greet at My Kitchen in Saga. But McGuire still wants to do more.
One of his primary goals is to increase transparency from the President’s Office. He noted that earlier in the day he had sent “a note to the campus…without any trouble” and was open to suggestions about how to get in touch with the campus. McGuire added, “If I know of a meeting that’s taking place – I’m happy to go to it, I’ll go to anything I’m invited to.” His goal is to meet more students and “get to know and understand their perspectives.”
President McGuire seems very open to meeting students and being transparent about what the administration is planning and looking into. During a visit to the joint meeting of Hobart Student Government and William Smith Congress, he answered student questions and outlined his plans for the institution moving forward. He acknowledges that there are many issues and things to look into with many different perspectives for each one. But McGuire is here to work and he wants to continue the forward progress of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
When asked by the Herald about sexual misconduct and the campus culture of HWS – which the Herald published on in our April 6th issue – McGuire noted it’s something he has “felt strongly about” since the Culture of Respect. He said that it is something that needs to be looked at and worked on in the coming months. “That’s not dropped from our priority list at all. And we have to do something to address that. It’s addressable and there are some issues that, quite honestly, I think something needs to be done about it. Give me some time,” he said.
Another controversial issue on campus this year has been the debates on free speech and open letters that have circulated in recent weeks. It is a topic that McGuire said he hadn’t seen much in all his time here, but it’s something that he definitely to address. He told the Herald, “I know there are a lots of differing perspectives. But we’ve always been – we’ve had our problems – but we’ve always at least listened to each other and had a discussion and not a yelling match or threats… I have confidence that the students themselves can resolve that given the appropriate forums. Maybe the first thing to do when we get back in the fall is to bring some of these groups together and have a conversation about what happened. Usually that hindsight is good because you just have time to digest it all and you have a better perspective.”
Although he was only the job for ten days, McGuire already had started formulating plans to address the various issues that have occurred during the academic year. When asked about how long he plans to be at HWS, McGuire said he goes week by week. He told the Board he would serve until they “figure out what the next step is.” He has no intention to apply for the position of President, but he believes he has an obligation to help move the Colleges forward. He has already begun implementing certain structural things about how education is provided at HWS and is looking forward to the summer where he can begin to dive deep into the issues and be actively involved in the community.
McGuire continued, saying: “I want to be here as long as I can keep it up. I think somebody should be here full time addressing this with a long-term point-of-view. I’m standing, and I know the place, and I think we can do things to move things forward. And I certainly will try with enthusiasm and with the help of my – there are colleagues and friends out there. I intend to try and touch base with them and say, ‘Let’s try to do something here.’ And I think they would respond. I have the utmost respect for our faculty. I’ve seen the kinds of things they’ve done. I’ve kind of said it before that not only do I have an endearing love for the place, but I have a respect for the students that are here and the faculty who are here and what they can do when they are stimulated and when they cooperate.”
With the Commencement ceremony for the Classes of 2018 on the horizon, we discussed Senior Week and how he plans to address the graduates. By the time graduation occurs, McGuire will have been President for thirty days. Most of the seniors will not have met him when he hands them their diploma. But he does plan to address them during the senior dinner and he has plan for the Commencement: President Emeritus Mark Gearan L.H.D. ’17 will be there. McGuire told the Herald Gearan would be there hours before the senior class presidents came to propose the idea. He noted, “He’ll be visible and I think participating as he should. Because those students have known him the longest of the students here. Him and Mary both.”
“You [can] learn from this experience,” McGuire said, referring to Vincent’s resignation which came with a little over month left before Commencement. “This was completely out of the blue. You couldn’t have predicted this. But we’re not stumbling in the dark. We have a mission and a focus here that I have full faith that we will continue what I know Hobart and William Smith is all about.”