Hartley, like UConn seniors, looks to "graduation" (Released: 5/14/96)
by Mark J. Roy, Office of University Communications.
STORRS, Conn. -- "It's a time of uncertainty about the future -- a time to face exciting possibilities -- and a time for changing roles in my career and my life."
The thoughts of a graduating senior? In a way.
Those comments came from University of Connecticut President Harry J. Hartley as he paused for a few moments recently in the hectic closing days of the semester -- his last as president.
When Hartley steps up to the lectern at Commencement, his affinity to the students will be greater than in the past: He, like these students, will be graduating to a new phase of life.
Hartley, who announced his resignation Feb. 14, will leave the presidency some time after July 1, depending on the progress of the search for a new president. After a one-year leave of absence, he will return to teaching in the fall of 1997 in the Department of Educational Leadership.
Even so, he acknowledges there is an air of the unknown as he plans for the future.
"Just like our students, I am facing a future with some uncertainty and many exciting possibilities," Hartley said.
"As a middlescent, I'm just slightly older than the students," he added with a chuckle, drawing a term from Passages author Gail Sheehy, who visited UConn last fall.
And, just like each student, Hartley's name will appear on the diplomas to be handed out -- after this weekend, his signature will have appeared on close to 30,000 of the sheepskins (roughly one out of every five degrees and certificates conferred since the first graduation in 1883).
Hartley said he has "tried to be a student's president, but it's for the students to judge if I've succeeded." A walk across campus with Hartley proves that success, with students walking up to say hello or to chat briefly, or to yell "Go Harry" as he walks by.
At one of the many student events he has attended in recent weeks, he was treated to chants of "four more years, four more years." (He harbors the fear that may happen again when he enters Gampel Pavilion for Commencement -- but he quickly added that his Valentine's Day announcement is irreversible.)
There's both trepidation and excitement about what role he will play as a president emeritus. The last president to return to the faculty was Benjamin F. Koons (who, by the way, was demoted by the Board of Trustees) in 1898. Hartley also is uncertain how long he will continue his faculty role as a University Professor, but, as always, he is "optimistic and upbeat" about what's to come.
"We are architects of our own mid-life. The secret is to do what is fun and to customize your own life cycle," he said.
He noted that while this Commencement is his last as president, it is not his last at UConn. As a member of the faculty he'll attend more Commencement ceremonies. To acknowledge his changing role, he plans to say a few personal words of thanks to the students. Many of those students, because undergraduates now take up to five and six years to complete their degree requirements, have been at UConn during most, if not all, of Hartley's presidency.
Of course, each event he has attended since his announcement in February has been his "last" appearance there as president. At the May presentation of the President's Multicultural and Diversity Awards, Robert Gray, dean of fine arts, paused in his public remarks to acknowledge that fact.
Gray, who chairs the president's committee on diversity, said Hartley will be missed, especially for his dedication to issues of diversity and multiculturalism, but also for all he has done for UConn.
"Harry really cares," Gray told the audience of Hartley's commitment. "We'll never forget you, Harry. You have truly made a difference."