Ten years ago tomorrow, when President Sheldon Hackney took over in College Hall, the University was a very different place. Some people say it was "politicized," not academic. Others blame its "less than worthy" reputation on a lack of resources, faculty and direction. And some people said this week that Hackney changed that all. "The ten years of Sheldon's management have been one of the really great growth periods of the University," Alvin Shoemaker, chairperson of the University's board of Trustees, said this week. During the last decade, the University launched one of the four largest fundraising campaigns in the country. The number of applications increased by over 4000 per year halfway into Hackney's term. And Hackney is often credited with bringing distinguished faculty and administrators to campus. Through extensive planning and a focus on undergraduate education, the University has become a so-called "hot school" for many high school seniors and has developed a reputation as one of the most prestigious universities in the country. "He brought a great deal of stability to the organization of the University and has taken a leadership role in the planning for its future," English Professor Robert Lucid said this week. "I'm an admirer of Sheldon Hackney by and large . . . He's been able to keep the peace with a lot of warlike constituencies." Shoemaker said some of Hackney's early priorities were to improve undergraduate education and to increase the University's financial stability. "He's been extremely good at pulling together the University into a plan for the future," Shoemaker said. "He's met the priorities very successfully." Many people commended Hackney for his choice of top administrators, such as Provost Michael Aiken and Senior Vice President Marna Whittington, saying they have improved the education and opportunities the University can offer to students and faculty. Paul Miller, who was chairperson of the board of trustees that appointed Hackney, said the president's ability to "surround himself with good people" and to be a "quiet leader" attracted the trustees from the start. Miller also said that his "good management" has allowed the University to "get more for our money." Hackney himself said he was proud of the people he selected to occupy the highest positions at the University. He credited Vice President for Development Rick Nahm and Whittington for the success of the capital campaign, and he bestowed credit to Aiken and former Provost Thomas Ehrlich for the improvement of undergraduate education. Nahm, however, said Hackney's presence at the University's helm has made the capital campaign a huge success. The $1 billion campaign is currently four months and $43 million ahead of schedule. Nahm also said annual gifts to the University have increased by over $100 million since 1981. Hackney came to the University from the presidency of Tulane University in New Orleans, where Trustees say he was "very popular" among undergraduates and faculty members. Before that, he served as provost at Princeton University. But the University Trustee's overwhelming support for Hackney in 1980 was overshadowed by great opposition on campus from students and faculty who wanted them to select former Provost Vartan Gregorian as president. Immediately following Hackney's appointment, Gregorian resigned and students rallied in anger at the Trustee's choice. Gregorian, who is currently president of Brown University, was the favored candidate from within the University for months before the Trustees announced their decision. Hackney said this week the campus uproar surprised him and that it was "a painful period." "I was determined to keep my eyes and the eyes of the administration on the goals of the University," Hackney said. "I wanted to simply go on with our plans." And Faculty Senate Chairperson Almarin Phillips this week commended Hackney for doing just that. "He must have been aware of that strong feeling," Phillips said. "But he came in without apology. He came in as Sheldon Hackney to do the job as Sheldon Hackney could do it. That shows courage on his part." While many people praised the president's administrative skills, some said Hackney is not what they expected from a president ten years ago. Some faculty members compared Gregorian's charisma to Hackney's "reserved" manner. And some said they expected a more scholarly outlook from the president of the University. "We were looking for a scholar to bring intellectual excitement onto campus," Faculty Senate Chair-elect Louise Shoemaker said this week. "I think [Hackney's] strengths lie in other directions." Shoemaker said Hackney has made the University into a beautiful urban campus and has "gone after the good people" in faculty and administration. But she added that "most faculty members don't have a sense of what he's really like." Miller said this is only an indication of Hackney's management style, not his ability. "His biggest strength is that he really organizes to get things done, but he doesn't take credit for it himself," Miller said. When asked what he considers to be his contributions to the University, Hackney declines to talk about himself. He prefers instead to "talk about the University's accomplishments as a whole." The ten-year mark is a typical time when many university presidents grow restless and start searching for new venues in academia. As of now, Hackney said he has no plans to vacate his College Hall office, saying he is "interested in seeing the University's goals fulfilled." "If it gets to be humdrum, I'll quit," he added.Comments powered by Disqus
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