Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are private liberal arts colleges in Geneva, New York. They trace their origins to Geneva Academy established in 1797. The colleges offer the degrees of bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and master of arts in teaching.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

MottoHobart: Disce
William Smith: ΒΙΟΣ, ΨΥΧΗ
Motto in English
Hobart: Learn
William Smith: Life, Soul
TypePrivate liberal arts college
EstablishedHobart: 1822
William Smith: 1908
Endowment$230.1 million (2018)[1]
PresidentJoyce P. Jacobsen (July 1, 2019)
Academic staff
214 (full-time)[2]
Undergraduates2,229 [2]
Location, ,
United States
Campussmall town
Orange and Royal Purple          
William Smith:
Emerald Green and White          
AthleticsNCAA Division III,
Liberty League, ECAC, MAISA
NicknameStatesmen (Hobart)
Herons (WS)
AffiliationsAnnapolis Group
New York 6

The colleges were originally separate institutions - Hobart College for men and William Smith College for women - that shared close bonds and a contiguous campus. In 1943, William Smith College was elevated from its original status as a department of Hobart College to an independent college and the two colleges established a joint corporate identity. They are officially chartered as "Hobart and William Smith Colleges" and informally referred to as "HWS" or "the Colleges." Although united in one corporation with many shared resources and overlapping organization, they have each retained their own traditions.


Hobart and William Smith Colleges, private colleges in Geneva, New York, began on the western frontier as the Geneva Academy. After some setbacks and disagreement among trustees, the academy suspended operations in 1817. By the time Bishop John Henry Hobart, of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, first visited the city of Geneva in 1818, the doors of Geneva Academy had just closed. Yet, Geneva was a bustling Upstate New York city on the main land and stage coach route to the West. Bishop Hobart had a plan to reopen the academy at a new location, raise a public subscription for the construction of a stone building, and elevate the school to college status. Roughly following this plan, Geneva Academy reopened as Geneva College in 1822 with conditional grant funds made available from Trinity Church in New York City. Geneva College was renamed Hobart College in 1852 in honor of its founder, Bishop Hobart.

William Smith College was founded in 1908, originally as William Smith College for Women. Its namesake and founder was a wealthy local nurseryman, benefactor of the arts and sciences, and philanthropist. The school arose from negotiations between William Smith, who sought to establish a women's college, and Hobart College President Langdon C. Stewardson, who sought to redirect Smith's philanthropy towards Hobart College. Smith, however, was intent on establishing a coordinate, nonsectarian women's college, which, when realized, coincidentally gave Hobart access to new facilities and professors. The two student bodies were educated separately in the early years, even though William Smith College was a department of Hobart College for organizational purposes until 1943. That year, after a gradual relaxation of academic separation, William Smith College was formally recognized as an independent college, co-equal with Hobart. Both colleges were reflected in a new, joint corporate identity.

Early History and Growth

Geneva Academy

Geneva Academy was founded in 1796 when Geneva was just a small frontier settlement. It is believed to be the first school formed in Geneva.[3] The area was considered "the gateway to Genesee County" and was in the early stages of development from the wilderness.[4] Geneva Academy was founded by Rev. Henry Axtell. On May 3, 1796, a special meeting was held, as recorded in town of Seneca records, and three commissioners were chosen to receive the moneys granted by the state for the "use of schools."[4]

In 1809, the trustees of the academy announced the engagement of the Rev. Andrew Wilson, formerly of the University of Glasgow in Scotland as head of the school.[3] He remained until 1812 when Ransom Hubell, a graduate of Union College, was made principal.[3] The academy was granted a charter on March 29, 1813.[3] In 1817, Hubbell was succeeded by the Rev. John S. Cook. On December 8, 1817, due to some "differences of feeling,"[3] a meeting of the board of trustees was held and it was decided the academy operations should be suspended. A committee was appointed consisting of the Rev. Henry Axtell, James Carter, and David Cook, to take charge of the school building and allow use by "any respectable teacher" until the trustees came to a decision and resumed their duties.[3]

The first meeting after the suspension took place on March 6, 1821. It was called by trustee James Rees to announce Trinity Church in New York City had bequeathed an endowment of $750 per annum to the school, specifically for the support of an academy at Fairfield, New York.[3] One of the conditions of the grant from Trinity Church was Geneva residents should erect a building for the accommodation of the "Branch Theological School." Another stipulation required the site location be chosen by Bishop Hobart.[3] Agreeable to the resolution, the bishop viewed several sites in Geneva and on March 17, 1821, he communicated to the trustees his selection of the college site.[3] The Rev. Daniel McDonald D.D., formerly principal of the Fairfield Academy, was appointed principal of Geneva Academy.[3] The academy reopened its doors on April 25, 1821, in a frame schoolhouse erected in 1817 in the rear of Trinity Church in Geneva.[3]

Early pioneers felt the need of "education advantages" beyond what the academy could provide. At the request of Trinity Church,[3] they began raising funds using voluntary labor and subscription. "They boldly built Geneva Hall before they applied to the state for a charter."[4] By the spring of 1822,[3] sufficient community funds had been raised to complete Geneva Hall, a stone structure still in use today.

Geneva College

On April 10, 1822, Geneva College received a provisional charter. The State Regents of New York demanded the accumulation of funds yielding $4,000 per year before a permanent charter was granted. The college was accorded a three-year grace period to meet this requirement.[4]

The Regents granted the full charter on February 8, 1825, and at that time, Geneva Academy officially changed its name to Geneva College.[3] Rev. J. Adams was president of the college as of 1827.

Creative financing by the founders of Geneva College plagued their successors for several decades. In a marketing effort, the founders sent agents selling certificates, which for $100 entitled "the subscriber, his heirs and assigns, to the privilege of sending one student to the Geneva Academy (or to Geneva College) for 20 years, commencing from the date hereof or any time he choose."[4]

The certificates became known as "The Little Old Men of the Sea," because decade after decade they were turned in for redemption and caused much consternation for the college fathers. Times changed and the cost of education and the cost of living in Geneva soared, leaving quite a financial burden for the school. The last certificate showed up in 1930 and was honored by Hobart College.[4]

In 1824, a course in "practical business" was instituted, a creative concept during those days. "In direct reference to the practical business of life by which the Agricultural, the Merchant and the Mechanic may receive a practical knowledge of what genius and experience have discovered without passing through a tedious course of Classical Studies."[4] This course was in addition to the traditional college program.[4]

The "English Course," as it was known, was a radical departure from long established educational usage and represented the beginning of the college work pattern found today.[4]

Geneva Medical College

Geneva Medical College was founded on September 15, 1834, as a separate department (college) of Geneva College. The medical school was founded by Edward Cutbush, who also served as the first dean for the school.[4] By 1871, Hobart College had disbanded the medical school and sold its library, anatomical specimens, and other tangible assets to Dean John Towler, who donated them to Syracuse University on condition the trustees immediately establish an American Medical Association-approved medical school. Thus the Syracuse University College of Medicine came into being on December 4, 1871, with Frederick Hyde as dean.[5]

The period of greatest prosperity for the school occurred between the years 1840 to 1850. During that time, 596 physicians graduated from the college.[3] The college conferred its final medical degree in 1872.

Elizabeth Blackwell

In an era when the prevailing conventional wisdom was no woman could withstand the intellectual and emotional rigors of a medical education, Elizabeth Blackwell, (1821–1910) applied to and was rejected – or simply ignored – by 29 medical schools before being admitted in 1847 to the Medical Institution of Geneva College.[6]

The medical faculty, largely opposed to her admission but seemingly unwilling to take responsibility for the decision, decided to submit the matter to a vote of the students. The men of the College voted to admit her.[7]

Blackwell graduated two years later, on January 23, 1849, at the top of her class to become the first woman doctor in the Northern hemisphere.[6] "The occasion marked the culmination of years of trial and disappointment for Miss Blackwell, and was a key event in the struggle for the emancipation of women in the nineteenth century in America."[6]

Blackwell went on to found the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and had a role in the creation of its medical college.[6] She then returned to her native England and helped found the National Health Society and taught at the first college of medicine for women to be established there.

Hobart College

The school was known as Geneva College until 1852, when it was renamed in memory of its most forceful advocate and founder, Bishop Hobart, to Hobart Free College. In 1860, the name was shortened to Hobart College.[4]

Hobart College of the 19th century was the first American institution of higher learning to establish a three-year "English Course" of study to educate young men destined for such practical occupations as "journalism, agriculture, merchandise, mechanism, and manufacturing", while at the same time maintaining a traditional four-year "classical course" for those intending to enter "the learned professions." It also was the first college in America to have a Dean of the College.

Notable 19th-century alumni included Albert James Myer, Class of 1847, a military officer assigned to run the United States Weather Bureau at its inception, was a founding member of the International Meteorological Organization, and helped birth the U.S. Signal Corps, and for whom Fort Myer, Virginia, is named; General E. S. Bragg of the Class of 1848, colonel of the Sixth Wisconsin Regiment and a brigadier general in command of the Iron Brigade who served one term in Congress and later was ambassador to Mexico and consul general of the U.S. in Cuba; two other 1848 graduates, Clarence A. Seward[8] and Thomas M. Griffith, who were assistant secretary of state and builder of the first national railroad across the Mississippi River, respectively; and Charles J. Folger, Class of 1836, a United States Secretary of the Treasury in the 1880s.

Until the mid-20th century, Hobart was strongly affiliated with the Episcopal Church and produced many of its clergy. While this affiliation continues to the present, the last Episcopal clergyman to serve as President of Hobart (1956–1966) was Louis Melbourne Hirshson. Since then, the president of the colleges has been a layperson.

During World War II, Hobart College was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[9]

Founding of William Smith College

Toward the end of the 19th century, Hobart College was on the brink of bankruptcy. It was through the presidency of Langdon Stewardson the college obtained a new donor, nurseryman William Smith. Smith had built the Smith Opera House in downtown Geneva and the Smith Observatory on his property when he became interested in founding a college for women, a plan he pursued to the point of breaking ground before realizing it was beyond his means. As publicized in The College Signal on October 7, 1903, "William Smith, a millionaire nurseryman, will found and endow a college for women at Geneva, N. Y., to be known as the William Smith College for Women The institution will be in the most beautiful section. One building is to cost $150,000. Mr. Smith maintains the Smith observatory there."[10] In 1903, Hobart College President Langdon C. Stewardson learned of Smith's interest and, for two years, attempted to convince him to make Hobart College the object of his philanthropy. With enrollments down and its resources strained, Hobart's future depended upon an infusion of new funds. Unable to convince Smith to provide direct assistance to Hobart, President Stewardson redirected the negotiations toward founding a coordinate institution for women, a plan that appealed to the philanthropist. On December 13, 1906, he formalized his intentions; two years later William Smith School for Women – a coordinate, nonsectarian women's college – enrolled its first class of 18 students. That charter class grew to 20 members before its graduation in 1912.

In addition, Smith's gift made possible construction of the Smith Hall of Science, to be used by both colleges, and permitted the hiring, also in 1908, of three new faculty members who would teach in areas previously unavailable in the curriculum: biology, sociology, and psychology.

World War II

Between 1943 and 1945, Hobart College trained almost 1,000 men in the U.S. Navy's V-12 program, many of whom returned to complete their college educations when the post-World War II GI Bill swelled the enrollments of American colleges and universities. In 1948, three of those veterans – William F. Scandling, Harry W. Anderson, and W. P. Laughlin – took over operation of the Hobart dining hall. Their fledgling business was expanded the next year to include William Smith College; after their graduation, in 1949, it grew to serve other colleges and universities across the country, eventually becoming Saga Corporation, a nationwide provider of institutional food services.


An aerial view of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus and Seneca Lake.


Hobart and William Smith Colleges' campus is situated on 170 acres (0.69 km2) in Geneva, New York, along the shore of Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. The campus is notable for the style of Jacobean architecture represented by many of its buildings, notably Coxe Hall, which houses the President's Office and other administrative departments. In contrast, the earliest buildings and the chapel are Gothic in style.

The Quad, the core of the Hobart campus, was formed by the construction of Medbery, Coxe, and Demarest. Several years later, Arthur Nash, a Hobart professor, designed Williams Hall, which would be constructed in the gap between Medbery and Coxe. The Quad is formed to the east by Trinity and Geneva Hall, the two original College buildings, and to the south by the Science compound, and Napier Hall. Geneva Hall (1822) and Trinity Hall (1837) were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.[11] In 2016, the schools announced they were going solar by building two solar farms to create enough electricity for about 50 percent of HWS' needs.[12]

The Hill (or William Smith Hill) is a prominent feature of the historic William Smith campus. Located at the top of a large sloping hill to the West of Seneca Lake and the Hobart Quad, the Hill houses three historic William Smith dorms, and one built in the 1960s (Comstock, Miller, Blackwell, and Hirshson Houses). At its peak resides William Smith's all female dorms. The Hill was the site originally conceived for William Smith College. Unveiled in 2008 for the William Smith Centennial is a statue of the college's founder and benefactor, William Smith.

A 15 million dollar expansion of the Scandling Campus Center was completed in autumn 2008. This renovation added over 17,000 additional square feet, including an expanded cafe, a new post office, and more meeting areas. In 2016 the Gearan Center for Performing Arts was completed at a cost of 28 million dollars; the largest project in the history of the colleges.

Key buildings

Coxe Hall, serves as the main administrative hub of campus. Constructed in 1901, the building is named after Bishop Arthur Clevland Coxe, a benefactor of the school, and houses the president's office, Bartlett Theater, The Pub, and a classroom wing, which was added in the 1920s. Arthur Cleveland Coxe was closely affiliated with the school. The building was designed by Clinton and Russell Architects.

Gearan Center for the Performing Arts, named in honor of President Mark D Gearan and Mary Herlihy Gearan, was in 2016. It includes a lobby that links three flexible performance and rehearsal spaces for theater, music and dance. Also included are faculty offices, practice and recital rooms and a film screening room.

Scandling Campus Center, named after William F. Scandling '49, renovated and expanded in 2009, houses Saga (the dining hall), the post office, offices of student activities, a cafe, and Vandervort room (a large event space).

Gulick Hall, was built in 1951 as part of the post-war "mini-boom" that also included the construction of the Hobart "mini-quad" dormitories Durfee, Bartlett, and Hale (each named for a 19th-century Hobart College president). Gulick Hall originally housed the campus dining services and, later, the Office of the Registrar. Completely renovated in 1991, Gulick now houses both the Office of the Registrar and the Psychology department, which was moved from Smith Hall in 1991 prior to its renovation in 1992.

Stern Hall, named for the lead donor, Herbert J. Stern '58, was completed in 2004. It houses the departments of economics, political science, anthropology & sociology, environmental studies and Asian languages and cultures.

Smith Hall, built in 1907, originally housed both the Biology and Psychology Departments. It is now home to the Dean's Offices of both colleges, along with the departmental offices of Writing and Rhetoric and the various modern language departments. Smith Hall was the first building constructed with funds from William Smith on the William Smith College campus, but it is also the first building that has always been shared by both colleges.

Williams Hall, completed in 1907, housed the first campus gymnasium and, after the construction of Bristol gymnasium, served several other lives as campus post office, book store, IT services and location of the Music Department.

Demarest Hall, connected to St. John's Chapel by St. Mark's Tower, houses the departments of Religious Studies and English and Comparative Literature as well as the Women's Studies Program. Also home to the Blackwell Room, named in honor of Elizabeth Blackwell (once used as study area and library, the space is now used for classrooms in the absence of more intentional planning for classroom space), Demarest was designed by Richard Upjohn's son, Richard M. Upjohn. (Upjohn's grandson, Hobart Upjohn would design several of the College's buildings as well). Demarest served as the College's library until the construction of the Warren Hunting Smith Library in the early 1970s. In the 1960s it was expanded to hold the College's growing number of volumes. Today, it also houses the Fisher Center for the Study of Gender and Justice, an intellectual center led by such scholar faculty as Dunbar Moodie (Sociology), and Betty Bayer (Women's Studies).

Trinity Hall built in 1837, was the second of the colleges' buildings. Trinity Hall was designed by college president Benjamin Hale, who taught architecture. Trinity served as a dormitory and a library, but it was converted into a space for classrooms, labs, and offices later in the 19th century. It presently is home to the Salisbury Center for Career Services.

Merrit Hall, completed in 1879, was built on the ruins of the old medical college. Merrit was the first science building on campus and housed the chemistry labs. Merrit also housed a clock atop the quad side of the building. On the eve of the Hobart centennial in 1922, students climbed to the top and made the bell strike 100 times. Merrit Hall was also one of the first buildings shared by Hobart and William Smith. Today Merrit Hall houses a lecture hall and faculty offices. St. John's Chapel, designed by Richard Upjohn the architect of Trinity Church in New York City, served as the religious hub of the campus, replacing Polynomous, the original campus chapel. In the 1960s, St. John's was connected to Demarest Hall by St. Marks Tower.

Houghton House, the mansion, known for its Victorian elements, is home to the Art and Architecture departments. The country mansion was built, in the 1880s by William J. King. It was purchased in 1901 by the wife of Charles Vail (maiden name Helen Houghton), Hobart graduate and professor, as the family's summer home. Mrs. Vail remodeled the Victorian mansion's interior to the present classical decor in 1913. The family's "town home" is 624 S. Main Street and is now the Sigma Phi fraternity. Helen Vail's heirs donated the house and its grounds to the colleges to be used as a woman's dormitory. After many years as a student dorm, the house became home to the art department after the original art studio was razed to make way for the new Scandling Campus Center. The building is now home to the Davis Art Gallery, with lecture rooms, multiple faculty offices, and architecture studios on the top floor.

Katherine D. Elliot Hall, was constructed in 2006. The "Elliot" houses 14,600 square feet (1,360 m2) contains art classrooms; offices; studios for painting, photography, and printing; and wood and metal shops.

Goldstein Family Carriage House, was built by William J. King in 1882 and was renovated in 2006 to house a digital imaging lab and a photo studio with a darkroom for black-and-white photography.

Warren Hunting Smith Library, in the center of the campus, houses 385,000 volumes, 12,000 periodicals, and more than 8,000 VHS and DVD videos. In 1997, the library underwent a major renovation, undergoing several improvements, such as the addition of multimedia centers, and the addition to its south side of the L. Thomas Melly Academic Center, a spacious, modern location for "round the clock" study.

Napier Hall, attached to the Rosenberg Hall, houses several classrooms and was completed in 1994.

Rosenberg Hall, named for Henry A. Rosenberg (Hobart '52), is an annex of Lansing and Eaton Hall, the original science buildings. Rosenberg houses many labs and offices.

Lansing Hall, built in 1954, is home to Sciences and Mathematics. The building is named for John Ernest Lansing, Professor of Chemistry (1905–1948), who twice served as acting president.

Eaton Hall, is named for Elon Howard Eaton, Professor of Biology (1908–1935). Eaton, one of New York's outstanding ornithologists, was one of the professors brought to campus with William Smith grant funds. Eaton Hall is a part of the science complex at the south end of the Hobart Quad, which consists of Lansing, Rosenberg, and Napier.


Men's dorms

Geneva Hall, built in 1822, is the college's first building, and the cornerstone site designated by the School's founder, Bishop John Henry Hobart. The building is one of the oldest academic building in continuous use, having served as a dormitory, among other uses, since its completion. The building has inscribed into its quoins, and alongside the perimeter of its facade, plaques which list the graduates of classes dating back to the 19th century.

The Mini Quad, consisting of three buildings, Durfee, Hale, and Bartlett, houses about 150 Hobart students. Since the 2006 academic year, the dorms have become coeducational, with at least one floor housing William Smith Students.

Hale Hall is named for Benjamin Hale, president of Hobart College from 1836 to 1858.

Bartlett Hall was named after the Reverend Murray Bartlett, who served as fourteenth president of Hobart College from 1919 to 1936

Durfee Hall was named after William Pitt Durfee, who from 1884 to 1929 served as Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Mathematics Department. He was the first dean of a liberal arts college and served as acting president of the Colleges four times.

Women's dorms

Blackwell House was designed and built in 1860 by Richard Upjohn as a residence for William Douglass, who served as a trustee of Hobart College. The house was purchased in 1908 as the first William Smith dormitory. The house still houses William Smith students and is known for its grand Victorian features from fireplaces, to chandeliers, to large old windows. Though rarely recognized as such, the house is named for Elizabeth Blackwell, an early graduate of what became the Colleges.

Comstock House was designed by Richard Upjohn's grandson, Hobart Upjohn, in 1932. Comstock is a women's dormitory named for Anna Botsford Comstock, friend of William Smith and the first woman to be named a member of the Board of Trustees.

Miller House was William Smith College's second dormitory. Miller was designed by Arthur Nash, professor and grandson of Arthur Cleveland Coxe. Nash also designed Smith Hall and Williams Hall. This house honors Elizabeth Smith Miller, a leader in the women's movement.

Hirshson House, completed in 1962, was named for the president of the colleges, Louis Melbourne Hirshson, the last Episcopal clergy person to serve in that capacity. The building is home to William Smith students.

Coed dorms

Medbery Hall is an original Hobart College dorm dating from the 1900. Medbery defines the right side of the Hobart Quadrangle. Designed by Clinton and Russell architects at the same time as Coxe Hall, the two buildings share similarity in their Jacobean Gothic style. Medbery is adorned with a recognizable Flemish roofline. Medbery was designed without long hallways "conductive to rioting" and mischief, such as rolling a cannonball down the hallway. Such mischief was experienced in the other two dormitories on campus, Geneva and Trinity Halls.

Jackson, Potter, Rees, together known as JPR for short (and once dubbed "superdorm"), the three identical buildings create their own quad in the south end of campus. The dorms were built in 1966 and are named after various historical figures of Hobart College. The complex houses about 230 first-year and upper class Hobart and William Smith students. The building was completely renovated in 2005 to include quad living spaces (two double bed rooms connected by a common living room) and open lounge spaces and lounges on every floor.

Jackson Hall is named for Abner Jackson, president of the Hobart in the middle of the 19th century. Jackson would go on to become president of Trinity College in Connecticut, where he would be the principal designer of its present campus.

Rees Hall is named for Major James Rees, an early settler and landowner in Geneva and an acquaintance of George Washington.

Potter Hall is named for John Milton Potter, President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges from 1942 to 1947.

The Village at Odell's Pond is a collection of apartment style dorms available to upperclassmen at the colleges. The units have either four or five bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen.

Emerson Hall was built in 1969. The rooms are designed as suites, with two doubles and two singles and a common living room and bathroom.

Caird Hall was built, along with deCordova, in 2005. The dorm has provisions for singles, doubles, and quads, and is often desired by students due to the separate temperature controls in each room. The ground floor hosts a lounge area with both gaming and fitness equipment for students.

deCordova Hall was built, along with Caird, in 2005. The dorm has provisions for singles, doubles, and quads, and is often desired by students due to the separate temperature controls in each room. The ground floor has a lounge area for students, as well as the deCordova cafe.

The surrounding ecosystem plays a major role in the Colleges' curriculum and acquisitions. The Colleges own the 108-acre (0.44 km2) Hanley Biological Field Station and Preserve on neighboring Cayuga Lake and hosts the Finger Lakes Institute, a non-profit institute focusing on education and ecological preservation for the Finger Lakes area.

On Seneca Lake one will find the William Scandling, a Hobart and William Smith 65-foot (20 m) research vessel used to monitor lake conditions and in the conduct of student and faculty research.

The Colleges also own and operate WEOS-FM and WHWS-LP, public radio stations broadcasting throughout the Finger Lakes and worldwide, on the web.


Hobart and William Smith Colleges offer the degrees of bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and Master of Arts in Teaching. The colleges follow the semester calendar, have a student to faculty ratio of 10:1 and average class size of 16. Hobart and William Smith Colleges are accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and The University of the State of New York


The curriculum was last reviewed and revised in the 2014-15 academic year. Voted on by the faculty, the curriculum adopted the animating principle: Explore. Collaborate. Act. The revisions also adopted a Writing Enriched Curriculum model, the implementation of capstone experiences across all programs and departments and enhanced the First Year Experience.[14] Specifically, to graduate from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, students must:

  • Pass 32 academic courses, including a First-Year Seminar
  • Complete the requirements for an academic major, including a capstone course or experience, and an academic minor (or second major). Students cannot major and minor in the same subject.
  • Complete a course of study, designed in consultation with a faculty adviser, which addresses each of the eight educational goals:
  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
  4. Scientific Inquiry
  5. Artistic Process
  6. Social Inequalities
  7. Cultural Difference
  8. Ethical Judgment

First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminars are discussion-centered, interdisciplinary and collaborative. The only required course at HWS, seminar classes are small – usually about 15 students. Through the First-Year Seminar students:

  1. Develop critical thinking and communication skills
  2. Understand the Colleges’ intellectual and ethical values
  3. Establish a strong network of relationships with peers and mentors

Seminar topics vary each year, as do the professors who teach them. A sampling of past First-Year Seminar titles are below:

  • First Person Singular
  • Britpop: From Beatles to Brexit
  • Monkeys, Morality & the Mind
  • Why are Some Countries Rich?
  • Face to Face: Interrogating Race
  • Rock Music and American Masculinities
  • Metacognition & Social Justice
  • Sustainable Living and Learning
  • Golf Course Architecture: Literature, History and Theory
  • Paris, Je T’Aime
  • Country Music and American Society
  • The Lens of Stand-Up Comedy
  • Madness in History, Culture & Science
  • Eat Like A Slav
  • Whales and Dolphins
  • Build Your Own Westeros

Many First-Year Seminars are linked to a Learning Community. Students enrolled in a Learning Community take one or more courses together. They also live together on the same floor of a co-ed residence hall and attend some of the same lectures and field trips.[15]

Global Education

More than 60% of Hobart and William Smith students participate in off-campus study before they graduate.[16] The Colleges maintain a robust menu of programs, 50+ sites on 6 continents, offering a wide array of options in different academic disciplines around the world.[17] Admission to these programs is competitive.

In the 2020 edition of The Princeton Review’s Best 385 Colleges, Hobart and William Smith Colleges study abroad program is ranked third on the “Most Popular Study Abroad” list[18], marking four years in a row that HWS has been a top-10 study abroad school (No. 7 in 2017 and No. 1 in the 2018 and 2019 editions).

President Joyce P. Jacobsen

On July 1, 2019, Joyce P. Jacobsen began serving as the 29th President of Hobart College and the 18th of William Smith College. She is the first woman to serve as president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.[19]


University rankings
Forbes[20] 190
Times/WSJ[21] 143
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[22] 72
Washington Monthly[23] 46

In its 2020 edition, U.S. News & World Report ranks Hobart and William Smith Colleges as tied for 72nd best liberal arts college in the U.S. and tied for 60th in "Best Undergraduate Teaching".[24]

In 2019, Forbes rated it 190th overall in "America's Top Colleges," which ranked 650 national universities, liberal arts colleges and service academies.

Trias Writers-in-Residence

Founded in 2011 with a grant from alumnus Peter Trias, Hobart and William Smith Colleges established the Trias Writer-in-Residence, which brings renowned authors to campus for a year to mentor undergraduate creative writing students. Former writers in residence have included Mary Ruefle, Mary Gaitskill, Tom Piazza, Chris Abani, and John D'Agata.

Elizabeth Blackwell Award

In honor of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), the first woman in America to receive the Doctor of Medicine degree, the Elizabeth Blackwell Award is given by Hobart and William Smith Colleges to a woman whose life exemplifies outstanding service to humanity. Its recipients have included Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen (2015); the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori (2013); Eunice Kennedy Shriver (2011); first woman ordained a rabbi in the United States, Rabbi Sally Priesand (2009); Wangari Maathai (2008), first African woman to receive the Nobel Prize; the first woman to be ordained to the episcopate in the worldwide Anglican Communion, Bishop Barbara Harris (2004); Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (2001); tennis great Billie Jean King (1998); Wilma Mankiller (1996), first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation; U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan (1993); U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith (1991); former Surgeon General Antonia Novello (1991); Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (1985); Fe del Mundo, the first Asian woman admitted to Harvard Medical School (1966); Miki Sawada, who started an orphanage for abandoned mixed-race children (1960); among many others.[25]

President's Forum

Each semester, Hobart and William Smith sponsors a series of guest lectures. The most prominent has been the President's Forum, established in 2000 and led by former president Mark Gearan. The forum has included The Hon. Shireen Avis Fisher, Nancy Zimpher, Mary Matalin and James Carville, Kathy Platoni, Svante Myrick, Cornel West, Ralph Nader, Hillary Clinton, Eric Liu, and Alan Keyes, among other prominent names.


Seneca Review, founded in 1970 by James Crenner and Ira Sadoff, is published twice yearly, spring and fall, by Hobart and William Smith Colleges Press. Distributed internationally, the magazine's emphasis is poetry, and the editors have a special interest in translations of contemporary poetry from around the world. Publisher of numerous laureates and award-winning poets, including Seamus Heaney, Rita Dove, Jorie Graham, Yusef Komunyakaa, Lisel Mueller, Wislawa Szymborska, Charles Simic, W.S. Merwin, and Eavan Boland, Seneca Review also consistently publishes emerging writers. In 1997, Seneca Review began publishing the "lyric essay," creative nonfiction that borders on poetry, under the associate editorship of John D'Agata.

Echo and Pine is the annual student-produced college yearbook. Originally two separate publications, the Hobart Echo of Seneca, and the William Smith Pine, the two merged in the 1960s to create one publication to serve both colleges.

The Herald is the student-run school newspaper, founded in the late 19th century as the Hobart Herald.

The Pulteney St. Survey is the official magazine of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

martini is the alternative student publication at Hobart & William Smith Colleges featuring an oftentimes witty and critical look at music, politics and social issues on both the Colleges' campus and on the national level.

Thel provides an outlet for HWS student artists and writers. The bi-annual, student-run publication features poetry, photography, visual art and short stories created by HWS students.

The Aleph is a journal that expresses global perspectives by conveying the insights of HWS and Union College students who studied abroad in joint programs as well as international and exchange students from both campuses. The journal is sponsored by the Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Union College Partnership for Global Education.


The HWS Debate Team dates back over 100 years. Notable recent victories include the 2016 Cornell IV, the 2015 Brad Smith Debate Tournament @ University of Rochester, the 2012 US National Championships, and the 2012 and 2009 Northeastern Regional Championship. The team hosts the HWS IV (one of the largest tournaments in North America) each fall, and the HWS Round Robin (an international tournament of champions) each spring. Every year, an HWS debater is honored with the Nathan D. Lapham Prize in Public Speaking, which comes with a cash award of up to $1000 to the student. HWS is among the few liberal-arts colleges to offer numerous four-year debate scholarships.


Hobart and William Smith has a number of ensemble groups[26], including:

Colleges Chorale, a mixed ensemble which performs a wide range of a cappella choral repertoire — music from the Middle Ages to the present. In addition to a formal concert at the end of each semester and the annual spring tour, the Colleges Chorale performs at various campus events throughout the year.

Cantori is a chamber vocal ensemble comprising members from the larger Colleges Chorale. Since the group's formation in 1993, the sixteen-member Cantori has sought to foster contemporary choral music through the Cantori Commissioning Project – the annual commissioning and performance of a new work by a deserving American composer.

Classical Guitar Ensemble - a student group providing a performance opportunity for talented student guitarists.

Community Chorus - students, faculty and staff at the Colleges, and members from the surrounding community. The fifty-voice ensemble performs major works from the standard repertoire as well as lesser-known works deserving wider familiarity. Recent programs have included extended works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Gabriel Fauré, Ottorino Respighi, Sir Edward Elgar, Aaron Copland, Benjamin Britten, and Randall Thompson.

Community Wind Ensemble - students, faculty and staff at the Colleges, and members from the surrounding community. This relatively new ensemble looks forward to exploring the rich and diverse repertoire composed for wind ensemble.

Jazz Ensemble - a student group providing a performance opportunity for talented student jazzers. Arrangements are found to accommodate a variety of instrumental combinations.

Jazz Guitar Ensemble - a student group providing a performance opportunity for talented student jazz guitarists.

Percussion Ensemble - a student group providing a performance opportunity for talented student percussionists, although students with minimal experience are encouraged to audition.

String Ensemble - a student chamber group providing a performance opportunity for talented string players.

Hobartones - Hobart College's student-run all-male a cappella group.

Three Miles Lost - William Smith College's student-run all-female a cappella group

Perfect Third - HWS's student run, coed a cappella group.

Coordinate system

Founded as two separate colleges, Hobart for men in 1822 and William Smith for women in 1908, Hobart and William Smith Colleges preserve their own identities while benefiting from a shared campus, faculty, administration and curriculum. The Colleges welcome students of all gender identities.

The two colleges combined gradually. In 1922, the first joint commencement was held, though baccalaureate services remained separate until 1942. By then, coeducational classes had become the norm, and the curriculum centered on the idea of an across-the-board education, encouraging students and faculty to consider their studies from several points of view. In 1943, during the administration of President John Milton Potter, William Smith College was elevated from its original status as a department of Hobart College to that of an independent college, on equal footing with Hobart. Today, Hobart and William Smith students retain their own deans, athletic departments and student governments. Each college celebrates its history through a series of time-honored traditions beginning when each student matriculates and lasting through graduation. The Colleges celebrate their position as one of the few remaining coordinate systems in the nation.[27]

Coordinate Traditions

Matriculation Exercises

Upon arriving to campus for Orientation, students and their families are personally greeted by the president before signing their name in the matriculation book. On the eve of the first day of classes, new students are invited to attend matriculation ceremonies hosted by the Dean’s Offices.

Academic Excellence

The Hobart and William Smith Dean’s Offices recognize the academic and social achievements of their students at celebratory events each spring semester.

  • Benjamin Hale Dinner - Students and distinguished alumni come together to recognize the best of Hobart student achievements.
  • Celebrating Excellence Dinner - The academic achievements of William Smith students are recognized and new members of the Laurel Honor Society are inducted.
  • Moving Up Day - Students gather by class at the top of William Smith Hill and process down The Hill with the seniors carrying a laurel rope. The event culminates with the passing of the laurel from the seniors to the juniors and all students “Moving Up.” Academic awards are given, new members of the Hai Timiai Honor Society are inducted and the Dean reflects on the year.

Honoring the Colleges' Founders

In honor of John Henry Hobart and William Smith, the community gathers each year to mark the founding of Hobart College and William Smith College.

  • Charter Day - The campus community commemorates the founding of Hobart College and the day on which a provisional charter from the State Regents of New York officially brought the college into being. New inductees are welcomed to the Hobart honor societies and a distinguished alum is invited to speak.
  • Founder’s Day - Students, alumnae, administrators and faculty members gather to celebrate the establishment of William Smith College and the achievements of its students. A notable William Smith alum addresses the community and engages in a public dialogue.

Alumni/ae Welcome

Hosted by the Alumni and Alumnae Associations, soon-to-be graduates are officially welcomed into the alum community during graduation weekend.

  • Hobart Launch - Each member of the Hobart class is given an oar in celebration of their alma mater, its heritage and the promise of a reciprocal lifelong bond.
  • William Smith Welcome Toast - The William Smith seniors are toasted by the alumnae, plant a class pine tree and each member receives a pine tree charm in honor of the College’s nurseryman founder.


Varsity sports

There are 23 varsity sports at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, with about 25% of students involved at the varsity level. Hobart sponsors 11 varsity programs (basketball, cross country, football, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, sailing, soccer, squash, tennis), while William Smith also sponsors 12 varsity programs (basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, sailing, soccer, squash, swimming & diving, tennis). Hobart and William Smith varsity teams have won 23 national championships and 104 conference championships, producing 665 All-Americans and 43 Academic All-America honorees.[28][29][30] In March 2017, Hobart and William Smith were named to the "100 Best Colleges for Sports Lovers" by Money and Sports Illustrated.[31]


Originally known as the Hobart Deacons, Hobart's athletic teams became known as the "Statesmen" in 1936, following the football team's season opener against Amherst College. The morning after the game, The New York Times referred to the team as "the statesmen from Geneva," and the name stuck. The nickname for William Smith's athletic teams comes from a contest held in 1982. Several names were submitted, but "Herons" was selected because of the strong and graceful birds that lived at nearby Odell's Pond. These ominous birds frequently flew over the athletic fields as the teams were practicing.


The colleges compete in NCAA Division III, with the exception of men's lacrosse, which competes in the Division I Northeast Conference. The colleges' main conference affiliation is with the Liberty League with the following exceptions: Hobart ice hockey competes in the New England Hockey Conference; Hobart lacrosse competes in the Northeast Conference; William Smith ice hockey competes in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference; and the William Smith golf team is an independent.


Hobart and William Smith recently finished construction on the Caird Center for Sports and Recreation, which is now home to most of its athletics teams.


Offensive linesman Ali Marpet, drafted in the 2nd round, 61st overall, of the 2015 NFL draft, is the highest-drafted pick in the history of Division III football.[32] He was three-time All-Liberty League first team (2012, 2013, 2014), and 2014 Liberty League Co-Offensive Player of the Year—the first offensive lineman in league history to be so honored.[33][34][35] The Statesmen lacrosse team has compiled fifteen national championships (1 USILA, 2 NCAA Division II, and 13 NCAA Division III).

Field hockey

The William Smith field hockey team has captured three national championships, ascending to the top of Division III in 1992, 1997 and 2000.


The lone coed team, the HWS sailing team is a member of the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association. In 2005, the Colleges won the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association Team Race National Championship and the ICSA Coed Dinghy National Championship.


The William Smith soccer team was the first Heron squad to capture a national championship, winning the 1988 title bout with a 1–0 victory over University of California, San Diego.[36][37]


The Hobart Crew team has also found success, earning gold medals at the Head of The Charles Regatta, the ECAC National Invitational Regatta (most recently a gold in the 2nd varsity 8+ over the "Hometown Boys" of WPI in 2015), and the IRA National Championships. While the Hobart Crew team has won gold in every event they have entered since the inception of rowing as a Liberty League Sport, they failed to win the team championships only once (2004.) The eventual champions, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, were known for having a large team and only able to defeat the Statesmen by securing a win in the 2nd Varsity 8+ – the only event that Hobart did not have an entry. However, over the past few seasons Hobart has fielded one of the most dominant 2nd Varsity 8's in school history. The Crew Team took part in the Henley Royal Regatta in Henley, England in the summer of 2011, as well as the summer of 2015.[38]


Hobart's archrival in football is Union College in Schenectady, New York. Other team rivalries include Rensselaer (football, basketball); Rochester (football); Elmira and Manhattanville (hockey); Cornell (one of the oldest in lacrosse) and St. John Fisher College in Victor, NY, Syracuse and Georgetown (lacrosse); and Michigan (crew). William Smith has rivalries with St. Lawrence (lacrosse, basketball, field hockey), Union (soccer, field hockey, basketball, lacrosse), Hamilton (field hockey, basketball and lacrosse) and Ithaca College (crew).

Greek life

Greek life has been integral to Hobart College historically. Hobart has several active Chapters of Greek societies. Delta Chi, Hobart Chapter; Kappa Alpha Society, CH – NY Beta; Kappa Sigma, Delta-Phi Chapter; Phi Sigma Kappa, Psi Triton Chapter; Theta Delta Chi, Xi Charge; Sigma Chi, Alpha Alpha Chapter; Chi Phi; Hobart used to be the home of several now inactive fraternities including, Pi Lambda Phi, Beta Sigma, Phi Phi Delta, Sigma Phi Society, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Phi Kappa Tau. In the fall of 2017, William Smith welcomed their first sorority, Theta Phi Alpha.

Title IX sexual assault investigation

On May 1, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 colleges being investigated for potential violations of federal law regarding sexual assault and harassment complaints.[39] The list included Hobart and William Smith Colleges.[40] A New York Times article published in July of the same year detailed a case in which a student reported a sexual assault by three college football players two weeks into her first year; within two weeks the college's investigation cleared the two men accused, despite medical evidence, a corroborating witness to one of the incidents and discrepancies in the alleged perpetrators' accounts of the evening. The story also alleged the members of the disciplinary panel that heard the case were uninformed about sexual assault and frequently changed the subject rather than hear the victim's account of events.[41] Following the report, the colleges unveiled new initiatives and policies, including revising their sexual violence policies, creating a rape hotline and forming an Office of Title IX Programs and Compliance.[42]

Notable alumni

Notable alumni of Geneva Academy (1794–1822)

Notable alumni of Geneva College (1822–1852)

Notable alumni of Geneva Medical College (1834–1872)

Notable alumni of Hobart and William Smith Colleges




Government and Law



Science and Medicine


Honorary degree recipients

Notable faculty


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