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John W. Chandler, Hamilton's 15th president.
John W. Chandler, Hamilton's 15th president.

Convocation on Aug. 29 Will Open College’s 201st Year

John W. Chandler, Hamilton’s 15th President, is Guest Speaker

By Holly Foster
Posted August 27, 2012
Tags Convocation

Hamilton College will open its 201st year with the traditional Convocation ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at 4:30 p.m., in Wellin Hall. Members of the administration will welcome students and new faculty, and academic achievement prizes will be awarded to students. This year’s Convocation will feature guest speaker John Chandler, Hamilton’s 15th president and president emeritus at Williams College. His talk is titled “Hamilton: Two Centuries and Counting.” The ceremony will be webcast live.


Chandler served as Hamilton’s president from 1968 to 1973. He came into office during a unique period of cultural and political upheaval on the nation's campuses, and, throughout his tenure, saw to it that Hamilton stuck to its mission of educating its students as scholars and citizens.  While at Hamilton Chandler expedited the creation of the Afro-American Cultural Center in 1969-70.  He helped integrate more of the outside world, bringing to the Hill such speakers as Alex Haley, the author of Roots and the co-author of Malcolm X’s autobiography, and Richie Havens, a black folk musician who had performed at Woodstock.


Hamilton’s Burke Library opened during Chandler’s presidency, in 1972. He was also on hand for the opening of Kirkland College, and worked with his counterpart, Kirkland president Samuel Babbitt, to build an intellectually fruitful relationship between the coordinate colleges on the Hill.


Chandler became president of Williams College in 1973 and held that position until 1985. Under his leadership, Williams completed a 10-year transition in which the college phased out its fraternity system and became coeducational. In 1980 the college successfully completed a $50 million capital campaign, the first of that magnitude for a college its size. While Chandler was president, the college completed construction of a new library; built a new art museum, music center and theater; and began construction of a major athletic facility.


In 1985, Chandler became president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, whose programs and publications promote liberal arts education. During his leadership of this Washington-based organization from 1985 to 1990, its membership grew substantially, along with its financial resources, publications and programs.


For more than a decade, beginning in 1990, Chandler assisted the trustees and search committees of approximately 40 colleges and universities that were seeking new presidential leadership. He has served as a trustee of Duke, Randolph-Macon Woman's College, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and the Phillips Gallery. Duke, where he served as board chair and as chair of its presidential search committee, recognized him with its highest award, the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service, and awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

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