The 2015 Jeff Little ’71 Volunteer of the Year Award

When the legendary Sidney Wertimer died in 2005, you offered this tribute: “Always patient and frequently skeptical, he was our trusted source of honest, candid, concise and clear advice.” Although an apt description of your former professor, the same could be said of you during your tenure as chairman of the trustee Committee on Budget and Finance. You asked hard questions, gave wise counsel and became a trusted advisor to Hamilton administrators.

From 2002 to 2013, your disciplined approach to finances helped your alma mater thrive. Under your leadership, and despite the recession of 2007-09, the College balanced its budget year after year and made significant investments in academic and athletics facilities. You supported increases in faculty compensation to achieve a competitive market position. With a commitment to ensuring that Hamilton remain accessible, you steered the course for bold initiatives, such as the need-blind policy in admission, and determined to control workforce growth to keep costs down and tuition within reach. You recognized the importance of alumni generosity, which you called “legacy support” — a term that has become part of the College lexicon.

Your financial expertise is impressive, developed throughout a career that has included positions as president, CEO and chairman of Hormel Foods. But you’ve given more than your expertise to Hamilton. In 2007, you and your wife, Beth, created the J.W. Johnson Family Chair in ­Environmental Studies, the largest endowed chair in Hamilton’s history. A few years later, you started a scholarship for the children of public school teachers or ordained Congregational ministers. You serve as life trustee, have been an active member of the Class of 1965 reunion committees and graciously host alumni gatherings in Arizona. Your personal Hamilton legacy includes your daughter Katherine Johnson Potter ’93 and son-in-law James Potter ’92.

Leading up to your 40th reunion, you wrote that Hamilton “taught me how to figure things out.” Today, the Alumni Association has figured it’s time to recognize your countless contributions to the College by presenting you with The Jeff Little ’71 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Citation presented by
Gordon Kaye ’74, P’05
President, Alumni Association
October 2, 2015


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