Hamilton College President Announces Retirement
“I will have served eight years when my tenure concludes next summer,” Wippman said. “My time at Hamilton has been the most satisfying of my career. I have watched with pride as entering classes have set records for quality, selectivity, and diversity; new and renovated buildings have enhanced an already beautiful campus; teacher-scholars of the highest caliber have made Hamilton their home; and trustees, alumni, parents, and friends have given generously of their time and resources.”
“David Wippman has been an exceptional president at an especially challenging time,” said David Solomon ’84, P’16, chair of the Hamilton Board of Trustees. “He is highly effective and widely admired, and his presidency has been marked by success on all measures. We are grateful for his leadership in making Hamilton an even stronger and more highly regarded institution.”
Talented Students and Greater Opportunities
Solomon said that from Wippman’s earliest days as president, he focused on bringing the most talented students to Hamilton, providing the scholarship aid they needed to enroll, and offering them greater opportunities for intellectual engagement and increased support for their personal growth and well-being.
Throughout his tenure, the College set new benchmarks in student recruitment, including applications, selectivity, and yield; socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity; and test scores and class rank. The number of first-generation-to-college and Pell grant-eligible students also increased.
In addition, as nearly half of its professors began reaching retirement, Hamilton hired and promoted large numbers of extraordinary teacher-scholars and added seven new professorships, including two endowed professorships in computer science.
The College also adopted several new programs during Wippman’s tenure. These include Digital Hamilton, an initiative to expand digital learning opportunities using advanced technologies across disciplines; the ALEX program, a coordinated network of academic centers, resources, and advisors for students; and Common Ground, a program “to explore cross-boundary political thought and complex social issues.” Wippman and a co-author modeled Common Ground’s call for active citizenship and intellectual engagement by publishing more than 40 op-eds since 2019 on issues pertaining to higher education, addressing such topics as academic freedom, affirmative action in college admissions, campus civility, cancel culture, and foreign language proficiency.
Wippman also prioritized Hamilton’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts and hired the College’s first vice president for DEI; dedicated a new health and wellness center that greatly expanded programs and resources for student well-being; and initiated renovation and refurbishment of facilities for the humanities, athletics, and recreation. Three new plans adopted in the past year – focused on climate action, land and forest stewardship, and sustainable practices – renewed the Hamilton’s commitment to reducing the College’s impact on climate change and provided a roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.
In order to fund many of the new initiatives and ensure that a Hamilton education remained accessible to students from all financial circumstances, Wippman launched the Because Hamilton capital campaign, a five-year public effort to raise $400 million. The goal, which was reached a week ago and includes more than $120 million for student scholarship aid, is more than double any prior Hamilton fundraising campaign. Donors can still add to the campaign total before the fundraising effort ends on June 30. A significant portion of the gifts received established new endowed programs and scholarships, enabling the market value of the College’s overall endowment to top $1 billion for the first time in 2018.
In addition, Solomon said Wippman has successfully navigated major unexpected challenges, including the global pandemic that forced colleges and universities to pivot to online instruction in the spring of 2020 and the resulting economic uncertainty. The Hamilton president formed a COVID-19 task force that put in place protocols that allowed the College to reopen safely for in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester, thereby enabling students to graduate on time. All told, Hamilton invested more than $20 million in COVID-19 expenses for testing, personal protection equipment, quarantine and isolation, and other costs to protect its students and employees.
In the notice announcing his decision to the campus community, Wippman wrote “I am grateful for the opportunity to witness the positive and profound changes our students experience during their four years here; for the privilege to work with and learn from so many talented Hamiltonians, all of whom share a deep commitment to this institution; and for the chance to forge relationships that, I hope, will last a lifetime. For all that and more, I will miss the College and this community so very much when I step down.”
Road to Hamilton
A recognized authority in international law, Wippman has taught public international law, international criminal law, international human rights, and ethnic conflict. He received his bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Princeton University in 1976, his master’s degree through a fellowship in the Graduate Program in English Literature at Yale University in 1978, and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1982. While at Yale, Wippman was the editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. He clerked for The Honorable Wilfred Feinberg, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Wippman served as dean of the University of Minnesota Law School from 2008 until joining Hamilton in 2016. Previously, he was a professor and associate dean at Cornell Law School and served as vice provost for international relations at Cornell University. He took a year away from Cornell to serve as a director in the National Security Council’s Office of Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs, where he worked on war crimes issues, the International Criminal Court, economic sanctions, and U.N. political issues.
Before joining Cornell, Wippman practiced law for nine years in Washington, D.C. He has co-authored several books on international law, including International Law: Norms, Actors, Process: A Problem-Oriented Approach and Can Might Make Rights?: Building the Rule of Law After Military Interventions. In 2019, he was named to the Advisory Council of Refugees International, and in 2021 the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities elected him to a three-year term to represent the interests of New York’s independent colleges and universities. Wippman also serves on the board of the Annapolis Group and the Excellus Regional Advisory Board.
A search committee is being formed by Solomon to select Hamilton’s 21st president. Board of Trustees vice chairs Robert Delaney ’79 and Linda Johnson ’80 will co-chair the committee, which will have additional representation from the board, senior staff, faculty, and students.