As this history of the University is published, the institution is again in a transition of sorts: President Tonkin has announced his intention to step down as president in June 1998 and return to teaching, and the search is on for a new president. The Board of Regents has set the new development campaign's goal at $150 million, and the initial results are promising: in 1997 President Tonkin was able to announce that, after much negotiation, the corporate partnership that owned the administration building was to be dissolved and the building was to revert to University ownership. This has now occurred, and the University's financial situation has accordingly improved by $3.6 million, the current value of the building. A $15 million bequest from Mrs. Alfred Fuller for The Hartt School was also announced in 1997. These two gifts represent the largest corporate and private donations, respectively, ever received by the University. Efforts are also underway under Provost Elizabeth Ivey to consolidate the academic administration of the University by grouping the schools and colleges around single administrative units and giving individual deans multiple portfolios. Enrollment is steady, student quality is up, and the University's budget is balanced -- circumstances that augur well for the new century.
Despite the many changes over the years, a recollection of the early purposes and missions of the three founding components of the University shows that their individual characteristics have been retained today and that the goals of the founders have remained remarkably consistent:
A curriculum based not just on the classical mode of education, but also on the needs of students, traditional and nontraditional, and the requirements of the workplace.
A faculty determined to keep abreast of developments in its various fields and professions, near at home and far away; faculty who teach because they love their subjects and want to teach while practicing their skills.
An administration willing to innovate, and to persuade friends local and national to support the concept of a university of the highest quality focused on the needs of its immediate community.
Will this academic community on Bloomfield Avenue continue to serve, as its founders intended, as a university for Hartford? There is every indication that it will. Throughout its history, the University of Hartford and its constituent parts have always been at the center of discussions on higher education in the Hartford area, from the initial establishment of cooperation between Hillyer College and the Hartford Art School fifty years ago, through the founding of the University itself in the late 1950s, and beyond to numerous discussions and negotiations in subsequent years. Even before that, in 1940, the trustees of the newly founded Hartford Junior College, later to become Hartford College for Women, declined a proposal to enter into cooperation with the Hillyer Institute. In 1975-76, a working group looked seriously at a merger of the University, the Hartford Graduate Center, and perhaps the Hartford College for Women, to form a "federated university of Hartford." Overtures to the Graduate Center were made at various times by both President Trachtenberg and President Tonkin.
The latest round of discussions was initiated through the establishment of a Mayor's Task Force on the Higher Education Presence in the City of Hartford, chaired by President Tonkin. It recommended the establishment of a downtown higher education center, in which the University of Connecticut, the University of Hartford, the Graduate Center (now Rensselaer at Hartford), and other institutions might offer academic programs in the city through shared in-town facilities, with a relocated Capital Community-Technical College as anchor institution. While the University may have the appearance of a conventional institution, there is a fluidity at its edges and an openness to new alliances that make it at least unusual among established institutions of higher education.
The University has been blessed by diverse leadership at its helm since its charter in 1957, with each of its four leaders providing a background and set of skills that complemented those who preceded them. In an era of rapid change at the top in many institutions of higher learning, having only four presidents in forty years is an indication of stability and the attractiveness of the University as a place to teach and learn.
And what of the future? What direction will the University of Hartford take as it enters the twenty first century under a new president? The Miracle on Bloomfield Avenue will likely change and adapt as the region of which it is a part seeks to do the same, but there is every indication that the central mission of the University—to serve the needs of its students and of the region and to use the full range of pedagogical, technological and intellectual resources available to it to do so—will not alter.
A University for the World? Links with the world at large will inevitably increase as the University takes its place as a national and international leader. The politics of higher education as they play out in the Hartford setting will continue to enliven debate, but the doors of the University will stay open both to the larger world and to the immediate region. This is, after all—as its founders emphasized all those years ago—Hartford's university, founded to serve its community and continuing on that path of service
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