In 2006, a group of friends of the Presidents' College wrote a market study that made a convincing case for its continuing value to the University and our nearby communities. President Walter Harrison agreed, but determined that volunteers should in future carry part of the burden of its programs. In 2016, with many of those friends present, the Presidents' College celebrated its 25th anniversary and the retirement of its founding director, Humphrey Tonkin, under whose leadership—and with the support of those volunteers—the college has become the vibrant community of learners that it is today.
With our new director, Joseph Voelker, at the helm, and with the guidance of Randi Ashton-Pritting, director of University Libraries, the Presidents' College relies on the support of 30 volunteers of varying ages and richly diverse skills. There are several aspects to the work of volunteers:
Volunteers attend a monthly meeting held on the second Wednesday of the month at 10 a.m. In the KF room of the Mortensen Library. Volunteers serve on committees, contribute to planning and execution of events, and act as liaisons and coordinators for off-site lectures.
A monthly program, "Conversations with the Presidents' College," airs on West Hartford Community Television to apprise our local public of upcoming events. The college cooperates with independent living facilities, especially Duncaster and McAuley, to provide on-site lectures and performances. With Duncaster and the Mercy Community, the college co-sponsors colloquia on significant issues in the field of health and medicine. We provide publicity for The Hartford Stage and Theaterworks, and they, in turn, feature our programs in their playbills. Volunteers play a role in these cooperative efforts.
The annual symposium, a one-day, back-to-college style event, our fall and spring kick offs, showcasing upcoming lectures and courses, and occasional social gatherings, rely heavily on volunteer labor.
Volunteers report that their work for the Presidents' College provides a sense of fulfillment, stimulates the mind, and occasions new friendships. Nevertheless, it remains an avocation, and asks no more of its members than what they wish to give.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email Nancy Mather or call her at 860.633.7778.