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Campus News

Kermit L. Hall Takes Office as UAlbany's 17th President

by Mary Fiess (February 1, 2005)

President Kermit L. Hall
President Kermit L. Hall
Declaring that “our goal will be to always put academics first,” Kermit L. Hall, a constitutional law scholar and legal historian, has taken office as the 17th president of the University at Albany.

Hall, who previously served as president of Utah State University for four years, was unanimously approved by the State University of New York Board of Trustees Dec. 29 for the position of UAlbany president. His appointment formally took effect Feb. 1.

“Kermit Hall’s accomplishments as a scholar, teacher and administrator make him superbly qualified to lead the University at Albany,” said SUNY Chancellor Robert L. King, who recommended Hall’s appointment. King thanked University at Albany Council Chairman George Philip and the Presidential Search Committee for “a job well done.”

“I am honored and grateful that the University at Albany Search Committee and Chancellor King forwarded my name to the Board of Trustees for consideration,” said Hall. “The University at Albany is a great institution of higher education and it will be a privilege to lead the campus to a new level of academic excellence. I am very impressed by the quality and perseverance of the faculty and the students, and our goal will be to always put academics first.”

Within days of the SUNY trustees’ approval, Hall was at UAlbany, meeting and talking with faculty, staff and students and reaching out to UAlbany friends and the community off campus. He met New York Gov. George Pataki and other state leaders at the governor’s State of the State address on Jan. 5. Throughout the month, he was back and forth between Albany and Logan, Utah.

During one of his first days on campus, Hall recounted, he came across a student on his cell phone asking his mother if he should come back home.

“He was clearly distressed, so I struck up a conversation,” Hall said. “He was a transfer student registering for the first time and obviously uncertain about what he was doing. When I asked him how he felt, he replied that he was ‘worried, anxious, and not sure if I can make it.’ I put my arm around him and said that I was ‘worried, anxious, and not sure that I could make it’ and that he should take heart because I was also the new president. We both laughed and his spirits brightened substantially.”

While new to the campus, Hall says he has been a keen observer, from afar, of the University and the region for some time.

“For the past 16 months, I have consistently used UAlbany and its surrounding communities as examples of how public-private partnerships can work and the benefits that emerge from such collaborations,” he noted.

UAlbany and its host city and region boast “a strong set of assets,” and his hope, said Hall, is to use those assets “to make the University an increasingly distinguished academic institution – for students to learn, for faculty to teach and do scholarship, and for the community to take pride in its success.

“We need to be at once an asset – economic, cultural, and educational – for the state that has chartered us, but we must also be viewed increasingly as a player in the world of international higher education based on the qualities of our academic programs.”

Before serving as president of Utah State University, Hall was the provost and vice president for academic affairs and a professor of history at North Carolina State University for two years. He was executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of history and law at The Ohio State University from 1996-99. He has held other academic and administrative positions at the University of Tulsa, the University of Florida, Wayne State University and Vanderbilt University.

During his tenure as president of Utah State University, Hall continued to teach undergraduate and graduate courses in history, law and political science and plans to continue to teach at UAlbany.

At Utah State, the land grant university of Utah with 23,500 students and a $600 million budget, Hall led efforts to improve freshman retention rates, attract better prepared undergraduates, and increase the number of doctoral students. He also implemented a program for students seeking nationally competitive scholarships and worked to raise endowed dollars for scholarships, increase resources for graduate fellowships, and boost sponsored research. He attracted $10 million for a new recital hall, the largest single individual gift in Utah State’s history.

Hall received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Minnesota. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Akron, a master’s degree in 1967 from Syracuse University and a master of studies in law degree from Yale University in 1980. He is a graduate of two Harvard University professional education programs: the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents in 2001 and the Harvard Institute for Educational Management in 1993.

Hall has written and edited 21 books on the American legal and constitutional system, including The Law of the Land: A History of the Supreme Court (Prince Frederick, Maryland: Recorded Books, 2003, fourteen 35-minute lectures on the history of the Supreme Court of the United States), The Magic Mirror: Law in American History (New York, Oxford University Press, 1989; 2nd revised edition forthcoming in 2006). He is also the editor-in-chief of the award-winning Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (New York, Oxford University Press, 2nd revised edition, 2005), and the Oxford Companion to American Law (New York, Oxford University Press, 2002). His books have been main and alternate selections of the History Book Club and the Book of the Month Club.

He was one of five Americans appointed by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to the Assassination Records Review Board in 1992 to review and release to the public documents related to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. For his commitment to openness in government, the American Library Association bestowed its James Madison Award on him in 1999.

Hall delivered the Freeman Butts Distinguished Lecture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the Milton M. Klein Endowed Distinguished Lecture at the University of Tennessee, and the Simeon E. Sobeloff Distinguished Lecture, College of Law, University of Maryland. Hall is a nationally recognized leader in building high school/university collaborations in civic education. He is the recipient of numerous other awards and honors, including fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Science Foundation, and the American Bar Foundation. He serves on the boards of several professional organizations, including the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National Association of State University and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC). While in Utah he was the recipient of the Cache Valley (Utah) Chamber of Commerce’s “Outstanding Achievement Award,” the “Triangle Award” from the Pride! Alliance at Utah State University, and “Utah’s Best Hands-On Leader Award” from Salt Lake Magazine. Hall also chaired for four years the Utah Rhodes Scholar Selection Committee and serves as a national panelist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Hall was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. The son of a tiremaker and a bookkeeper, he is a first-generation college graduate and a Vietnam-era veteran.

Hall’s selection capped a process that began in October 2003 when President Karen R. Hitchcock announced her resignation. Hall was “the unanimous choice” of the Presidential Search Committee, said Philip, who served as committee chair. “We were very proud and most pleased to forward his name to Chancellor King. I would like to express my deep appreciation to each of the members of the search committee for their hard work and selfless dedication to this extremely important task,” he added.

John R. Ryan, president of SUNY Maritime College, served as UAlbany’s interim president from February 2004 until Hall’s arrival. As King announced Hall’s appointment, he praised Ryan “for his excellent leadership of all facets of UAlbany during the search.”