October 25, 2012: Dr. Loring Hart

The College received news earlier this week of the death of Dr. Loring Hart.

Dr. Hart served as Saint Joseph's eleventh president from 1987 to 1995. Dr. Hart came to Saint Joseph's in 1987 to serve as interim president while the College searched for its next leader following President Santoro's decision to accept the presidency of another institution.

Dr. Hart's interim service became permanent the following spring, and he led the College for the next seven years.

This was not the first time in Dr. Hart's career when what was originally imagined as a temporary assignment grew into something much more significant.

Prior to his time at Saint Joseph's, Dr.Hart served at Norwich University in Vermont. He arrived at Norwich in 1957 for a one-year appointment as an Instructor of English. That one-year assignment grew into a quarter of a century of service during which he was head of the Norwich English Department from 1961 to 1968, was promoted to full professor in 1964 and was appointed dean and vice president in 1968. Finally, Dr. Hart served as Norwich University's president from 1972 to 1982.

During his time at Saint Joseph's, Dr. Hart strengthened our distance learning programs by bringing all of the operations to campus, initiated important relationships with national foundations and formed an enduring relationship with the Sisters of Mercy.

At Commencement in 2004, Saint Joseph's College awarded Dr. Hart the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. The citation emphazized Dr. Hart's humanity, his concern for others, his kindness and his integrity. It read, in part:

"Always the learner, Dr. Hart expressed his concern for others in the doing of life. His helpfulness often intercedes in quiet ways to reflect the genuine concept of Mercy."

There are portraits of our first 12 presidents along the second-floor corridor in Xavier Hall. Dr. Hart's portrait hangs just across from the door to my office, and so our eyes meet on a regular basis. Even before I came to know the particulars of his life, I had a sense that Loring Hart was a man of introspection and compassion.

Having learned his story, I feel confident in calling Dr. Hart an exemplary Servant Leader.

The term "servant leader" was coined by Robert Greenleaf in his 1970 essay, "The Servant as Leader."  There he wrote:

"The servant-leader is servant first ... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is a leader first, perhaps because there is a need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions ... The leader-first and servant-first are two extreme types. Between them are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."

"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit ..." http://www.greenleaf.org/whatissl/

As the Saint Joseph's College community undertakes the vital work of re-imagining what a Catholic, liberal arts and Mercy college can and should be for the 21st century, we are fortunate to have the examples of people like Dr. Loring Hart as touchstones for our project.

October 25, 2012

(Dr. Hart's biographical information came from the Saint Joseph's College Archives, the Office of Institutional Advancement and the Norwich University Archives. More information about Robert Greenleaf and Servant Leadership can be found on the website of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.)

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