“You hire the right people, you share the right values, and then you stick with them through the development years.”- President Ann Weaver Hart
When Ann Weaver Hart was first contacted
about becoming Temple’s ninth president, she didn’t have much time to get used to the idea.
“It wasn’t a ‘Yes, I’m sure I want this,’ because I was very established in a wonderful community and a wonderful university,” Hart said.
But after meeting with the search committee
and visiting Temple, Hart said her decision was made. After resigning from her position as the president of the University of New Hampshire, Hart, along with her husband, moved to Philadelphia and began her new role as Temple’s president July 1.
The following is an excerpt of the first conversation Hart had with “The Temple News,” varying from development concerns, relations with the surrounding community and the football team.
The Temple News: How are you acclimating
yourself to Temple? How are you settling
Ann Weaver Hart: This is in the middle of my eighth week, so it’s been very exciting. The good side of this is that it feels like much longer, in the good way, because Temple is such a welcoming place. I’m just beginning now… to get to the different groups. My first meeting with the Faculty Senate was just last week, and I’ll be at the student senate and have a chance to talk with them. I’ve met with a lot of different groups. It’s been very exciting to have that happen.
TTN: What were some of your first concerns
when you got here, and what were some of the first things you’ve done since you’ve been here?
AWH: I’m very interested in thinking through, very proactively, with all of the groups that are committed to Temple, about Temple’s leadership role among great urban universities … and, institutionally, that’s why I love this kind of job. It isn’t dependent on any given individual at any time, because of our structured interdependence and each of us contributes to the institution. We are very much engaged in thinking about increasing private philanthropy and giving to Temple.
The university does not have a long tradition of tapping private donors to advance its important mission, though there are many people working very hard on improving that situation. That’s a third issue. Temple and its immediate community.
When I said great cities need great universities, and great universities need great cities, I don’t mean just
Philadelphia as a government. I mean we are imbedded in a neighborhood.
TTN: How would you like to set yourself apart from President David Adamany’s presidency?
AWH: Well, I don’t actually think about it as setting apart. I think that leaders and institutions have life cycles. And that each leader brings a different set of talents and interests to the institution that builds on the leaders that preceded
her. And so, it’s not a matter of seeking an agenda that sets apart from a predecessor.
It’s a matter of building on the contributions of the predecessor and adding your own personal and individual strengths. And that’s how I see my time at Temple, is to build on the contributions that President Adamany and others on his team made to the university, and then finding ways where I might differ, to add, not to change, but to add. That’s how you build an institution. That’s why you’ve heard the expression ‘We stand on the shoulders of giants.’
TTN: How important do you think your accessibility is to the student body and how are you going to make yourself
accessible to the student body?
AWH: Well, I think that the most important immediate and interactive group has got to be your elected student government. The students have committed to those student leaders. I expect the leaders of student government to know what the student’s questions and issues are and rely on them to share that information with me. So first of all, I think it’s important that your senior leadership in student government knows how to reach me and I know how to reach them.
TTN: Do you ever see yourself implementing an open-door policy, office hours, or an open e-mail policy?
AWH: I receive over 100 e-mails a day already, and an open e-mail policy, I perceive as an invitation not to be able to respond. Though, we have an e-mail address and we respond to those e-mails and pay attention to them when students have issues … either me personally, or if I’m not the one with the answer to the question. … I make sure that that query goes to people who can respond to an issue or answer a question. … Later on, when I settle in and my calendar isn’t 16 hours a day, some open office time, I have found, has been very helpful. You’d be surprised at how few students take advantage of it when everything’s going well in their lives and how many need it when things aren’t going well in their lives.
TTN: Do you intend to have Temple expand into the surrounding neighborhood?
AWH: Oh, no. No. Temple … there are a few places that we are hoping to finish up, but we’re surrounded by residential neighborhoods and we have the opportunity within that footprint that currently exists to make it a more beautiful, more welcoming space, and we really don’t need to expand into the neighborhood.
TTN: So, how are you going to work toward better maintaining seemingly strained relations this university has with its neighbors?
AWH: There are differences, strong differences of opinion, but I’ve been in relationships that are much more strained than we experience. And in part, it’s because we have a team at Temple that pays attention to our neighborhood.
At the same time, there is a natural disconnect with the lifestyles of young adults and the lifestyles of … more mature people of my age. So, making sure that you talk about it all the time. That we pay attention to talking about what it means to be a good neighbor. Also staying in touch with our neighbors.
We need to talk with the Temple students who live in our neighborhoods, and maybe even in our residence halls, because they walk through our neighborhoods as they go from one activity to another. How you treat the place where you live. And think about that in very different terms. And we need to listen to that, and we need to pay attention to that, we need to listen to our neighbors, we need to respond very quickly when there’s a stress point that we can alleviate.
TTN: Does that mean that admissions are at a cap right now?
AWH: Well, we have grown so quickly in the last six years. It’s been very exciting, to go from 30,000 to 34,000 students in a six-year, seven-year period. We also need to pay attention to the service we provide those students once they’re here. So what I am focusing on right now is making sure that the infrastructure of support for those students is there, so that you get the advising you need, so that you have the academic support you need, so that you have the health service you need, … so, I am not planning to pursue, in the next five years, a pattern of significant growth in size. I plan to pursue and build on the growth in quality and opportunity and diversity of experience and diversity of individuals that Temple is so well known for.
TTN: You spoke of growth and quality of the students.
One thing that has transpired over the last several years is that the academic standards of this university have risen. Would students who are admitted now possibly not be admitted in 10 years?
AWH: That’s a favorite alumni topic. Could I get in my own university if I applied today? Russell Conwell’s concept of acres of diamonds was … that talent is in your backyard. I believe that we advance that vision by identifying, nurturing
and promoting the talent in our own backyard.
So we commit to make sure that the young men and women in our own backyard get what they need to be able to be successful at a first-rate, world-class university. Access to excellence is what we promise.
Not access so you can flunk out. And there are open-admission universities.
They also flunk out a third of their freshmen. And that’s not what we want. We want to take the responsibility to provide access and excellence, and then pay attention to the value added that a Temple education provides to everybody
who comes here.
TTN: Is Temple on an Ivy-League track?
AWH: No. No. That’s not our mission. The Ivy League is the Ivy League, and it has a very important role to play in the United States. We are an urban, public affiliate, commonwealth institution. And we have a very clear mission that is completely different than the Ivy League.
TTN: What kind of philosophy do you have about tenure for faculty members?
AWH: I believe that if we preserve that quality and respect and that expertise, that tenure serves a very strong role in modern universities. As long as we remember that it is based on expertise. And you must all know that tenure does not protect a faculty member from dismissal for cause. It protects a faculty member from dismissal for doing research, publishing and teaching the results of that quality inquiry and contributing to the development of the discipline, according to the standards and rigor of the discipline, instead of according to the whims of politics and personal preference.
TTN: What’s your main goal for this year?
AWH: My main goal is to get my head around the dreams, aspirations and talents of this place. In a way that allows me to function as a leader and representative of the tremendous talent at Temple University.
TTN: There was an article in the “Gainesville Sun” about Temple’s football program, which indicated that the university drop to Division I-AA. How do you feel about that?
AWH: The community at Temple, and the trustees, decided to commit to I-A football. I came in at the end of that decision. I think we should do everything we can to support Al Golden and our football team to help them to develop the kind of team that represents Temple well. And I intend to support coach Golden and our football players.
When I joined the University of New Hampshire, they were struggling in football at the II-A level. They’re now leading the country. But what I learned from that experience is that you hire the right people, you share the right values, and then you stick with them through the developing years. And that’s what I want to do.
TTN: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
AWH: Always tell the truth and learn to say no.
TTN: You have a reputation of being ‘outdoorsy.’ How has life in Philadelphia been for you so far?
AWH: We’ve been getting our outdoor fix by walking around Philadelphia. We have moved our car out of the parking garage exactly twice since we moved here. It’s wonderful to have public transportation, … so we’ve actually thoroughly enjoyed that.
But, there’s wonderful bicycling in the Fairmount Park area. We’ve gotten lots of advice about places where we can ride our bikes, and then we have kayaks with us, so we are hoping that the Schuylkill beacons, and we’ll be able to do that.
TTN: Do you live in the city?
AWH: Yes, the university owns an apartment on Rittenhouse Square … I love the story that I was told, this may be apocryphal, … but I was told that the last student protest at Temple was a march to Rittenhouse Square to demand more student housing on campus … and that there were students there who, after the demonstration, asked for a ride back to campus.
So, now that to me is a good spirit. You can say your piece, have your speech, and then ask campus security for a ride back. I like that. I love that story. It’s great.
Well, I love this place, and the longer I’m here, the more I love it. So I am expecting the years ahead to be filled with challenges and many opportunities.
Emily Catalano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charmie R. Snetter and Christopher A. Vito contributed to this report.