A Message from IOP Director Mark D. Gearan '78


Dear Friends of the IOP,

I write to inform you of my decision to step down as Director of the Institute of Politics to return to Hobart and William Smith Colleges to serve as President, following the recent resignation of their president. As you may know, I had previously served as President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges for 18 years and, in many ways, it is a bit of a homecoming for our family.  

My decision to conclude my time at the IOP was a difficult one as I have long prized the mission of the Institute, personally benefitted from the programs and opportunities as an undergraduate, and as Director valued the opportunity to work with talented Harvard students who are committed to public purpose. I am grateful to the student leaders, staff colleagues, Senior Advisory Committee, Dean Elmendorf, HKS faculty and staff who all ensured the dynamic programming and opportunities for students.

It has been an extraordinary honor to return to my alma mater and to the IOP which was so foundational to my career in politics and public service. I am proud of what we have accomplished together in these past four years – broadening programs, expanding access and opportunity, new collaborations and innovations, important discussions in the Forum that are relevant to the changes in American politics and bringing Resident Fellows to campus who represent the current landscape of our civic life.

After 18 months of virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute of Politics reopened its doors last year to unprecedented student interest, welcomed two new amazing classes of Resident Fellows to campus, rebooted our Summer in Washington program with over 200 students returning to in-person internships, and completed an extraordinary year of programming. The IOP looks ahead to the fall of an important midterm election year with tremendous momentum to inspire our students to lives of consequence and continue to be a thought leader on the critical issues facing young Americans and our country.

As Dean Elmendorf announced a short while ago, my colleague and friend Setti Warren will step into the role of Interim Director while Harvard Kennedy School launches a search for my replacement. Setti is an extraordinary public servant and leader at the IOP, and I am comforted knowing that the Institute is in good hands.

At a time when our democracy is being tested, the work of the IOP could not be more important. Each day I have felt the enormous privilege of working with my colleagues and students to advance our brilliant mission to inspire Harvard students to politics and public service. I am confident that this dazzling generation will meet these challenges to come.

Mark D. Gearan ‘78

Institute of Politics