Dr. Walter Harrison
President Emeritus, University of Hartford
Walter Harrison is president emeritus of the University of Hartford. He served as president from 1998 until 2017, a period of growth, vitality, and transformation of the University. As the longest serving president in the University’s history, he oversaw a dramatic improvement in the University’s financial stability, a growth in the University’s endowment, which almost tripled during his presidency, and a transformation and re-design of the University’s campus, constructing or renovating 17 different University buildings during his tenure. Most importantly, he oversaw a significant growth in the undergraduate and graduate student population, new professional programs in architecture and the health sciences, and a noticeable improvement in the rigor and quality of the University’s academic offerings. The university’s libraries are now named for him, to recognize his devotion to the life of the mind.
During much of his tenure as president, Harrison also held a number of volunteer leadership positions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, serving as a member of the NCAA Division I board of directors, chair of the NCAA’s executive committee, and chair of the Division I presidents advisory committee. He is best known for his decade of chairing the NCAA committee on academic performance, during which the NCAA strengthened its commitment to student academic success and improved the graduation rate of student athletes significantly in all sports. In 2014 he was recognized with the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award for his long commitment to student athlete academic success. He continues to serve on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletes, to which he was also elected in 2014.
Harrison is also known for his commitment to the Greater Hartford community, especially his commitment to education, the arts, and health care. During his tenure as president, the University of Hartford began its active commitment to the Blue Hills and Upper Albany neighborhoods of the City, locating the dance and theatre divisions of University’s Hartt School in the Mort and Irma Handel Performing Arts Center there, taking an active role in the Upper Albany Main Street program to aid small businesses, and building two nationally recognized magnet schools, the University of Hartford Magnet School and the University High School of Science and Engineering, on its campus. He has also served in leadership positions on a number of not-for-profit boards in Hartford, and continues to serve on the boards of the Hartford Stage (he served as its president from 2007-2010), the St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center (he currently serves as vice chair), the Jewish Community Foundation, the Hartford Promise, Capitol Squash, and the Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity. For his commitment to the Hartford area and his career in higher education, Harrison received a doctor of humane letters degree from Goodwin College in 2016.
Harrison also serves on the boards of two independent schools, Suffield Academy and Fountain Valley School of Colorado, where he served as board president from 1995-1999. He is also a member of the board of directors of World Business Capitol, an international lending firm based in Hartford.