Mark Gearan

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Mark Gearan
Gearan m.jpg
Director of the Peace Corps
In office
September 26, 1995 – August 11, 1999
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Carol Bellamy
Succeeded by Mark Schneider
White House Director of Communications
In office
June 7, 1993 – August 14, 1995
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by George Stephanopoulos
Succeeded by Don Baer
White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
In office
January 20, 1993 – June 7, 1993
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Robert Zoellick
Succeeded by Harold Ickes
Personal details
Born (1956-09-19) September 19, 1956 (age 61)
Gardner, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Herlihy
Children 2 daughters
Education Harvard University (BA)
Georgetown University (JD)
Website Official website

Mark Daniel Gearan (born September 19, 1956)[1] is a public servant, lawyer and higher education expert. Gearan was the president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. He was awarded an honorary degree and named President Emeritus upon retirement.

Early life and education[edit]

Gearan was born in Gardner, Massachusetts and attended public schools there.[2] Gearan earned his B.A. in government cum laude at Harvard University in 1978 and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1991.[2][3] At Harvard he was the college roommate of future lawyer and conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt. His cousin is Anne Gearan, political correspondent at The Washington Post.[4]

Career in politics and government[edit]

Gearan's early interest in politics began when he helped distribute leaflets in Jesuit priest Robert F. Drinan's campaign for Congress on a strong anti-Vietnam War platform in 1970.[5] "As an eighth-grader growing up in Gardner, I had noticed that a Catholic priest was running for Congress amid the political turmoil of the Vietnam era," said Gearan.[5] "From my early days on a bike leafleting the neighborhoods of Gardner, I graduated to driving the congressman," Gearan added.[5] While an undergraduate at Harvard, Gearan interned in Drinan's Washington office and worked on Drinan's re-election campaign in 1978.[2] It was there that Gearan met his future wife, Mary Herlihy, a fellow staffer in Drinan's office.[5]

Gearan worked as a newspaper reporter for the Fitchburg, Massachusetts Sentinel and Enterprise for one year.[2] After leaving the newspaper, Gearan was chief of staff for U.S. Representative Berkley Bedell of Iowa[6] for three years.[2] In 1983,[3] Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis appointed Gearan Director of Federal State Relations for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a post he held until 1988 when Gearan joined Dukakis' campaign for the Presidency.[2]

1988 Presidential campaign[edit]

When Dukakis ran for the presidency in 1988, Gearan originally had the high-profile job of managing Dukakis' campaign during the crucial Iowa caucuses.[7] When Gary Hart dropped out of the race, the Dukakis campaign replaced Gearan with Hart's Iowa coordinator and sent Gearan back to Boston to be the campaign's national headquarters Press Secretary.[7] Although Gearan was disappointed by the decision, he accepted it.[7] "You know, it's a long life, and there aren't too many other things in politics but loyalty," he said when asked about the incident.[7]

When Bush announced on August 17, 1992 that he was selecting Dan Quayle as his running mate after previously saying he planned to keep his choice secret until later during the convention, Gearan had one of the sharpest comments.[8] "We learned something about George Bush today. He can't keep a secret," said Gearan.[8] "and he can't stand up to the pressure of the right wing."[8] As Dukakis' Press spokesman, Gearan was frustrated by Republican negative campaigning and supported Dukakis' decision to respond.[9] "There comes a time when you respond," said Gearan.[9] "The dogs days of August are over."[9] Gearan added that Bush had falsely accused Dukakis of opposing the Stealth bomber and the D-5, a nuclear missile used on the Trident submarine.[9]

After the election Gearan said that one of the mistakes Dukakis made after winning the Democratic nomination was not re-introducing himself to the American people.[10] "One of the big mistakes we made in 1988 was we assumed people knew who Michael Dukakis was," said Gearan.[10] After Dukakis' defeat, Mr. Gearan returned to run the Massachusetts Office of Federal Relations until 1989.[3] Gearan was Executive Director of the Democratic Governors Association from 1989 to 1992.[2] As executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, Gearan offered George Bush a slogan for his 1992 re-election campaign with a double-entendre: "Bush in '92. You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet."[11]

1992 Presidential campaign[edit]

In 1991 Gearan was offered the job of Clinton's campaign's communications chief[12] while Clinton was seeking the Democratic nomination for President.[7] Gearan was unable to accept because his wife was in a difficult pregnancy that confined her to bed for much of the time.[7] "This was a very exciting time in our lives," Gearan said.[7] "And Mary was quite sick and had left her job. In the beginning stages, it was one of those deals where we weren't sure how it was going to go. I was not able to move to Little Rock and give the 1,000 percent that was required at the time to Governor Clinton, because I was distracted."[7] When Clinton's effort floundered in New Hampshire amid allegations of extramarital affairs and draft dodging, Gearan flew to New Hampshire to help salvage Clinton's candidacy.[7]

After Clinton won the nomination, Gearan became Al Gore's campaign manager during his run for the vice presidency.[3] Gearan's job was to ensure that the message Gore delivered reflected the views and strategies of the head of the ticket.[7] "It is a critical role and needs someone with a lot of skills," said George Stephanopoulos, director of communications for the Clinton campaign.[7] "But he has Clinton's utmost confidence and really gained the respect of Gore and his staff."[7] Gearan had the ability to keep things light during the grueling campaign.[7] Once while accompanying Al Gore during the 1992 campaign Gearan noticed an old piano at his campus residence at the University of Missouri.[7] Gearan is a talented piano player so when told that ragtime music composer Scott Joplin had once played the piano, Gearan sat down and played part of "Maple Leaf Rag."[7] "I'm never washing these hands again," he said.[7]

After the election Gearan was named Deputy Director of the Clinton/Gore Transition Team in 1992 in charge of Washington operations for Transition Director Warren Christopher.[2] "I came back to Washington after working for Michael S. Dukakis in 1988 and I was a knucklehead," said Gearan.[13] "I came back in 1992 and I was a genius. It makes you realize there are centrifugal forces beyond our control. I guess one is always a knucklehead-in-training."[13]

Clinton Administration[edit]

During the Clinton Administration Gearan served several roles.[2] He began as White House Deputy Chief of Staff. He was then promoted to Assistant to the President of the United States and Director of Communications and Strategic Planning.[2] Gearan traveled extensively with the president on overseas trips to Russia, Japan, the Middle East, Germany, Italy, and Ireland.[14] Gearan helped shepherd Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer through his confirmation hearings in 1994 and said that managing a successful confirmation requires thorough research, an aggressive media strategy, intense lobbying on Capitol Hill and it also helps to expect the unexpected.[15] "There's only so much you can game out," said Gearan.[15]

Peace Corps Director[edit]

On June 22, 1995 President Clinton announced his nomination of Gearan to head the Peace Corps.[16] "I am proud to nominate him to lead our Peace Corps into the 21st century, to keep the vision and the spirit of John Kennedy alive and the dream of America alive all over the world," said Clinton.[16]

Controversy over nomination[edit]

There was some controversy over Gearan's appointment as Peace Corps Director since he had not served in the Peace Corps himself and was succeeding Carol Bellamy, who was the first Peace Corps Director to have served as a volunteer.[17] The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), an organization made up of returned volunteers, had urged President Clinton to appoint a former volunteer to the position rather than Gearan.[17] However Gearan was strongly supported by other returned volunteers including Donna Shalala, Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services, who had served in the Peace Corps in Iran and who addressed the NPCA at their annual meeting on August 4, 1995 in Austin, Texas.[18] "I want to talk with you about the President's new nominee -- Mark Gearan. I am Mark Gearan's friend. We have worked closely together for the past two and a half years. He is a decent, thoughtful, energetic and caring man," said Shalala.[18] "I strongly support the President's decision to nominate him. He will do a great job for all of us. Please support him," Shalala added.[18]

Accomplishments as Director[edit]

Gearan was confirmed by the United States Senate and sworn in as the 14th Director of the Peace Corps in September 1995[14] was director of the Peace Corps from 1995 to 1999.[14] During Gearan's tenure as Peace Corps Director, the Peace Corps opened programs in South Africa, Jordan, Mozambique and Bangladesh and returned its volunteers to Haiti after a five-year absence.[19] On March 1, 1996, the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps, Gearan spoke about its relevance today: "You answered President Kennedy's call, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' You provided needed assistance to 130 countries around the globe, and you continue that service here at home."[20]

On June 29, 1998, the United States and China formalized the Peace Corps program in China signing an agreement that established a formal framework for a Peace Corps program in China.[21] Twenty-one volunteers arrived to begin their assignments in Sichuan province, where the Peace Corps has operated on a pilot basis since 1993.[21] President Clinton, in China for a state visit said "This agreement represents an important step forward in building the bonds of friendship between the American and Chinese people. As in the other 80 countries where they work, Peace Corps Volunteers in China reflect the finest traditions of Americans' idealism and pragmatic approach to assisting others."[21]

Crisis Corps[edit]

One of Gearan's most successful initiatives was the creation of the Crisis Corps, that would send former Peace Corps volunteers into crisis areas for six months or less to help during emergencies.[22] However Gearan later regretted that he had not moved faster in creating the corps.[22] "I lost time and ground because I sought a broad range of opinions for starting the Crisis Corps even though I knew it was a good idea. Today it exists -- and it is one of my proudest achievements."[22]

Plan to expand the Peace Corps[edit]

On January 3, 1998, President Clinton proposed to expand the Peace Corps from about 6,500 volunteers to 10,000 volunteers by the year 2000.[23] "President Clinton's initiative to put the Peace Corps on the path to have 10,000 volunteers serving overseas by the year 2000 is one of the most important developments in the history of the Peace Corps," Gearan said.[23] "The President's initiative would result in a 50 percent increase in the number of Peace Corps volunteers. This is a strong affirmation of the contributions of 6,500 volunteers currently serving in 85 countries, as well as the work of more than 150,000 Americans who have joined the Peace Corps since 1961."[23] However the initiative failed to gain political traction or substantial increased funding in Congress and by the end of Clinton's term in office, the number of volunteers had made only modest gains increasing to about 7,100.[24]

University President[edit]

On June 1, 1999, President Clinton announced that Gearan would be leaving the administration to accept the position of President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.[25] "One of the best personnel decisions I have made as President was to appoint Mark Gearan as the Director of the Peace Corps," Clinton said.[25] "I believe he has been one of the most successful Directors since President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961. He has rejuvenated the Peace Corps, and demonstrated a deep commitment to its legacy of service and the women and men who serve as Peace Corps volunteers. He can be proud that the Peace Corps will soon have more volunteers serving overseas than at any time in a generation."[25]

Gearan explained why he left government to come to Hobart and William Smith.[26] "College administration generally and, in particular, small, residential, liberal arts colleges have always been things I thought I would like to be a part of, because of their importance, because they are mission-oriented, because they are value-centered," Gearan said.[26] "I came up here and was enormously impressed with the students and their capacity and their love for the place and their yearning for learning," Gearan added.[26] As President of Hobart and William Smith, Gearan began the development of a five-year strategic planning initiative and a $160 million capital campaign to greatly expanding the Colleges’ facilities for academic, athletic and residential life.[27]

Gearan established a lecture series, the President’s Forum, to bring national and international speakers to the University.[28] Making use of personal contacts made during his thirty years in politics, speakers in the series have included Hillary Clinton, Robert Drinan, Sam Donaldson, Ralph Nader, Donna Shalala, Michael Dukakis, George Stephanopoulos, Barney Frank, George McGovern, Gloria Steinem, and Helen Thomas.[28] "These speakers will enrich the campus life, while at the same time giving our visiting speakers a better sense of the dynamic community we have here," said Gearan, at the time of the series' creation.[28]

New York Times rape story and Gearan's response[edit]

A July 13, 2014 New York Times article detailed a case in which a Hobart and William Smith freshman reported a sexual assault by three students two weeks into her first year.[29] A rape kit performed on the alleged victim the next day showed "blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating "intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful," as well as evidence that the student's BAC was twice the amount for her to be considered legally drunk.[29] A college panel began investigation proceedings without medical information obtained after the assault. During the proceedings the student who had alleged sexual assault was forbidden to have either legal counsel or family members present.[29] Twelve days after the sexual assault was reported, the accused were cleared of all charges.[29]

As president of HWS, Gearan issued a response on July 13, 2014, stating that "even though we believe we handled the circumstances fairly and within the constraints of the law, and that we made decisions based on the evidence, there is no sense of satisfaction other than the knowledge that we treated everyone with compassion, kindness and respect." He went on to state that "HWS officials met with the Times reporter for two lengthy interviews and answered numerous questions via e-mail and phone, all in an effort to fully explain our approach and philosophy regarding sexual assault cases" and complained that "information that was provided to the Times reporter [was] largely missing from the article" and that transcripts of the hearings "were quoted out of context".[30]

On July 16, 2014, he issued a second response omitting his previous claims that the situation had been handled fairly and his previous complaints about the New York Times, stating instead that "A group of faculty, staff, students and alums are working on a thorough review of our processes for sexual misconduct cases".[31]

Other activities and honors[edit]

Gearan is the recipient of 12 honorary degrees.[27] Gearan serves on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Points of Light Foundation, the Annapolis Group, the Corporation for National and Community Service and The Partnership of Public Service.[27]

On April 28, 2003 the Washington Post reported that Gearan's re-appointment to the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service had been kicked back by the Bush White House.[32] On November 23, 2004, Gearan was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service.[33] On November 30, 2007 the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Gearan was confirmed on November 16 to another three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service.[34]

An article by the Associated Press on September 17, 2004, said that in the event of a Kerry win in the 2004 campaign for the presidency, Gearan would be a possible nominee for the post of Secretary of the Interior.[35]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "White House. "Mark Daniel Gearan: Assistant to the President". Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Political Theorist, Veteran Journalist, World War II Ace, Peace Corps Director, and more to Speak at Yale this Week.", Yale News Release. April 19, 1996. Archived September 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Gearan, Anne (2016-02-18). "Hugh Hewitt Show" (Interview). Interview with Hugh Hewitt. 
  5. ^ a b c d Gearan, Mark D. (February 3, 2007). "Boston Globe. "Father Drinan was our unfailing champion"". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  6. ^ "University of Maine. "National Peace Corps director and former White House deputy chief of staff to speak at UMFK commencement"". April 16, 1999. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Holmes, Steven A. (September 18, 1992). "The 1992 Campaign: Campaign Profile; Captain of the Gore Team, Go-Between to Clinton September 18, 1992". New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c R. W. Apple, Jr. (August 17, 1988). "The Republicans in New Orleans; Bush Chooses Senator Quayle of Indiana, a 41-year-old Conservative, for No. 2 Slot". New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d Robin Toner (August 31, 1988). "Dukakis and Bush Trade Fire in Heavy Barrages; Democrat Denounces Rival's Stand in the Iran-Contra Affair". The New York Times. Nicaragua; Iran. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Ifill, Gwen (May 17, 1992). "The 1992 Campaign: Political Memo; Clinton Seeks to Reintroduce Himself". New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  11. ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth (May 17, 1992). "The Slogan Search Hasn't Yet Been Buttoned Up". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  12. ^ Berke, Richard L. (May 27, 1992). "The 1992 Campaign: Headquarters; Trying to Gain Mileage By Staying in Arkansas". New York Times. Arkansas. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b New York Times. "No Headlines." January 3, 1993.
  14. ^ a b c Turner Learning. "Mark D. Gearan" Archived October 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine..
  15. ^ a b Keen, Judy (July 1, 2005). "USA Today. "White House braces for intense nomination battle"". USA Today. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Williams, Lena (June 22, 1995). "Chronicle". New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "Friends of Ghana. "Peace Corps Leadership Changes"". April 1, 1995. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  18. ^ a b c "Peace Corps Online. "Donna Shalala's remarks on Mark Gearan." August 4, 1995". Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  19. ^ Fairfield University. Peace Corps Director Mark D. Gearan Fairfield University commencement speaker." April 1, 1999. Archived June 10, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ "Peace Corps Press Release. "On the 35th Anniversary of the Peace Corps, its Director Calls Volunteers 'True Global Citizens' and Cites Continued Service in U.S." March 1, 1996". October 18, 1996. Archived from the original on October 18, 1996. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  21. ^ a b c "Peace Corps Online. "US and China sign Peace Corps Agreement during Presidential visit." June 29, 1998". Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  22. ^ a b c Mark Hoffman (March 1, 2001). "Mark Gearan: My Biggest Mistake". Inc. Magazine. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b c "US Embassy in Israel. "Peace Corps Director on the new Clinton Initiative". January 3, 1998. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Peace Corps Press Release. "Peace Corps' Volunteer Numbers Reach Record High"". November 18, 2003. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  25. ^ a b c "Statement by the President." The White House. June 1, 1999. Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ a b c Dana Cooke. (Summer 1999). "Hobart and William Smith Colleges. "Presidential Appointment"". Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  27. ^ a b c "President's Page". Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  28. ^ a b c "President's Forum." Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
  29. ^ a b c d Bogdanich, Walter (12 July 2014). "Reporting Rape and Wishing She Hadn't: How One College Handled a Sexual Assault Complaint". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  30. ^ Mark D. Gearan (July 13, 2014), Messages to the Campus Community, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, retrieved July 20, 2014 
  31. ^ Mark D. Gearan (July 16, 2014), Messages to the Campus Community, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, retrieved July 20, 2014 
  32. ^ Al Kamen. (April 28, 2003). "Washington Post. "Shattered Imprimatur"". Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Senate confirms Gearan board seat.", Rochester Business Daily. November 23, 2004. Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  34. ^ "Hobart chief in national post". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. November 30, 2007. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  35. ^ "Associated Press. "Kerry's Cabinet: Advisers, governors, Clinton returnees, a general, a Republican or two?."". September 17, 2004. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
George Stephanopoulos
White House Director of Communications
Succeeded by
Don Baer
Government offices
Preceded by
Carol Bellamy
Director of the Peace Corps
Succeeded by
Mark Schneider