On Sunday, Feb. 22, Wheaton’s Presidential Search Committee selected current Provost and Vice President of Babson College Dennis Hanno to become Wheaton’s new president, effective July 15. Hanno will be Wheaton’s eighth president.
In Cole Memorial Chapel the following Wednesday, the Wheaton campus warmly welcomed Hanno to the community. As only the eighth president in Wheaton’s 180 years, Hanno will bring much-needed financial experience to the school, having served as a Professor of Accounting at both the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst and at Babson College.
The past week was a busy one for Hanno and the Wheaton community, with students and faculty alike searching for information about the new president-elect. Running from interview to interview, Hanno prides himself on being very accessible. He garnered a large social media presence during his time at Babson, which is evidenced mainly through his Twitter account. Already, he accumulated a decent following from the Wheaton community, which is guaranteed to grow once he takes office. One Twitter interaction was a humorous exchange between co-president of the Dimple Divers Joe Nelson ’14 and Hanno, with Hanno asking if presidents could join the improvisation group.
Many Wheaton students are enthused about Hanno.
“He’s presenting a bright new chapter for Wheaton. The students and faculty all seem really excited and the fact that he was well-respected and loved at his old school is a really good sign about his presidency here at Wheaton,” said Clare Prober ’16.
While Hanno is active and engaged on social media, he emphasizes the difference between this engagement and being genuinely available. He hopes to expand his relationship with students by listening to them and by having a visible presence on campus. Hanno mentioned how he is still in contact with students he taught ten years ago, saying, “If you have meaningful experiences, you tend to stay together.”
Hanno received ample attention regarding his switch from Babson to Wheaton, often regarding their different public perceptions. Of these differences, Hanno said, “I see myself leaving a school with a great specific niche… I think Wheaton is just as good as Babson – perhaps better in some areas. Wheaton is a true top level liberal arts school with no place to go but up.”
Hanno did not comment at length on Babson’s decision to select Kerry Healey as their new President. However, he believes that Healey’s network and perspectives are going to be a great asset for the school.
In response to the movement started by two alumni to select him as Babson’s new president, Hanno said, “I was flattered, I was embarrassed, but I was thankful that I had a great group of friends that thought it was a way to show support and voice their interest in what happens at the college.”
The President-elect indicated that he has many ideas for Wheaton once his term begins. Until then, he will finish out the year at Babson and focus on his job as Provost while looking forward to a change come summertime.
One perspective Hanno might bring to Wheaton comes from his work abroad, as he currently serves as the Executive Director of the Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center. He said he has been receiving emails from around the world regarding Wheaton and wants to continue increasing visibility. Recently returned from London, he said, “You can never be too global.”
It is clear from President-Elect Hanno’s welcoming ceremony as well as from his subequent social media posts (he can be followed on Twitter at @dhanno) that he looks towards his tenure at Wheaton with enthusiasm. He said, “Wheaton is attractive to me because it has such a strong student-centered culture; an amazingly rich and long history focused on providing students with opportunity; outstanding faculty, staff and students; and a unique curricular and co-curricular experience. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to lead an institution with such a solid foundation and so much potential!”