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University Community Celebrates President Harrison's Retirement

President Walter Harrison and Dianne Harrison“This is an incredible University,” President Walter Harrison told the hundreds of people gathered for his retirement celebration in the Sports Center on Wednesday, April 5. “I want you to leave here not thinking, ‘Walt Harrison was a great guy,’ but that, ‘he had the great privilege and honor of being the president of the greatest University in the world.”

Harrison said he never could have accomplished everything he did without the work of the campus community. He also acknowledged the support of his wife Dianne.

“For 19 years, she’s given up her hopes and dreams in life so I could fulfill mine,” he said. “And I will be forever grateful to her.” Watch  Harrison’s speech:

“During Walt’s tenure, we have grown,” said Lucille Nickerson, chair of the University Board of Regents, who was master of ceremonies for the event, “in number of undergraduates, faculty, and staff; in endowment, majors and programs; in involvement with, and expansion, into the community; in recognition, reputation and stature.” Watch Nickerson’s full remarks.

The celebration for Harrison, who is retiring at the end of June after 19 years as president, was filled with personal touches. Food stations representing the places he has lived, a video booth for friends to leave messages, and stations for postcard messages filled the Chase Arena. The Hartford Pep Band, which Harrison helped create, provided the musical entertainment. See photo gallery.

There were many surprises during the party. A championship banner in honor of Harrison, donated by University Regent Tom Trillo ’79, was unveiled and now hangs from the Sports Center rafters. Harrison received proclamations from lawmakers including Congressman John Larson (D-CT), Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy, and the Connecticut State Legislature, submitted by State Representative Andrew Fleischmann (18th District). Harrison was honored with two original fanfares written by Hartt School Professor Stephen Gryc and performed by an ensemble of Hartt students under the direction of Professor Edward Cumming. Harrison is a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan and he also received a letter from the Pirates President Frank Coonelly and an authentic jersey bearing his name and the number 19.See videos of the presentations.