About Us

Contact Us

Our Mission

Learning connects the curious.

That’s our philosophy. We involve you in the life of the mind. And we know that when curious people gather to learn, friendships blossom.

We invite you to expand your intellectual horizons and to bring your zeal for learning to our community – so it can become yours, too.

We pledge to bring you the best that our University offers. We believe both the University and the surrounding community become richer in this exchange.

Curiosity + Community: Presidents’ College is lifelong learning at its best!

Michele Troy, Presidents' College Director
Michele Troy, Presidents' College Director

Today’s Presidents’ College has embraced growth and change, incorporating new areas of study, upgraded technology, and partnerships with organizations both on and off campus.

On campus, we have fostered programs and lectures with multiple organizations, including Alumni Engagement; the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement; the Greenberg Center; the Barney School and The Hartt School. In Greater Hartford, our partnerships with the CT Mirror and several arts organizations have raised the program’s profile and expanded its reach. The Presidents’ College has also enhanced its ties to local retirement communities Duncaster, The McAuley, and McLean, holding four programs per semester at each location at no charge to residents.  

Current Director Michele Troy is a Professor of English and former coordinator of the Honors Experience at Hillyer College at the University. She sparked creative adaption during COVID times, leading the Presidents’ College through the new territory of Zoom and hybrid classes to continue engaging students. With that said, the lifeblood of the program is what happens in the classroom, with engaged instructors, lively discussions, and warm friendships. For this reason, we are happy to have largely returned to in-person learning. 

Humphrey Tonkin, Presidents' College Founder
Humphrey Tonkin, Presidents' College Founder

The Presidents’ College began in 1990 as a pioneering initiative founded by then-University President Humphrey Tonkin. The first courses were on Shakespearean plays, taught by Tonkin himself, and open to the public. Over four years the group discussed every single Shakespeare play, and the popularity of these meetings of the mind created an appetite for a broader portfolio of courses. 

Tonkin was ahead of his time, seeing the benefit of engaging people from surrounding communities in the intellectual life of the campus, and building connections between them and the University. Increasing numbers of healthy, active adults were also living longer after retirement, creating a growing cadre of lifelong learners eager to enjoy the vibrancy of a university environment. Tonkin received national recognition when the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) granted the Presidents’ College its annual award for outstanding continuing education.

By 2006 the Presidents’ College, under Director Patricia Cremins, came under the welcoming roof of the Harrison Libraries. Director of Libraries Randi Ashton-Pritting aided and supported the program. From its inception, volunteers were crucial contributors, ensuring the program’s survival.  A Steering Committee of rotating Volunteers supported the Directors and provided feedback. Following Patricia Cremins, Presidents’ College Directors have included President Emeritus Humphrey Tonkin, former Arts & Sciences Dean Joseph Voelker, and Steve Metcalf, former Hartford Courant music critic and Curator of the Garmany Chamber Music Series. Randi Ashton-Pritting, Director of Libraries, also acted as Interim Director, shepherding the program safely through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of Hartford Presidents Humphrey Tonkin, Walter Harrison, and Gregory Woodward have all valued how the Presidents’ College extends the University’s educational mission to the benefit of both the University and the local community.

Media Spotlight

Discover the Presidents' College, celebrated as one of New England's premier lifelong learning programs. Explore our latest coverage and inspiring stories to learn more about how we foster a community of passionate learners.