G. DAVID GEARHART
Biography ~ August 2010
Dr. G. David Gearhart became the fifth chancellor of the University of Arkansas on July 1, 2008, following 10 years of service to the university in his capacity as vice chancellor for university advancement. During that decade leading up to his appointment as the campus’ chief executive, he was the architect of the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century – the largest, most successful capital campaign in Arkansas history, which raised more than $1 billion for academic programs and increased the endowment from $119 million to almost $900 million.
A native of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Chancellor Gearhart was born and raised in the shadow of Old Main. An alumnus of the university whose name is twice inscribed on Senior Walk for the law degree (J.D.) and doctor of education degree (Ed.D.) he earned, Gearhart feels that his entire adult life has prepared him for this singular honor and challenge.
“I believe the ultimate success of the University of Arkansas will be measured to a large extent on how it demonstrates its usefulness to society,” Gearhart says. “Of all of the rich contributions that America has bestowed on the world, American higher education is among the most important. Our colleges and universities have become, perhaps, the most vital expression of the American political and social philosophy.”
The path that would lead him back to his alma mater began in 1976, when Gearhart became assistant to the president at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where he received his baccalaureate two years earlier. In 1977, he was appointed the director of development at Westminster and led fundraising efforts for The Winston Churchill Memorial and Library. Thus was launched a nationally respected career in university advancement.
In 1978, he returned to his native state to become vice president for development at Hendrix College. After four years at Hendrix, Gearhart returned home for the first time when he was selected to be the director of development at the University of Arkansas. In this role, he spearheaded the Campaign for Books, which added more than 100,000 volumes to the University of Arkansas Libraries.
In 1985, Gearhart took another career leap when appointed vice president for development and university relations at The Pennsylvania State University. Three years later, he was promoted to senior vice president, responsible for the external relations programs for 23 campuses statewide. While at Penn State, he launched a major capital campaign, which raised in excess of $352 million. Total private gifts to Penn State during his 11 years at the university surpassed $950 million, and Gearhart’s division was cited three times by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) with its grand gold medal, awarded to the nation’s top advancement program.
In 1995, Gearhart joined the international consulting firm of Grenzebach, Glier, and Associates as senior vice president and managing director, but stayed closely connected to advancing the mission of higher education. The Chicago-based philanthropic management firm has hundreds of clients in the United States, Canada and Europe, and fundraising goals in excess of $40 billion.
Clients managed by Gearhart included nearly two dozen non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, among them American University, Brigham Young University, Rutgers University, University of Alabama, University of Connecticut, University of Miami (Florida), University of Pittsburgh and University of Washington.
In 1998, Gearhart once again returned to his native state as vice chancellor for university advancement at the University of Arkansas. He was responsible for development, alumni relations, constituent relations, special events, and university relations programs. Arguably, his most significant impact in this role was the stunningly successful Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, a billion-dollar capital campaign that concluded in June 2005 with the University of Arkansas taking its place as one of only 13 public universities at that time to have exceeded a billion dollars raised.
The centerpiece of this campaign was a $300 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, the largest gift ever made to a public university. The direct results of Gearhart’s leadership in this effort included the creation of 132 new endowed faculty positions, 1,738 new student scholarship and fellowship funds, dozens of new and renovated facilities and classrooms, and growth of the overall endowment from $119 million in 1998 to nearly $900 million by the time he assumed the chancellorship.
In every imaginable way, the university was transformed by this campaign.
“At the University of Arkansas our ultimate purpose is to improve the human condition, to make life better for our citizens and our state and to contribute to the general welfare of our nation,” says Gearhart. “Thanks in part to the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, we’ve become recognized as a rising star as a major public research university in a state where higher education must play an increasingly larger role in the lives of its citizens. Working with our sister public institutions and in partnership with our own university system, we must work hard and smart to increase the college participation rate and to strengthen the quality of Arkansas’ higher education. We must be seen as enthusiastic leaders in this venture, all in a time of diminished public resources nationally that will not make it easy, but a challenge that we at the university must embrace.”
Gearhart was named a distinguished alumnus of his undergraduate alma mater, Westminster College, in 1992, and the same year was named a Fulbright Scholar and studied at Oxford University, Merton College in Oxford, England. In 1996, he was named an honorary alumnus of Penn State, where he finished his doctoral coursework in higher education administration.
In addition to his responsibilities as chancellor, Gearhart is a tenured member of the faculty in the College of Education and Health Professions, holding the rank of professor. A nationally respected expert in capital campaigns, he is the author of two books, The Capital Campaign in Higher Education and Philanthropy, Fund Raising and the Capital Campaign, as well as numerous articles.
Among his current professional affiliations, Gearhart serves as vice president of the University of Arkansas Fayetteville Campus Foundation, is a member of the board of advisors for the Arkansas World Trade Center, is a member of the Northwest Arkansas Council, and is a member of the advisory board of the Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History. He also is a licensed attorney in the state of Arkansas.
Gearhart is married to the former Jane Brockmann, whom he married in 1974. They have two children. Katy is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and is a speech pathologist. She is married to Dr. Justin B. Hunt, a psychiatrist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. They have one child, Ben. The Gearharts’ son Brock is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and is vice president—investments for Greenwood Gearhart Inc.in Fayetteville. He is married to the former Lindsey Vitale, a third grade teacher at Washington Elementary School, Fayetteville.
Gearhart’s late father, George A. Gearhart, was publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Times in Fayetteville. His mother, Joan Gearhart Havens, lives in Fayetteville.
“I have many dreams and aspirations that I’ve long held for the University of Arkansas,” Gearhart says, “and I look forward in the months and years ahead to sharing that vision and working with our outstanding students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, and certainly the board of trustees, on reaching our lofty goals and realizing the full potential of our university.”