New leader calls North Central College a ‘dream opportunity’
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com October 30, 2012 8:42AM
Naperville resident Troy Hammond was named North Central College's new president last week. Here he poses for a photograph at the A.A. Smith house on the schools campus in Downtown Naperville on Monday, October 29, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Family: wife Sharlene, a certified nurse practitioner; son Adonay, 15, Naperville North High School; son Dillon, 13, Kennedy Junior High School; daughter Karina, 12, Washington Junior High School; and Gabrielle, 10, Naper Elementary School
Favorite book: anything by David G. McCullough; most recently read “1776”
Favorite televsion show: he’s a self-described “sports fanatic” who currently favors hockey and is hopeful the 6-week-old NHL lockout will end soon
Favorite family activity: walking around the downtown area and Riverwalk with his wife, Sharlene, their three kids and the family’s 1-year-old Labrador, Luke
Updated: December 1, 2012 6:10AM
Troy Hammond won’t report for work at North Central College officially for another nine weeks or so, but he’s been tuned in to the downtown Naperville campus for quite some time already.
Described by North Central search committee chairman Michael Naset as a “president for the future,” the newly named top administrator is a scholar, entrepreneur and businessman. He called his new position a “dream opportunity” when he sat down with The Sun Monday morning for his first interview with local media.
“I’m in the beginning of the heart of my professional career,” said Hammond, 45. “I was looking for an opportunity that really would combine all of my experiences, and also give me an opportunity to pursue something with a passion and leave a legacy, and have a social impact as well.”
Hammond earned undergraduate degrees in physics and math before receiving his doctorate in experimental atomic physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was early in his collegiate career when he became a devout believer in liberal arts education and its ability to inspire “broad thinkers” whose ideas span a variety of disciplines.
“I discovered my own personal passion for the sciences at Milligan College, a small liberal arts school in Tennessee — this kind of environment,” he said. “And I discovered that passion because of and through dedicated faculty spending personal interaction and personal time with me, teaching me, giving me those educational experiences. And so having discovered that passion which carried me through ultimately to my doctorate and then to my professional career, I’ve experienced the benefits of that kind of a liberal arts education.”
His path to North Central has taken him through an eight-year stint in management consulting and another six years as an executive with a technology firm, during which he also spent part of his time as an adjunct professor. He agreed his background in the tech world will have relevance in the electronic age for North Central’s top administrator, but it has limits.
“North Central and its faculty understands that a high-quality liberal arts education requires a dedicated faculty or teachers face-to-face with students over countless hours of work to really develop those kinds of thinking skills and creative problem-solving skills that position our graduates for successful careers,” Hammond said. “It’s living, breathing professors, not pixels on a computer screen, that really make that happen. So we have to find ways to take advantage of opportunities like that, but make sure we stay true to the heart that makes North Central special. I think my personal background in technology, in science, in innovation will help me assess those opportunities with a unique perspective, to find the right unique answer for North Central.”
He said he expects to engage, early and often, with North Central’s trustee and alumni communities, and sees them as a tremendous asset. He also commended the progress made during the tenure of outgoing President Harold “Hal” Wilde.
“(North Central) has come a long way, but it can’t stand still. It has to aggressively continue to move forward,” Hammond said. “I think it can be a truly premier liberal arts school in the region, not just in Illinois but even more broadly than that, but it won’t be that without vision, leadership and support of trustees and alumni.”
The trustees are ready to give the new president their support, according to Steve Hoeft, board chairman and a Naperville resident. He agreed with others who deemed Hammond a great fit for the college in the new century. The board, Hoeft said, saw “a significant strength” in the diversity of Hammond’s resume.
“We do view the fact that he has extensive experience in the academic world — but then broad, varied and successful experience — as a real plus,” he said.
Hoeft commended Wilde, who will retire Dec. 31 after nearly 22 years as North Central’s president, during a welcoming event in Wentz Concert Hall Monday afternoon.
“Hal, I thank you for all you’ve done and accomplished for the college,” Hoeft said, noting that Wilde helped the board define what they were looking for in his replacement.
Hammond moved to Naperville in 2010 with his wife, Sharlene, and their four kids when he hired on as president of energy services at BlueStar Energy, now an affiliate of American Electric Power. The family plans to move sometime next year into the home North Central owns on South Loomis Street that is now occupied by Wilde and his wife. College spokesman Ted Slowik said the house will undergo renovation work before the Hammonds take occupancy.
Other than the residence, there was no information made available about Hammond’s salary or other benefits. Slowik said those details will be provided, but the time frame is uncertain.