College Celebrates the Life of Gordon Haaland
By Sarah Kirkpatrick, Staff Writer
Gettysburg College held a memorial service Sunday in the Campus Union Building Ballroom honoring the college’s 12th president, Gordon Haaland, who served the college from 1990 to 2004. The event provided Haaland’s colleagues and friends with an opportunity to mourn his sudden loss and celebrate his legacy. Speakers stood in front of the former president’s image and shared their fondest memories of him with an audience of deans, professors, and Haaland’s family members.
“There is no doubt that I would not be president today if Gordon had not reached into the faculty and picked me out,” shared current Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs, “I am very grateful for that…most days.”
Riggs explained that Haaland selected her to work as his executive assistant, which helped her to develop her leadership skills and gave the faculty a greater voice in the college’s affairs.
As Former Board of Trustees Chair David LeVan explained, “I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody that had the sense of people Gordon had.”
Countless speakers praised Haaland’s talent for surrounding himself with extraordinary people and encouraging them to reach their full potential. They argued that he treated everyone equally with respect and friendship, regardless of their position at the college.
In addition to his gift for people, Haaland also had a talent for ideas. Philosophy Professor Daniel DeNicola and former US Ambassador to Estonia Lawrence Taylor shared the often-quoted line that “Gordon Haaland never met an idea he didn’t like.”
Although not always intended as praise, they argued that this statement demonstrated Haaland’s ability to see the potential in any idea, just like he could in any person.
The ideas that Haaland supported helped make Gettysburg College the institution that it is today. His capital campaign generated $100 million for the school and allowed the renovation of the Gettysburg Hotel as well as the Majestic Theater. During his time as president, Haaland also added 12 new majors and minors, increased diversity in the faculty and student body, constructed the Science Center, Sunderman Conservatory, and Quarry apartments, and founded the Annapolis Group to promote liberal arts education.
“Gordon would be the last to take credit for all the things done during his tenure,” explained LeVan, “but he knew exactly the right thing to do at exactly the right time with exactly the right person.”
Although the college continues to mourn the loss of such an extraordinary man and leader, his legacy lives on in Gettysburg. During part of the ceremony, musicians from the Sunderman Conservatory played orchestral pieces as a slideshow reviewed important moments in Haaland’s time as president. On the other side of campus, an increasingly diverse group of students studied for finals in the Science Center or their Quarry apartments. And, down the road, the Majestic Theater opened its doors to share incredible performances with the community.
“We all feel that Gordon was taken from us too soon,” concluded Taylor, “The loss is real, but real too are the ideas that he set into motion. Here with us in Gettysburg, Gordon still has a large footprint.”