April 25, 2019

In Honor of Richard Garner, Ph.D., Founding Dean of the Honors College

by Charity Shumway

Dean Richard GarnerIn 1994, classics scholar Richard Garner, Ph.D., came to Adelphi from Yale University with a mission: to take Adelphi’s small honors program and, as founding dean, turn it into a full-fledged Honors College. Twenty-five years later, Dr. Garner’s resounding success is everywhere to be seen. In the Honors College’s robust living-learning community centered in Earle Hall. In the more than 2,000 applicants for the College last year. In a student body of fewer than 300 students who consistently play a leading role on campus. In the thriving network of successful Honors College alumni. And in the ever-growing Honors College scholarship endowments, seeded by Dr. Garner himself, that will enable generations of students to come to Adelphi and build their futures.

After 25 years at the helm of the Honors College, Dr. Garner is retiring at the end of the spring semester. The Adelphi community is invited to come together—in his honor—on Tuesday, April 30, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in the Thomas Dixon Lovely Ballroom in the Ruth S. Harley University Center, to wish him the best and show our appreciation for his years of service as founding dean of the Honors College and for his dedication to and support of student scholarship.

Creating the Honors College

When he first arrived at Adelphi, Dr. Garner envisioned creating an Honors College that would give students, as he says, “an old-fashioned liberal arts education.” That vision has held true from the beginning to today. Every Adelphi Honors College class is taught seminar-style, with roughly 10 to 20 students. There’s a strong emphasis on the classics, with courses such as Mathematics and the Enlightenment and Reading Kafka, and the seminar format ensures ample opportunity for discussion and critical thinking. In their senior year, every Honors College student completes a senior honors thesis under the one-to-one guidance of a faculty adviser.

Dr. Garner also envisioned an Honors College experience that would extend well beyond the classroom, and he has been just as successful at achieving that goal. The Earle Hall living-learning community now comprises updated residential spaces, study lounges, a practice room and dedicated classrooms—all open to every Honors College student 24/7, whether they live on campus or not.

Students collectively attend cultural events in Manhattan several times a semester, including The Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet and Broadway plays. Dr. Garner regularly hosts dinners after Adelphi cultural events and invites Honors College students to his house adjacent to campus for Dean’s Reading Circle dinners where, after enjoying a meal prepared by the dean himself, students discuss a book or an article they’ve read in advance. “They’re very much like class discussions,” said Dr. Garner, “but around the dinner table, and once we’ve finished the formal discussion, it’s more personal. It’s a different kind of community building.”

Supporting Scholars

In 2004, Dr. Garner established six Honors College scholarships. He has gone on to personally donate more than $1 million, joining Adelphi’s Million Dollar Round Table in 2016 and being named an Adelphi Legend in 2017.

Reflecting on his time at Adelphi, Dr. Garner said he is grateful for what he calls the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to create the Honors College. But above all, he said, he has felt the privilege of making an impact on countless lives. “For Honors College students, we are a stepping-stone to as large a venue as they can imagine, larger than they can imagine when they arrive,” he said. “We make it possible for students who otherwise might not get there to go on and make that kind of future.”


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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

Recognized as a Best College by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. It serves almost 8,000 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, as well as online. 

More than 116,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, engaged citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.

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