Joseph N. Hankin (Ed.D. ’67), the former President of Westchester Community College (WCC), has passed away at the age of 78. Upon his retirement in 2014, after 42 years in that role, he was the nation’s longest-serving community college president. 

“You have to get out to where the people are,” Hankin said in an article about higher education leadership in TC’s 2012 Annual Report. “You have to be cross-eyed: one eye on the stars, another on the minutiae on your desk.”

Joseph N. Hankin

ONE EYE ON THE STARS Hankin believed in balancing everyday concerns with pursuit of a larger vision.

Hankin, who received TC’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1977, did both things well. When, at the age of 26, he became President of Harford Junior College in Bel Air, Maryland, in 1966, he was the youngest college president in the country. He became President of WCC in 1971 – the year that TV’s “All in the Family debuted,” as the Westchester-based Journal News noted, and also the year of the Attica prison riots. On his lengthy watch, WCC’s enrollment grew from 4,000 students to more than 13,000, with another 5,000 scattered across a number of satellite locations. Now the largest institution of higher education in Westchester County, WCC offers more than 50 training programs for different careers.

When Hankin stepped down five years ago – succeeded by another TC graduate, Belinda Miles (Ed.D. ’00, M.A. ’88) – Nancy L. Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York system, praised him for “elevating the college’s presence,” adding that WCC “will forever be defined by President Hankin’s tenure.”

“The field has lost a dedicated and wise professional, to whom it owes much. He will be missed.”

—Thomas Bailey

Hankin was a New York City native and a product of the city’s public schools. After attending City College and earning his master of arts degree at Columbia University, Hankin received his education doctorate (in Administration of Higher Education) at Teachers College, where he was among a number of  graduates who went on to become community college leaders. He later taught a class on community colleges at TC and served on the advisory board of TC’s Community College Research Center (CCRC).

“I sat in on Dr. Hankin’s community college class, and I continue to benefit from many of the insights and lessons I learned there,” said President Thomas Bailey, who founded CCRC and served its director until this past summer, in an announcement to the TC community about Hankin’s passing. “He was always generous, insightful and supportive. The field has lost a dedicated and wise professional, to whom it owes much. He will be missed.”