Aurora University

Remembering Richard "Dick" Hamlin: Former GWC president, 1961-82

April 20, 2020

Richard Hamlin

Richard “Dick” Hamlin, PhD, 94, the president of George Williams College from 1961-1982, died Saturday, April 18, 2020, at his home in Naples, Florida.

Dick was a prominent leader in the YMCA movement when the call came from his alma mater, George Williams College, to assume its presidency. Dick set aside his own plans to respond and piloted one of the most successful eras in the institution’s history. In the years that followed, George Williams developed an outstanding faculty that wove together the values of the Y movement with cutting edge methodologies in research, practice, and pedagogy.

“As president, Dick played a vital role in educating a new generation of leaders for careers in human service and youth development organizations,” said Aurora University President Rebecca Sherrick, PhD. “It would be hard to overestimate the impact of his work. At one point, literally all of the leaders of Chicago’s major human service nonprofits were graduates of George Williams.

“At the helm of GWC, he also pioneered in the recruitment and education of international students. Many of these men and women left to become leading human service advocates in their home countries. Thanks to his leadership, a small Illinois college had global impact.”

“With his leadership, faculty, administrators, and staff were guided toward the achievement of a goal critical to society,” agreed Ed Langbein, who graduated from GWC in 1965 and later taught there. “George Williams College graduates continue to successfully fulfill the college’s mission, a lasting legacy that best portrays President Hamlin’s life work.”

In 2009, Aurora University saluted the Hamlin legacy by opening its new Welcome Center on the George Williams campus and naming the building in honor of Dick and Joan Hamlin. The building was dedicated on a gala weekend when the Hamlins celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with family and friends.

Hamlin was born in Royal, Iowa, in 1925, where his father was a Presbyterian minister. In 1943, he graduated from high school in Aurora, Missouri, then served in the Navy for three years as a psychiatric technician. He received a Bachelor of Science in Group Work Education from GWC in 1949, a Master of Arts in Psychology from University of Omaha in 1951, and a PhD in Educational Psychology from University of Nebraska in 1956.

After serving as executive director of the South Omaha YMCA from 1949 to 1951, Hamlin was the program and adult education secretary of the Omaha Metropolitan Board of the YMCA from 1951 until 1953, when he became the associate director of research for the National Council of YMCAs until he began his presidency of GWC in 1961.

“Alicia and I met Dick shortly before I joined the George Williams College Board of Trustees in 1981,” said Mickey Resnik. “From that date, I knew him to embody the many diverse qualities it took to fulfill the requirements of leading a modern, relevant liberal arts college. He was thoughtful and action-oriented, guided by the principles underlying GWC. He had a unique capacity to connect with the many members of the college's community, which included the students, the administration, the trustees, the faculty, and the greater community served by GWC. His goal to meet the worthy objectives and historic promise of the school led to securing its future. With a steady hand on the helm, he navigated the sometimes-turbulent seas to the safe harbor of Aurora University. The mission of GWC remains embedded in the culture of AU.

“It was always rewarding for Alicia and me to see and visit with Dick and Joan each summer at Music by the Lake. We learned from him and shall miss him.”

Hamlin was a registered psychologist and held positions in the banking industry as well. After retiring from the presidency of the college, he was named chairman and CEO of the Bank of Yorktown and was a member of seniot management of Cole-Taylor Banks. He served in various executive capacities with the Holding Company. Upon retirement he was named an honorary director of Cole-Taylor Banks. Outside of the presidency of GWC, he was heavily involved in the area of higher education.

“He understood the importance of collaboration,” said Sherrick. “He brought top Chicago executives to the George Williams College Board of Trustees and forged unprecedented working relationships with other private college and university presidents. He partnered with Aurora College President James Crimi to establish the Associated Colleges of Illinois in an era when competition, rather than collaboration, was the norm.

“Few people have had a greater impact on my own life and career. Dick was a remarkable man. I cherish his memory.”

In more recent years, Dick and Joan Hamlin divided their time between a winter home at Bentley Village in Naples, Florida, and a summer home in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Their summer residence, known as the “Hamlin Hideaway” sits at the edge of the George Williams College campus. Quickly the home’s screened porch became a popular stop for current and past members of the GWC community.

Active in the antique car hobby for many years, he was a master senior national judge for the Antique Automobile Club of America and was the proud owner of two beautiful award-winning automobiles. Boating, computers, woodworking, photography, and video making were among his other numerous hobbies.

Hamlin is survived by Carol Joan (nee Dahl), his wife of 70 years, who he married on August 14, 1949; his son, Robert E. Hamlin, and his wife, Cynthia, of Ft. Myers, Florida; daughter, Betsy (GWC ’86), of Los Angeles, California; and grandsons Richard Will Hamlin and his wife, Mei, Guam and Singapore, and Trevor Hamlin of Ft. Myers, Florida.

Memorial gifts in his memory may be made to the Richard E. and C. Joan Hamlin Scholarship Fund at George Williams College, P.O. Box 210, 350 Constance Blvd., Williams Bay, Wisconsin, 53191.