Cardinal Cadence - Winter 2005

A love of learning

Ann Die HasselmoAll her life, Ann Die Hasselmo ’66, has excelled in the academic world – as a student leader, summa cum laude graduate, university professor, dean, college president, distinguished alumna and on dozens of boards that chart the course of colleges and universities.

Now, more than ever, she is part of the big picture in higher education.

Since 2002, Hasselmo has been managing director of Academic Search Consultation Service, one of the leading educational executive search firms in the world. Each year, the Washington, D.C.-based company matches 60 or more institutions of higher learning with just the right leaders.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with national higher education associations, scientific foundations and colleges and universities,” says Hasselmo, a Distinguished Alumna of Lamar University and President Emerita of Hendrix College in Arkansas. “Instead of doing institutional development and institutional transformation at a single institution, the opportunity to get to do that across the nation was one I couldn’t pass up.”

Her seventh-floor office on K Street Northwest, in the heart of the nation’s capital, looks out over skyscrapers where the machinery of national government hums, whirs and whistles. “The nation’s capital is an exciting place to live,” Hasselmo says. “It’s great fun.” Hasselmo’s job takes her to campuses across the country and around the world. The demands are intense, the pace nonstop. For Ann Hasselmo, the rewards are unending.

“I love it,” she declares, with a passion in her voice that says she means it. “It is amazing that higher education has so much talent . . . it’s remarkable the people who are ready to assume positions in senior leadership.”

It is no surprise she has come such a long way, for Ann Marie Hayes was a little girl with lofty dreams – “to travel, to see new worlds, to experience things that I had only read about and to live a life I could only imagine,” as she describes those dreams today. “I do believe that each day, doors opened and new paths became available as I went through life.”

Hasselmo was born in Baytown and graduated from high school in Silsbee before arriving at Lamar, a first-generation college student.

“It was a door to education. I found the classrooms at Lamar so exciting and the faculty members who taught me so inspiring, that, each time I took a class, I thought, ‘That’s what I want to major in,’” Hasselmo said.

“I had a grandfather who wanted to go to college but was never able to because of financial constraints and having to work full time from when he was young,” Hasselmo said. “He was a leader and mentor in my life, and we spent many hours discussing current events and magazine articles. He appreciated my desire to get an education and the love I had for learning. He and my parents encouraged and cultivated and celebrated with me as I was able to go through my educational experience.”

At Lamar, she says, “I had the most wonderful professors – people who took a special interest in students, who cared about education and learning. I had incredible mentors.”

She singles out Myrtle Bell, Samuel Evans and Ralph Wooster. Hasselmo was taking Evans’ Texas history course the semester he died, and she went on to earn the first Samuel Evans Award for Texas history, an honor she will never forget.

Hasselmo served as news editor of the campus newspaper, then the Redbird, and was associate editor of Pulse, the literary magazine. She was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi national honor society, the Freshman Honor Society and a senator representing the College of Arts and Sciences in the Student Government Association.

When she ran for the SGA post, she borrowed a marketing strategy from Burma Shave signs that once lined the nation’s roadways: “When promises of candidates . . . Have you in a daze . . . Make the right choice . . . Vote Ann Hayes.”

After graduating summa cum laude from Lamar with a degree in elementary education, Hasselmo earned a master of education from the University of Houston in 1969 and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Texas A&M University in 1977. She joined the Lamar faculty after completing an internship at the campus Counseling Center as she was finishing her doctorate.

A position was open in the psychology department, where her mentor, Myrtle Bell, was chair.

Hasselmo was drawn to psychology with her first course in the subject, educational psychology with Bell. “I remembered not only the general issues, but also the details, research, examples, theories and principles,” she says. “The excitement of reading about the human potential and human behavior has never ceased to be fascinating.”

In her department, she says, “I had a great group of colleagues. We tried to provide an educational experience the students who were majors or minors or just passing through psychology would find valuable. I enjoyed the viewpoints of faculty across the university.”

She became an advisor to SGA. “It was a rare and meaningful opportunity to get to come back to my alma mater,” she said. “It was a special treat to watch students as they went through the educational program and ultimately walked across that stage to get a degree.”

Hasselmo was at Lamar 11 years, serving as president of the Faculty Senate and earning the highest honor accorded a Lamar faculty member, that of Regents’ Professor. She advanced to Lamar’s executive team as assistant to the executive vice president. In 1986-87, she became one of 29 Fellows of the American Council on Education (ACE) and spent the year in the president’s office at the College of William and Mary.

“Ann has the most remarkable interpersonal skills of anyone I’ve ever met,” said former student Melanie Dishman ’88.

“That, combined with her great sense of humor and keen intelligence, is what made her such an exceptional teacher. She instilled in her students the desire to learn and the self-confidence to excel. I learned skills in Ann’s classes that, 20 years later, I use every day.”

What has Lamar meant to Hasselmo’s career? “The question,” she replies, is “‘What has Lamar meant to my life?’”

Her fellowship to William and Mary led to her next step on the educational ladder. “When Tulane was doing a search for a dean of Sophie Newcomb College, they asked individuals on the American Council on Education if they had someone they would like to nominate for that position,” she said. Hasselmo received a nomination. In 1988, she became dean of Sophie Newcomb College and associate provost of Tulane University, also serving as chair of the Newcomb Foundation board. She was responsible for the university’s strategic plan, among other things.

Another search led to the presidency at Hendrix College, a prestigious liberal arts college in Conway, Ark. During her presidency at Hendrix, she chaired the Council of Fellows for the ACE, the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and Division 3 President’s Council of the NCAA, on whose executive committee she served.

Hasselmo often received calls from search firms working on behalf of institutions to find leaders. “Who do you know?” they would ask, and describe an institution and a position. “I would try to give them five or six names of people I had met through programs I’d been involved in – people who had impressed me with what they had accomplished in their own institutions.

“I was into my ninth year at Hendrix — the position I held at Newcomb and Tulane was similar to a presidency so that when I went to Hendrix, it felt much like a second presidency.

“I thought, ‘I still want to work in higher education, but I think I want to work across institutions,’” Hasselmo said. “I had wonderful careers at several different kinds of institutions, and I appreciated what each brought to the table in terms of the great diversity of American higher education and the opportunities that diversity gives students, parents and faculty in picking a place that seems to fit who they are and their educational mission. I had found that all of those educational missions suited me, and I loved them all.”

Search consultants told her: “‘You seem to enjoy leadership development. Why don’t you consider doing higher-education executive search?’ So now, I do institutional development and institutional transformation in all the sectors of higher education and national associations and foundations that support higher education.

I also participate in leadership development from the dean to the vice president to the presidential level across this diverse array of American higher-education institutions.

She finds living in Washington particularly valuable and makes ita point to stay abreast of issues affecting higher education.

“When a college or a university is doing a search for a president or a chancellor, it needs someone who is knowledgeable about those issues in order for the institution to be led well. I try to find people who can bring their best to an institution.”

Hasselmo divides her time between management and participation in selected searches. She headed the search for the president of the American Association for Higher Education and worked with Research Corp., the first scientific foundation in the country. She also chaired an organizational assessment for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Hasselmo strives to be an advocate for every aspect of higher education and to participate in the leadership development programs around the country. Last year, she chaired the Millennium Leadership Initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, of which Lamar is a member. The initiative supports the development of under-representative minorities in higher education leadership.

Her profession led Hasselmo to her Swedish-born husband, Nils Hasselmo, president of the Association of American Universities and former president of the University of Minnesota. They married in 2003 and make their home in The Watergate, a D.C. landmark. The couple traveled this year to his homeland, where, according to the bride, “I met a lot of his cousins and grade-school friends.” It was her first trip to Sweden since 1970, when she bought a Eurail pass and spent the summer in Europe.

The two met when both served on higher education boards. “He chaired the board of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges two years before I chaired the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities,” Hasselmo said, “Both of us were active on national higher-education issues, but our paths never crossed until we both lived in Washington.”

Hasselmo is the mother of one daughter, Meredith Die Strachan, a lawyer in Houston. A licensed psychologist, Hasselmo has directed a graduate clinical program and served as a consultant to attorneys, corporations, boards, hospitals, school districts and colleges and universities. Community activities include work on refugee assistance issues, intercultural councils and mental health, civic and performing arts boards.

Hasselmo maintains her license to practice psychology. “I make sure I do the continuing education I need to keep current because, in retirement, it would be wonderful to volunteer my skills as a licensed psychologist.”

Out of the office and off the executive search trail, Hasselmo savors the Washington fine arts scene – a love cultivated at Lamar. “While I was on the faculty, I would take an exercise or dance class during my lunch hour three days a week. I always had a love of dance but was never able to take lessons as a child, so I studied ballet, modern dance and jazz at Lamar.”

She sustains that interest as a supporter and season ticket-holder of the Washington Ballet, Shakespeare Theatre and National Symphony Orchestra.

“I love theatre, and this city is such a great place for performances,” she said. “I live next door to the Kennedy Center and can literally pop over for productions. I especially love Tennessee Williams, and last spring, the Kennedy Center had a Tennessee Williams Festival where I saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie.

“Last Sunday, I saw a Calder/Miro exhibit at the Phillips Collection. I enjoy travel and reading, but I really love the arts and the opportunity I have in this city to sample the best.”

Hasselmo also enjoys keeping up with her students. “It was an honor to be asked to participate in the further development of their lives long after I had them in class,” she said.

“It has been a particular pleasure to have known individuals who started out in my first introductory psychology class. I have kept up with several of them throughout their lives, their many adventures, degrees and career opportunities.”

To this day, Hasselmo considers her grandfather, Albert Cooke, her greatest inspiration: “There is no rival.”

Time with him shaped her life. “He and I were such good buddies. He had a small place in Lampasas, north of Austin, and I would spend weeks in the summer when I was in grade school and junior high, helping him with the farm and with his sheep and his cows,” she recalls.

“Those opportunities gave us long hours to ride and talk. He was a man of impeccable morals and values and ethics and always behaved in a way that made other people want to be like him. We were working on the land, which was also a good lesson.

“He was a great adventurer, and we would explore Central Texas. He had a wonderful gift for stopping and getting to know people.

“We would pick fruit in a farmer’s garden if he was selling it. We would get to know that farmer, and the next time we went through that area, would stop and see him again. He continued to cultivate the relationships he created. Through him, I learned the rewards of taking time to get to know people all through life and all along life.”

by Louise Wood

Cardinal Cadence, 12/17/2004