Photograph by Mollie McClure, '96

Our best days are ahead

May 22, 2022

Curriculum Vitae

Themes of community, optimism, and ambition flourished at the inauguration of Richmond's 11th president, Kevin F. Hallock.
By Matthew Dewald

Before Kevin Hallock took the dais for his inaugural address, students, staff, faculty, family, friends, and assembled dignitaries got a glimpse of his personal side. It came courtesy of a longtime friend, Russell Hernandez. Hernandez began by gracefully acknowledging that he met Hallock “at that ‘other’ university where Kevin used to work.” He was referring to Cornell, which Hallock left after 16 years to come to Richmond. Spiders had nabbed both “a true academic” and “a really cool guy,” Hernandez said, citing as evidence their mutual love of Will Ferrell movies, their interpersonal Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, and Hallock’s skills as a carpenter.

“We are all very fond and proud of Kevin,” Hernandez said. “He is a remarkable person. ... He will support this university in every possible way and will make you so proud and glad to have him on your side.”

Shortly after, it was Hallock’s turn. He spoke with pride about Richmond’s strengths, with forthrightness about its challenges, and with optimism about its future. “We can become unquestionably the best small university in the world — where access and affordability, belonging and well-being, and academic excellence and community engagement are synonymous with the Richmond name,” he said. “I believe the best days for our university are ahead.”

We can become unquestionably the best small university in the world.
Kevin F. Hallock

Inaugural address

Students, you’re the reason we’re all gathered here today. You inspire our work, and you make those of us who work here proud to do so.
Kevin F. Hallock

Inaugural address

A panel of faculty and students sitting at a bank of microphones
Panel discussions about faculty-mentored research (above) and the future of higher education were part of the inauguration festivities.
Photograph by Jamie Betts

Hallock’s journey to the University of Richmond began in Hadley, Massachusetts, a town of 5,000 in the western part of the state where he grew up. His father was a physics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his mother a pediatric nurse practitioner. Both enjoyed careers that spanned 50 years. At age 4, Hallock had what would turn out to be one of the defining experiences of his life when he met a fellow preschooler named Tina Grabiec. Their orbits continued to intertwine in the years that followed, with even the alphabet conspiring to give them side-by-side lockers from grades seven through 12. As they grew up, proximity became affection, and affection became lifelong love. They started dating in high school, went to the same college, and got married at age 22.

Their high school class had just 42 students. Hallock won a state championship playing third base for its baseball team, a group he describes as scrappy underdogs who believed in themselves. He was also his class valedictorian. In the summers, he harvested tobacco and cucumbers at a local farm, grueling work that remains a touchstone for him today and gives him deep respect for hard work of all kinds.

On his first day of college at Amherst, he raised his hand to answer a question from his economics professor, who soon became his research mentor. Four years later, he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, walked the nuptial aisle with Grabiec, and went to Princeton University to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in economics. He wrote his dissertation on labor economics, using examples ranging from corporate CEOs to single mothers enrolled in a public assistance program. One of his dissertation advisers was David Card, who shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2021.

Our faculty wake up thinking about how to expand the minds of our students.
Kevin F. Hallock

Inaugural address

From there, Hallock taught for 10 years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before taking a faculty position in the human resource studies department of the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University. The part of his CV covering this period charts an upward trajectory of accomplishment, service, and increasing administrative responsibility, from department chair to institute director to dean, eventually becoming dean of Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business, the position he held until he became UR’s president.

Across those years, he also continued his scholarly productivity, publishing more than 100 articles and 11 books, many of them focused on the labor market and compensation. He has another book under contract. Alongside the academic pieces meant for scholars, he has also written for the broader public to address such issues as the gender pay gap, executive compensation, and earnings mobility from one family generation to another.

We must continue our ongoing and deep commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Kevin F. Hallock

Inaugural address

He also built a record as an excellent teacher and mentor. He won multiple awards for outstanding teaching and served as dissertation adviser for nearly 50 doctoral students who now have positions at places such as the World Bank, the Federal Trade Commission, the American Enterprise Institute, and the faculties of universities across the nation and world.

“When you ask people at Cornell, everyone was expecting Kevin to be president of a university someday,” said Dara Gocheski, who became his executive assistant at Cornell in 2018 and is now his chief of staff at Richmond. “They just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.”

By virtue of her time with him at Cornell, Gocheski knows Hallock better than her new Richmond colleagues do. A University of Chicago graduate, she calls Hallock, “the least ivory tower academic I’ve ever met in my life.” Her bond with him was nearly immediate. Shortly into her tenure as his executive assistant, she turned down a promotion offer to a higher-profile and better-paying position within Cornell to continue working alongside Hallock.

“I could tell three weeks into working with him that this person is invested in my professional development,” she said. “I think Kevin and I share a mentality. We don’t just look at what’s immediately in front of us. We do look at that, but there’s more.”

Or, as Hallock coincidentally said in his office a few weeks earlier, “What really keeps me going is that I always have my eye around the corner or out at the horizon, which [at Richmond] is extremely bright.”

This place is truly special not just because of the research, the collaborations, and spirit here, but also because it starts to feel like family.
Makayla Callender, '22

at inauguration

When Hallock looks at Richmond’s horizon through an economist’s eyes, he sees its comparative advantages, tools that it can use to optimize its potential, as he writes in his column for this issue of the magazine (“Maximizing our potential”). In his inaugural address, he highlighted five areas that he called “our guiding lights leading us even beyond Claiborne Robins Sr.’s vision to be ‘one of the finest small private universities in the country.’” These include access and affordability, belonging, well-being, academic excellence, and community engagement. (See running sidebar, “Five guiding lights.”) In crafting the address — which is available in full at — one of his challenges was to represent what he’d been hearing from students, colleagues, alumni, trustees, and others during his first eight months. “I really want people to understand that I was listening,” he said several weeks before the inauguration.

He also wanted to connect with the Richmond community on a personal level, so he took a cue from his friend Hernandez and began with personal reflection. He offered gratitude for “a cast of characters who have supported me for the past 53 years — some of whom are here, some who have sadly passed away, and some who simply blew this off.” (The new president has not only enthusiasm about Richmond but also good comic chops and self-deprecation to spare.) He went on to thank his parents and his brother, Bob, as well as his wife, Tina, and their children, Emily and Tyler, all of whom were there in the Robins Center. Hallock had special appreciation for Tina’s mother, Carla, also there, and her late husband, Mike, “a big, brash police detective” who “would have thought this was all awesome and completely ridiculous,” he said.

Photograph by Jamie Betts

Hallock began with these personal reflections, he told his audience, to help them “understand why coming to the University of Richmond means so much to me.” He also sounded a personal note in his conclusion.

“I’m only 53, and I have a lot of energy,” he told the audience in the Robins Center. “I really look forward to seeing what this amazing institution is like in 15 years and being part of our continued progress.” It was a subtle signal that at a time when the average tenure of university presidents is declining, he is thinking about his tenure at Richmond as a long-term proposition. “I see a long runway ahead of me,” he said earlier in his office.

That doesn’t surprise Gocheski, his chief of staff, who describes him as “an intensely loyal person,” noting that he met the person he married at age 4. He also “really enjoys a challenge,” she said. “Kevin is somebody who wants to make a difference.”

We have a president who has a sense of humility and a sense of belonging.
Kathleen Hughes Bettencourt, W'89 and a trustee

at inauguration

In the months and years ahead, Hallock will wear many hats, including harnesser-in-chief of good ideas and enthusiastic partners. In his address, he pledged to “work incredibly hard — in collaboration with you — to make Richmond an even more outstanding place to study, learn, and work and where all feel welcome and a deep sense of belonging. It will take patience, perseverance, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt. And it won’t happen overnight. But together, we can get there.”

This long-term thinking reflects both his professional and personal dispositions. “I have the patience to do things that are going to be hard or that will take a long time,” he said before inauguration. “If it were easy, it wouldn’t be interesting. I haven’t been bored in a really long time, and I like that.”