Memories of Hank Riggs, Page 3

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Surya Jayaweera '96


President Riggs helped to advice me with the launch of my first company, and gave very honest feedback on my initial business plan. Before that, he was very supportive of my somewhat naive efforts my senior year to create a project fun in honor of some then current faculty to help support the HMC Robotics Design team. However, fondest memories are of President Riggs’ huge smile, colorful bow ties, and cheerful support for us students. Of course, I’ll always remember his infamous joke, copied below. He made a huge impact on all of us!
A string walks into a bar with a few friends and orders a beer. The bartender says, “I’m sorry, but we don’t serve strings here.”

The string goes back to his table. He ties himself in a loop and messes up the top of his hair. He walks back up to the bar and orders a beer.

The bartender squints at him and says, “Hey, aren’t you a string?”

The string says, “Nope, I’m a frayed knot.”

Sam Tanenbaum

Professor of Life Sciences and Engineering and Dean Emeritus

Hank and Gayle Riggs arrived in August 1988 (8/8/88 to be precise) to begin their duties as the third couple to preside over Harvey Mudd College. It was an opportune time, as the faculty had just approved an ambitious, but expensive, long-range plan calling for significant improvements all across the campus. Building upon that plan, Hank led the college through some remarkable changes in curriculum and facilities that are documented elsewhere. He played the lead role in all of these accomplishments, recognizing both the opportunities and the problem areas in the College and addressing all of the issues eloquently, both in speeches and in carefully crafted written analyses, starting with with his famous ‘Screed’ in 1988. He was a strong advocate for change (even when it drew criticism), and he personally directed the successful campaign that paid for the many improvements to the College. By virtually any objective standard, HMC is now a much stronger college than it was in 1988, and for that we can all be grateful to Hank and Gayle Riggs.

Reprinted from Harvey Mudd College Bulletin, spring 1997