Provost Emeritus David Komisar, the
University’s longest-serving chief academic officer and an integral
figure in the University’s history dating back to its founding,
died on March 19 at the age of 95.
A psychologist by training, Komisar became the first chairman of Hillyer College’s Department of Psychology in the early 1950s. In 1957, when Hillyer College joined with the Hartt School of Music and the Hartford Art School to form the University of Hartford, Komisar began his long affiliation with the University, where he worked until his retirement in 1984.
“David Komisar played a leading role in making the University of Hartford what it is today,” said University President Walter Harrison. “He cast a long shadow as an academic leader and helped shape our profile as an institution devoted to teaching and research. I join his many colleagues in mourning his loss.”
Komisar began his career as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the Army from 1943 to 1946, and went on to earn a PhD in psychology from Columbia University in 1953. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Komisar served as director of guidance at Mohawk College in Utica, N.Y., and chaired the Psychology Department at Champlain College in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
In 1953 he joined Hillyer College – and then the newly formed University of Hartford – as chair of the Department of Psychology. Komisar rose through the administrative ranks, serving as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1966-67), dean of faculties (1967-70), vice president for academic affairs (1970-71), and provost (1972-80). The last three positions made him the longest-serving chief academic officer in the University’s history.
High Academic Standards
But teaching was always his first love, said University Secretary and General Counsel Emeritus Charles Condon, who worked closely with Komisar for many years.
“David Komisar always defined himself as first and foremost a faculty member. He viewed teaching as the noblest profession even as he worked his way up the administrative ladder,” Condon said. “He was a steadfast advocate for a talented and engaged faculty, and established as a priority the maintenance of high academic standards even as the University was dealing with the challenge of robust and rapid enrollment growth in the 1960s.”
Among his many accomplishments, Komisar played a key role in the creation of Mortensen Library, Condon said.
“A bibliophile in his own right, he had a special passion for libraries which, he recalled, had been a great source of personal enrichment when he was growing up in New York,” Condon said. “Frustrated with the University’s library operations being split among five academic buildings, he became an aggressive advocate for the construction of a central library at the University and was among the most enthusiastic celebrants when Mortensen Library opened its doors in 1971.
“Over the years that followed he continued to lead the fight for high academic standards, a talented faculty, and an engaging learning environment,” Condon added. “His contributions to the University are many and profound. Those of us who knew him will miss him mightily.”
Distinguished Service Medal
Komisar continued to serve the University even after his retirement in 1984. He was one of the founders of the University of Hartford Emeriti Association and served as its chairman from 1989 to 1991.
In 1990 Komisar was awarded the University Medal for Distinguished Service.
Komisar also was very active and involved outside the University. He was a member of the board of the Hartford Jewish Community Center from 1955 to 1978, and served as vice president of the board from 1973 to 1978.
During his career, Komisar served as president of the Connecticut Valley Psychology Association and consultant to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He also served as a member of the Connecticut State Committee on Mental Retardation Planning and the Connecticut Citizens Commission on State Welfare.
Komisar authored numerous articles and monographs in the fields of counseling, mental retardation, and vocational rehabilitation, which was his primary area of research.
Komisar was predeceased by his first wife, Beatrice Liebman, and his second wife, Molly Rosenberg, as well as a brother, Herman, and a sister, Molly. He leaves two children, Jack Lloyd Komisar and June Diana Komisar, who were by his side when he passed away peacefully in a hospice in Silver Spring, Md.