New EHHS dean values relationships with faculty and students

James Hannon

James Hannon

Hannah Wagner

After a full day of working as an assistant dean, James Hannon leaves his office at West Virginia University and heads home to begin his next task: being a full-time husband and father.

“I always need time with my son in the evening,” Hannon said. “We often play Captain America and Iron Man.”

Hannon, the newly appointed dean for the College of Education, Health and Human Services said family time, relationship building and community involvement are important aspects of his work and personal life.

“What attracted me to Kent State was that a large number of students are first-generation college students,” Hannon said. “I grew up on a farm and was a first generation college student myself.”

Kathy Zarges, a staff member representative of the dean’s search committee, said she wasn’t surprised when she found out Hannon had been offered the position.

“He really embodied the criteria that came from our faculty, staff and student survey,” Zarges said. “Throughout the interview, we consistently saw strong leadership, student focus and collaboration characteristics in him.”

Zarges, who is also the EHHS director of academic advising, said she was personally impressed by Hannon’s student focus.

“During his time here, he went around and introduced himself to everyone, shaking their hands,” Zarges said. “He was very approachable, collaborative and wanting to engage with everyone.”

Hannon said he looks at everything as an opportunity in life and was happy to see how positive and engaged the students and community of Kent were during his interviewer process.

“To me, it’s shocking how many people leave college without knowing the dean of their college,” Hannon said. “I want to be more visible and connect with students.”

Associate professor at West Virginia University Emily Jones, who has known Hannon for a year and a half, said he is personable and interested in knowing the people he works with, not just what they’re producing or working on.

Jones recalls when Hannon’s family first moved to the area and planned a “Thomas the Tank Engine” vacation with her family.

“We have children about the same age,” Jones said. “He made a special effort to get to know me and have a real conversation outside of the university.”

Jones said Hannon would invite families from work to their home or community events in order to help connect everybody together.

“It was really thoughtful,” Jones said. “It’s not something administrators usually do.”

Having Hannon as his previous boss and mentor since 2008, assistant professor at Southern Utah University David Phillips said Hannon is a driven and ambitious man with a big heart for others.

“He has a really good way of reading people and providing mentorship and leadership,” Phillips said. “Even though he was my boss, he treated me as an equal.”

Phillips said during the four years he worked with Hannon, they went to lunch together every day. He said he considers him a friend for life.

“He’s the kind of guy you can talk about work issues, personal issues or sports over a sandwich and coffee,” Phillips said. “Other coworkers would join us sometimes. We became a tight knit community and family-based group.”

Phillips also added a tip that, if anyone ever needs to get on Hannon’s good side, he enjoys vanilla lattes.

“If I ruin his reputation, can we keep him?” joked associate professor at West Virginia Sean Bulger after saying how lucky Kent State is to gain such a collaborative and engaged administrator.

“One of his first courses of action when (Hannon) came to West Virginia was to set up individual appointments with faculty members to get to know what their interests and professional goals were,” Bugler said. “He’s really good at bringing people together to work towards a common goal.”

Hannah Wagner is the education, health and human services reporter, contact her at [email protected]