Dr. Humphrey Tonkin is University Professor of the Humanities and President Emeritus at the University of Hartford. He joined the University in January 1989 and served as President for almost ten years, returning to teaching and research in June 1998. In 1998-99 he was Visiting Fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University.

He was President of the State University of New York at Potsdam from 1983 to 1988, and, before that, Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also served at various times as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies (responsible for a major University-wide overhaul of undergraduate education in the early 1970s), Master of Stouffer College House, and Coordinator of International Programs (where he was responsible for coordinating the various international activities of the University). He received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1970 and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1974, spending a year in research at Oxford University. In 1980-81 he was also Visiting Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

As President of the University of Hartford, he worked to raise academic quality, oversaw the merger of Hartford College for Women with the University, opened up new connections with the City of Hartford (including the Hartford Scholars Program and a magnet elementary school on the University’s campus), founded the President’s College (a major adult-education initiative), broadened the University’s overseas connections, more than doubled the endowment, and launched a major capital campaign.

Dr. Tonkin has lectured widely on English literature, languages, and international studies. His publications include two books on the poetry of Edmund Spenser (1972 and 1989, the latter reissued in 2015), scholarly articles on 16th-century literature, edited volumes on language and related topics, and articles and monographs on international language problems, language and society, and language teaching. The World in the Curriculum, co-authored in 1981 with his wife Dr. Jane Edwards, was for many years the standard guide to internationalizing the college curriculum. He edited and translated (into English) Tivadar Soros’s Masquerade: Dancing Around Death in Nazi-occupied Hungary (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2001), and his edition has been translated into Chinese, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, and Turkish. A Japanese translation is in preparation. In 2010 his English translation of Soros’s Crusoes in Siberia appeared.  His book Service-Learning Across Cultures: Promise and Achievement (New York: IPSL Press, 2004) reports on research in international service-learning. An edited volume (with Timothy Reagan), Language in the 21st  Century, appeared in 2003 (Amsterdam: Benjamins), and a further edited collection (with Maria Esposito Frank), The Translator as Mediator of Cultures, appeared in 2010. For many years Dr. Tonkin was a Senior Bibliographer for the Modern Language Association, and editor-in-chief of the journal Language Problems and Language Planning. He continues as editor of the book series Studies in World Language Problems.

He also has a long list of publications in the international language Esperanto, and a Festschrift in his honor, La Arto Labori Kune, appeared in 2010, edited by Detlev Blanke and Ulrich Lins.

While President at Hartford, Dr. Tonkin continued to teach regularly. As University Professor he has taught Shakespeare and theatre history for the English Department and the Theatre Division of the Hartt School, and sociolinguistics for the Department of Modern Languages.  He also serves as a visiting lecturer on interlinguistics in the Linguistics Department of Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland.

He is currently Director of the Presidents’ College, a University of Hartford program for adult learners.  The program offers some fifty or sixty courses a year, organizes an Annual Symposium works with local retirement communities, and serves everal thousand people.  In 1997 his program Shakespeare for Everyone, offered for eight consecutive years in the early days of the Presidents’ College, won the Frandson Award of the University Continuing Education Association.

An advocate of international cooperation and international studies, Dr. Tonkin is former chair of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (which administers the senior Fulbright Program), the International Education Commission of the American Council on Education, and the Canadian Fulbright Commission ( He has also chaired the American Forum for Global Education (New York) ( and served on the board of World Learning, which operates the School for International Training and the Experiment in International Living ( He chairs the Center for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems, which organizes conferences and publishes research on language policy (, and the Esperantic Studies Foundation , which conducts and supports research on international language issues (

Dr. Tonkin has chaired the boards of the Center for Applied Linguistics (Washington, DC: and the International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership (which supports the linkage of international study and community service:   He chairs the Study Group on Languages and the United Nations and represents the Universal Esperanto Association at the UN.  In 2006 he received the Cassandra Pyle Award for Leadership and Collaboration in International Education and Exchange given by NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

He is a past president of the Universal Esperanto Association (, the International Spenser Society (, and the Zamenhof Foundation (Poland).

In Potsdam, he founded the Northern Advanced Technologies Corp. and the Northern Technology Council, local economic development groups. In Hartford he served for several years on the board of GroupAmerica, an insurance company.

A former board member of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, and the Hartford-area World Affairs Council, he has served in various voluntary capacities with the American School for the Deaf, Hartford Hospital, Hartford Seminary, and Hartford Public Library. Honors include the 1993 Renaissance Award of the Hartford Downtown Council (for his work with the City of Hartford), the 1996 Distinguished Community Service Award of the Connecticut Anti-Defamation League (for advocacy of human rights), and the Connecticut Life Award (for his work with retirees). In 1999 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford. From 1996 to 1998 he chaired the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, representing the state’s independent colleges and universities.

He holds an undergraduate degree in English from Cambridge University (St. John's College), and master's and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University. He has dual British and U.S. citizenship.

August 2015


Humphrey Tonkin • Mortensen Library, Room 307 • University of Hartford • 860-768-4448
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