Rosanne Haggerty ’82

Doctor of Humane Letters

When others saw only squalor in a crack-ridden Times Square hotel, Rosanne Haggerty ’82 saw opportunity. So in 1990, she set about making a real estate deal of a special sort—an investment in new lives.

The founder and president of New York City’s Common Ground Community, a non-profit housing and community development organization dedicated to no less a goal than “solving homelessness,” Haggerty has put into action her conviction that stability, in the form of safe housing, is a precondition to building responsible lives.

With a combination of fearlessness, calm, and quiet persistence, she has cleared a path through legendarily thorny New York politics and bureaucracies to found a series of supportive housing programs, beginning with the cleanup and rehabilitation of the Times Square Hotel. Common Ground offers not only a place to live, but also ancillary on-site services, including job training and placement programs, substance abuse and health care services, along with computer, arts, exercise, food pantry, and thrift store facilities to help tenants rebuild their lives.

Under Haggerty’s leadership, Common Ground has become a $20- million organization that provides housing to more than 1,300 tenants. It has expanded to cities beyond New York and to countries outside the U.S.

Haggerty, who is a 1982 graduate of Amherst and a life member of its Board of Trustees, was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2001 for her remarkable work with Common Ground. The mother of a teenage son, and herself the eldest of eight children in a family which every Sunday brought food and company to a local housing project, Haggerty continues to dedicate her free time—as well as her professional life—to service organizations, serving as a director of the Times Square Business Improvement District, a board member of the New York City Citizens Housing and Planning Council, and a director of the Fordham Preparatory School.

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