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If Walls Could Talk

Because Dartmouth was founded a generation before the conclusion of the American Revolution, its alumni were part of the new federal government almost from the beginning. Dartmouth graduates have served in Congress since the late 18th and early 19th centuries, starting in 1793 in the Third Congress with John Sherburne, Class of 1776. As the 19th century progressed, a gathering host of distinguished Dartmouth-educated politicians made their marks in the new capital at Washington, D.C.

A close-up view of the wall of brass plaques
A close-up view of the wall of brass plaques in the Rockefeller Center's Class of 1930 Room, commemorating Dartmouth alumni who have served the United States as elected officials.

All of this history is in plain view in the Class of 1930 Room (a gift from the class in honor of one of their own-Nelson Rockefeller) in the Rockefeller Center, where a wall of brass plaques displays the names and offices of alumni who have served as Governors, Vice Presidents, Senators, and in the House of Representatives. The wall stands as a testament to how closely Dartmouth's and the nation's histories are interwoven.

Sherburne fought in the Revolution, losing a leg at the battle of Butts Hill, R.I., in 1778. After serving in the House until 1797, he was appointed U.S. District Attorney for New Hampshire by President Thomas Jefferson.

Daniel Webster is there as well, represented in his elected offices. He served in the House of Representatives from New Hampshire from 1812 to 1816, was returned to Congress from Boston in 1823, and was elected a Massachusetts Senator in 1827. (Webster also served as U.S. Secretary of State under Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore.)

Dartmouth contributed Thaddeus Stevens, Class of 1814, Representative from Pennsylvania from 1849 to 1853 and 1859 to 1868, who introduced the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in Congress.

Salmon P. Chase, Class of 1826, an uncompromising abolitionist, served as a leading member of the new Republican Party, Governor of Ohio, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln. Chase eventually became the sixth Chief Justice of the United States.

Twentieth-century honorees include the late Paul Tsongas '62, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and Democratic presidential candidate; John Hoeven III '79, now in his second term as Governor of North Dakota; and, of course, Nelson Rockefeller '30, longtime Governor of New York and U.S. Vice President from 1974 to 1977, for whom the Rockefeller Center is named.

"In cultures around the world, the posting of names is a silent and lasting tribute to those who have inspired us," comments Andrew Samwick, director of the Rockefeller Center and professor of economics. "One of the most beautiful meeting rooms on campus, the Class of 1930 Room hosts all manner of events-from student discussion groups to academic events, to meetings of the Board of Trustees. Everyone who enters the room comes away with a deeper appreciation of the synergy between a Dartmouth education and public policy."

By PETER WALSH

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Last Updated: 5/30/08