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Alumni Group Leaders Tackle Changing Times

Bill Hutchinson '76 and Rick Silverman '81 talk about their roles

William "Bill" Hutchinson '76 and Rick Silverman '81 are the presidents of Dartmouth's Association of Alumni and Alumni Council, respectively. Both organizations serve Dartmouth alumni.

The association was founded in 1854. Primarily responsible for conducting an annual meeting and related elections, its membership includes everyone who has ever matriculated as a full-time student in pursuit of a Dartmouth degree at the College or in its professional schools and graduate programs. The association's Executive Committee oversees the petition and balloting processes whereby Dartmouth alumni are nominated for Alumni Trustee seats on the Board.

The Alumni Council was founded in 1913 as a representative group to guide and direct Dartmouth alumni affairs and serve as a liaison to the College. The council fulfills its mission through the work of 101 members (councilors) drawn from alumni classes, clubs, and affiliated groups. There are also faculty and undergraduate representatives. The group meets at least twice annually, and councilors serve on numerous committees ranging from academic affairs, alumni awards, and communications, to honorary degrees, student life, and young alumni. The council's Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee identifies qualified alumni to serve in leadership roles on the council and on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees.

Bill Hutchinson '76
Bill Hutchinson '76 (photo courtesy of Bill Hutchinson '76)
Bill Hutchinson '76

William "Bill" Hutchinson '76 isn't the first leader charged with presiding over a divided committee, nor will he be the last, but as president of Dartmouth's Association of Alumni he may be the ideal person to address the current rift within that organization. Why? Because, he says, "I have experience on both sides of many current issues."

Hutchinson was among a small group of alumni who sued the College in 1999 challenging the Board's 1990 decision that Alumni Trustees could be re-elected by the Board for a second term without a second alumni election.

Now he's speaking out against a lawsuit approved by 6 members of the 11-member association Executive Committee, calling it "shortsighted and damaging." The suit, filed in October, seeks to block the expansion of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees announced in September. "I oppose the litigation," he explains, "because after the first constitution struggle and throughout the Alumni Governance Task Force (AGTF) process, alumni leaders and administrators realized that people had legitimate concerns and that caused them to listen. The terrain has changed. Tactics need to change, too. Bringing a lawsuit to settle our disputes isn't what we need."

Instead, Hutchinson hopes some aspects of the defeated AGTF constitution proposal will be put into place, in cooperation with the 101-member Dartmouth Alumni Council. "Ensuring communication between alumni, the Board, and the College is essential," he says, "as is helping to create a working partnership with the Trustees."

Divisions within the association remain, however, and are perhaps most starkly visible within the group's Executive Committee. "There's a dramatic difference of opinion," Hutchinson says, "about the nature of the association and what it's capable of doing." Several executive committee members, he explains, see the association as the ultimate representative of the alumni body. "It's not set up for that now, but in the future I know it can do more."

In September, the Board of Trustees charged the Association of Alumni and the Alumni Council with developing a better way to nominate Alumni Trustee candidates, and Hutchinson says there's been "slow and steady progress" in that direction. Asked how alumni can gauge often confusing communications they receive from the two factions of the association leadership, Hutchinson says, "Read everything critically and seek answers from members of the Executive Committee. Participate in discussions on the association blog, and follow the ongoing coverage in The Dartmouth."

Hutchinson, an English major, a member of Kappa Sigma (now Gamma Delta Chi) and Dragon, a rugby player, and the son of the late John L. Hutchinson Jr. '43, recently launched a second career as a certified Indoor Air Quality Specialist after operating his own restaurant business on Nantucket for more than 24 years. He certainly has plenty of experience bringing people to the table, as it were, and he's hopeful he can do so in his role as association president. "One of the exciting things about what we're going through is the increased involvement by alumni in the governance of their own organizations and in the College itself," he says. "At the end of a long and difficult process, sometimes people who are diametrically opposed to each other become respected colleagues. I think we'll see that happen here. I've certainly had that experience with the AGTF."

By LAUREL STAVIS

Rick Silverman '81
Rick Silverman '81 (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
Rick Silverman '81

"In spring 2006, it was all Dartmouth, all the time," says Rick Silverman '81 M.D., the 2007-2008 president of the Alumni Council. "I was winding up my term as the Classes of 1981-1982 representative to the Alumni Council, chairing our class's 25th Reunion in June, and finishing up my service as class secretary."

Silverman's volunteer service was about to end but his fellow councilors had other plans-voting him president of the Alumni Council.

When Silverman describes his 26 years of alumni volunteer service, they seem to have unfolded with informal serendipity. "After I graduated and was in medical school, friends talked me into doing the fund-raising telethons, and I ended up chairing our 15th and 25th reunions." But as casual as it sounds, Silverman's resumé suggests otherwise: He's been an interviewer for admissions; a telethon chair, assistant head agent, and class agent for the Alumni Fund; and the secretary, president, and-twice-reunion chair for the Class of 1981. He served a three-year term as a member of the Alumni Council before becoming its president.

Silverman heads a cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery practice in Boston, where he's on staff at the St. Elizabeth's Medical Center and is a faculty member in the Division of Plastic Surgery at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester. He leads an annual volunteer surgical team that travels to Ecuador to perform corrective surgery on patients with congenital and traumatic head, neck, and hand deformities. A fitness enthusiast, Silverman is also a bodybuilder and snagged third place in the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation Mr. Universe competition.

Reconstruction skill may be what Silverman needs as he leads the Alumni Council into the biggest reorganization in its 94-year history, begun last fall with the drafting of a new mission statement.

Not wasting any time, he's asked all councilors to communicate more with their constituents and encouraged them to participate in a survey conducted by the Board of Trustees that fed into its recent Governance Report. He's also asked councilors to help classes choose council representatives, charged the Orientation Committee to find ways to get incoming councilors up and running faster, and proposed amendments to the group's constitution through a new Advisory Committee on Council Structure.

He also wants Association of Alumni members to serve on the council's College Relations Group and is pursuing a close working relationship with the association's Executive Committee.

"I'm a consensus builder," Silverman says. "No one can come with a monologue, but anyone interested in dialogue is welcomed.

"I came to Dartmouth from a small town in western Pennsylvania. I was a member of Zeta Psi, the Aires, and worked as a German teaching assistant. I changed more in my time at Dartmouth than I have since. Volunteering, helping bring people together is how I give back."

By DEBORAH KLENOTIC

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Last Updated: 5/30/08