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O Pioneers!

Dartmouth's daughters take the stage at coeducation celebration                             

The buzz of the crowd in Alumni Hall was unusually high-pitched and the vista across the room was multicolored, with not a green sport coat in sight. Welcome to the celebration of the 35th anniversary of coeducation at Dartmouth.

A plaque honoring Dartmouth's first coeducational class. The plaque was installed in Rauner Special Collections Library in 1999 by the Cobra Senior Society.

Every class with women was represented, from the handful who graduated in 1973 to the members of the Class of 2007, who graduated in equal, if not larger, numbers than their male counterparts. There are now 17,000 women among the College's 66,500 graduates, and the alumnae who attended the weekend's celebration came for that women's trifecta of deep connection, inspiration‚ and a rollicking good time.

But the event was distinguished less by the "Daughter of Dartmouth" T-shirts than by the shared sentiment that so many of the diverse and highly accomplished speakers expressed, essentially saying: "Hey, I'm human. I'm muddling through and doing the best I can, just like you." Rep. Kristen Gillibrand  '88 (D-N.Y.) noted the juxtaposition of working with the Armed Services Committee one day and staging her four year old's birthday party the next. Knowing which was the more challenging event, the audience whooped in laughter.

Photo of trustees
From left: Trustees Pamela J. Joyner '79, Christine B. Bucklin '84, and Karen C. Francis '84 at a brunch during the Nov. 9 through 11 event, Celebrating 35 Years at Dartmouth. The Trustees led a panel discussion, "Refelctions on Alumnae Leadership." (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

A recurring topic was that Dartmouth women graduated thinking they could have it all.  "You just can't do it all, all the time," said playwright Heather McCutcheon '87. In one session, someone asked, "Is anyone in the same place I am, working part time and home with my three kids?" Hands went up all over. Later, one woman said, "I'm waiting to get back to who I used to be."

President James Wright was right at home. "It's a privilege to celebrate this 35th anniversary together," he said. Heads nodded about the work yet to be done to advance Dartmouth and society. Ending a session on Title IX and women, Director of Athletics and Recreation Josie Harper said, "We needed your voices in 1972, and we still need them now." Gillibrand urged Dartmouth women to run for office, saying, "You'll do a better job than the group there now!" There was also talk about how alumnae should donate a building or a series of endowed chairs.

Welcome banner
Nearly 400 alumnae attended the Celebrating 35 Years of Women at Dartmouth event. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

After dinner on Saturday, the crowd went out into the crisp darkness buoyed by the speeches, the conversation, and the singing of  "Alma Mater." President Wright pulled on his 35th anniversary cap with the pink D on it and strode off happily his wife, Susan DeBevoise Wright, the honorary chairwoman of the event.

And Dartmouth women went off to laugh and dream just a little more before they got back to running their corners of the world again.


Kelley Fead '78 is creative director/partner at Slack Barshinger in Chicago. She has served Dartmouth on governance issues and as president of the Alumni Council, Association of Alumni, and the Dartmouth Club of Chicago.

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Last Updated: 5/30/08