Susan DeBevoise Wright (right) with Montgomery Fellow cartoonist Roz Chast. Chast will receive an honorary degree at Commencement 2009, as will another former fellow, U.S. Army Gen. (Ret.) John Abizaid. Wright directed the Montgomery Endowment from 2003 to 2008. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
A native of Montclair, N.J., Wright graduated from Vassar College and holds a master's degree in education from Stanford University. She taught elementary school for several years in Toronto before relocating to Hanover in 1978. (Click here to read highlights of President James Wright's career and tenure.)
Since then, Wright has made substantial contributions to student life at Dartmouth in roles including:
From 2003 to 2008, Wright directed the Kenneth '25 and Harle Montgomery Endowment, bringing thinkers, writers, performers, and leaders to campus for public events and personal interaction with students. Under her leadership, fellows included musician Bobby McFerrin, novelist Joan Didion, historian Robert Dallek, poet Lucille Clifton, neuroscientist Oliver Sacks, and choreographer Merce Cunningham.
She is also well-known for her dedication to local civic causes, most notably the United Way of the Upper Valley and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. A breast cancer survivor, Wright has served as honorary chair of the Prouty Century Bike Ride and Challenge Walk fundraiser for the past six years. In 2008, along with her husband, Wright was the first recipient of the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce Community Spirit Award.
"I worked for Susan as an intern in 1982, and this galvanized a mentorship that altered my life's course in wonderful ways. I learned from her how to bring a sense of joy, abundance, and humor to endeavors great and small; how to take delight in reaching for the improbable goal; how to help others forward in their own careers through connecting them to wise guides. She is one of Dartmouth's bright, shining lights-my most cherished mentor from the College, my abiding friend."
Lane von Herzen '84, author and screenwriter
"Susan is that person at Dartmouth who has had the most influence on who I have become. Whether the topic was interfraternity politics, graduate school, or the death of classmates, Susan has provided me wise counsel and support since becoming my dean in 1985. She will always be a role model to me."
Cynthia Marshall '88, Captain, U.S. Army, Judge Advocate
"Susan Wright was instrumental in assisting me in obtaining a Keasbey Scholarship for graduate study at Cambridge. And as editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth, I frequently spoke with Susan [then a class dean]. She is a true listener who has the natural ability to put others at ease. In a college that justifiably prides itself on the approachability of its faculty members and administrators, Susan Wright stands in a class all her own."
Michael T. Reynolds '90, partner at New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
"Susan Wright is a class act. She opened my eyes and ears to possibilities I had never considered before, and always gave me the confidence to reach further and higher than I ever would imagine was possible. Dartmouth is stronger and more vibrant because of Susan. I am honored to call her a mentor, a role model, and a friend."
Belinda H.Y. Chiu '98, Ed.D., former Alumni Council member
Susan Wright (back row, left) was the first director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. She is pictured with the fellows in May 1991. First row, from left: Lillian Guerra '92; Monica Miller '92; Henry Drewry, of the Mellon Foundation; Jodi Archambault '91 (now deputy associate director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in President Barack Obama's administration); Gretchen Potter '92; and Elaine Jahner, program faculty director. Second row, from left: Susan Wright; Marc Andraca '91; Alvin Warren '91 (now cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department–see comment left); and Mark Carlson ‘92. (Photo by Stuart Bratesman)
"I was one of the first Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows at Dartmouth. Susan was our cohort's mentor and advisor. She encouraged me to apply for the fellowship and adapt it to my goals. As a result, I completed an honors thesis in history, returned to my community of Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico, and was able to assist with the historic reacquisition of a significant portion of our ancestral homelands. My career would have developed much differently without the Mellon Fellowship and Susan's support and friendship."
Alvin H. Warren '91, cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department
"Susan Wright taught me how important personal relationships are to learning and how essential it is to live purposefully. She had such insight and genuine concern for students. I hope that someday I can mentor others the way she mentored me."
Susan Gordon '06, senior nonprofit coordinator for causes at Facebook
"I first met Susan when I worked in the Career and Employment Services office my junior summer. She took such a strong interest in our lives and encouraged us constantly with her endless optimism. I feel so lucky to have had her guidance, inspiration, and mentorship in my life!"
Mary T. Conway ‘82, former president of the Class of 1982 and president of the Class Officers Association
"Susan Wright is an amazing woman and has been a transformational mentor. Her advice over the years has been invaluable, and she's always ready with a great idea and a helping hand. Dartmouth will surely miss her!"
Leah M. Wright '03, Ph.D. candidate in history at Princeton University
By SARAH MAXELL CROSBY ’04 and SARAH MEMMI
Last Updated: 1/14/10