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Alumni Trustee Candidates: In Their Own Words

Dartmouth Life asked Charles Wheelan '88 to interview the four alumni Trustee candidates.

Richard L. "Sandy" Alderson '69
CEO, San Diego Padres

Richard L. "Sandy" Alderson '69

CW: Tell me about yourself as an undergraduate.
SA: I had a great time at the College. I was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) and Dragon Senior Society. On graduation I was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps and went on active duty.

CW: What's the biggest challenge facing the Board of Trustees?
SA: The biggest challenge is how Dartmouth maintains its unique position in higher education and sustains its reputation for excellence in a very competitive environment.

CW: What would you bring to the Board to help tackle this?
SA: One thing I would bring is a management background. I believe that the execution of policy is as important as the establishment of the policy itself. Ultimately, it's important to know where we want to go, but what's critical is getting there.

CW: How has your relationship with Dartmouth changed since you graduated?
SA: Because of the ROTC issue, I felt disenfranchised for a period of time. I thought that by eliminating ROTC, Dartmouth pulled back from any opportunity to affect the military in a time of conflict. I'm happy ROTC is back and glad there's an opportunity for students to participate today.

I got reengaged partly because of the baseball program, creating opportunities for the team to use our spring training facilities.

CW: What are some management lessons from running a baseball organization?
SA: I try to remind myself to focus on the process, not the result. Somebody can boot a ground ball or strain an elbow. A host of things can happen that lead to failure, but you must control what you can to enhance your probability of success.

CW: What haven't I asked that you'd like to answer?
SA: Why is it important for alumni to participate in this Trustee election? The position of a Trustee is critical and this election is an opportunity for alumni to make a statement about the College and its direction. It's important for alumni not to forego that opportunity.

(Read Sandy Alderson's complete interview.)

Sherri Carroll Oberg '82, Tuck '86
CEO and Co-Founder, Acusphere Inc.

Sherri Carroll Oberg '82, Tuck '86CW: What's the biggest challenge facing the College?
SCO: Dartmouth is a wonderful place. I go back to campus frequently and have a broad range of involvement so I see firsthand Dartmouth's challenges, its areas for improvements, and its great strengths. Dartmouth continues to provide a rich and vibrant environment for outstanding students. It has a wonderful story to tell but we need to do a better job of telling it. Most people can't visit the campus regularly so we need to think of other ways to communicate effectively. The biggest challenge is a combination of alumni relations and public relations issues.

CW: What's Dartmouth's competitive advantage?
SCO: One of Dartmouth's advantages is its location and size, which fosters an extraordinary community. People develop a special connection with each other because of their common experiences in this community. Thought-leading professors readily interact with students, our athletics programs are an important part of the learning outside the classroom, and fraternities and sororities are strong contributors to the social fabric of the College. The Board should focus on enhancing the key elements which create our unique community, because it is a key competitive advantage.

CW: How can the Board leverage Dartmouth's strengths?
SCO: If we focus on investing and innovating in the areas where we're unique, Dartmouth will be even greater 100 years from now than it is today.

CW: What would be the most attractive thing about returning to Dartmouth as a Trustee?
SCO: Dartmouth has been at the heart of all of my successes and happiness in life. I'm a beneficiary of this education and this great community of alumni, so to build on what's great about Dartmouth for future generations would be an incredible privilege and responsibility.

(Read Sherri Carroll Oberg's complete interview.)

Stephen F. Smith '88
Professor of Law, John V. Ray Research
Professor, University of Virginia School of Law

Stephen F. Smith '88CW: How has your relationship with Dartmouth changed since you graduated?
SS: It's evolved. I love the school and that love only gets stronger over time. I've been troubled by the direction the College has taken since I left. It seems that the two most recent administrations have been changing what makes Dartmouth special: its emphasis on well-rounded students, a vibrant student social life, and undergraduate teaching versus becoming a research university. A case in point is the infamous Student Life Initiative, which aimed to end the Greek system as we know it. I'll never forget sitting in the Dartmouth Club of Washington meeting and hearing then-new President Wright talk about how fraternities were poisoning the Dartmouth experience. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

CW: What's the greatest challenge for the Trustees, and what's your motivation for seeking a place on the Board?
SS: The Board of Trustees needs to be a lot more proactive in its stewardship of the institution. Trustees can't just defer blindly to the administration. It's the responsibility of the Board to set the tone and the mission and priorities of the College, and then to hold the administration accountable for making measurable progress towards making Dartmouth the best college in the world.

I've talked to a lot of alums who are unhappy that the administration has dropped any pretense of impartiality and is spending time and College funds politicking and trying to influence what ought to be a matter solely left to the alumni to decide, namely who will represent them on the Board of Trustees.

CW: What's the most positive development at Dartmouth in the past decade?
SS: The strength of the student body and of our faculty is the most positive development. Another has been enriching the intellectual life of the College by supporting research. Teaching and research are not opposed to one another. They go hand in hand. Excellence in research leads to excellence in teaching, provided we give the same emphasis to both, as we must. Right now, I fear the balance is skewed too heavily in favor of research.

CW: What haven't I asked that you'd like to answer?
SS: One question is: What might I add to the Board? My independence would be a strong asset. I clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas at the Supreme Court; he always said he respected the fact that I think for myself and didn't hesitate to disagree with him. I'm also a full-time educator, and I think it's important for an educational institution to have Board members who are educators—people who are committed to, and know the value of, excellent teaching and research.

(Read Stephen Smith's complete interview.)

John S. Wolf '70
President, Eisenhower Fellowships

John S. Wolf '70CW: What's the biggest challenge facing the College?
JW: Global competition. Dartmouth needs to think more globally. We face worldwide competition for students, faculty, and resources. When half of our students are from New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, the school misses the perspectives and understanding a geographically diverse student body brings.

CW: What would you bring to the Board to help address that?
JW: International experience. I have lived, worked, or competed on five continents and in an array of tasks related to promoting public policy, business, and the nonprofit world. My experience at senior levels of government and business in the U.S. and abroad bring a new skill set to the Board which can help it shape a global strategic vision.

CW: What is Dartmouth's greatest competitive advantage?
JW: Its educational character. Dartmouth offers undergraduates the educational richness of a university while retaining its primary focus on the individual student. But it needs to do more to leverage its size, location, and the capabilities of some of the world's best professional schools, even as it expands its focus globally.

CW: How does the Board leverage Dartmouth's unique qualities?
JW: Not as well it needs to. The College's goal is to "educate the most promising students of this generation to be leaders of the next generation." The Board should ensure that Dartmouth:

  • Engages more actively in the global competition for students, faculty, and resources;
  • Incorporates leadership into the curriculum in practical ways;
  • Underscores that every student's contribution is important, whether as a scientist, artist, or athlete;
  • Understands that we can't afford to choose between faculty "teaching and scholarship"—from among the best scholars, we want those with a passion to teach;
  • Moves beyond the feckless debate over undergraduate versus graduate, and looks for ways the graduate programs can leverage the undergraduate programs that are at Dartmouth's core.

(Read John Wolf''s complete interview.)

By CHARLES WHEELAN '88

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 5/30/08