I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving ... we must sometimes sail with the wind and sometimes against it. But we must sail and not drift or lie at anchor.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
Professor of Anatomy
Dartmouth Medical School 1838-1841
Photo of President Wright greeting students

It has become the custom at Dartmouth for the President to issue a five-year report. I welcome this opportunity to reflect on what has happened and to set out my priorities for the next five years. If it is an occasion especially inviting to a historian, I will nonetheless resist a temptation for lengthy descriptions. Instead, I will look ahead and will also share and reaffirm my ambitions for Dartmouth. When I became president in 1998, I had already spent thirty years here as a faculty member and administrator. I was grounded in and committed to some fundamental principles that I believed marked Dartmouth. I treasured teaching and learning with students, the collegiality and collaboration with colleagues, and the special sense of community that exists here.

In my inaugural address I stressed three priorities for my administration: to protect and advance the strength of the faculty and the education provided, to nurture Dartmouth's historic commitment to the out-of-classroom experience for our students, and to uphold and expand the special sense of community and accessibility that defines Dartmouth College. We have made progress in each of these areas. At times, progress meant providing additional support for what we already had; at others, it meant building new facilities or adding new programs. Always we have aimed at ensuring that Dartmouth provides the best education in the country to its students.

The past five years have had their challenges: the tragic loss of Susanne and Half Zantop; the unexpected deaths of other colleagues, students, and friends; and the attacks of September 11 and their implications for Dartmouth, including the death of eleven alumni. These events have served to pull us together as a community, but the cost has been far too high.

Students and Academic Life

Photo of students at table shot from above

The quality of the students applying for admission to Dartmouth is excellent, and our students remain among the strongest in the nation. In 2003, we saw a 16 percent increase in undergraduate applications. Two financial aid initiatives, which injected an additional $4 million into the scholarship budget, helped Dartmouth remain accessible to a broad range of students, and enabled us to remain competitive with our peers. Dartmouth remains one of only a small number of schools that has a need-blind admissions program and meets 100 percent of a student's demonstrated need.

Across the nation, early admissions programs have been the subject of national debate. We have carefully assessed our early admissions program and believe it works in the best interest of the College and our students. Dartmouth is a clear first choice for many students, and early decision allows these students to resolve their college process early. We continue to take about one-third of the entering class through early admission, a significantly lower proportion than many of our peers. Those students we admit early meet the same high academic standards as do regular admissions candidates and represent the diversity we value.

Photo of students in Prague

Once here, our students excel at a range of programs from the humanities to the sciences. Interdisciplinary study has become an ever more important part of our students' education while the emphasis on international affairs - long a strength of the Dartmouth curriculum - has also increased. Dartmouth continues to provide outstanding off-campus programs around the world. We send many more of our students abroad for off-campus study than do our peer institutions, and in 2003 we inaugurated an Anthropology and Linguistics program to New Zealand. These programs help our students learn about different cultures and people and contribute to a still deeper understanding of their own culture. Student satisfaction with the quality of their academic experience remains high in comparison with peer institutions.

One indication of the vibrancy of the undergraduate academic experience is the number of new undergraduate journals we have seen. These include The Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, Main Street, The Undergraduate Journal of Law, The Dartmouth History and Classics Journal, The Dartmouth Contemporary, and Policy Perspectives Quarterly. In recent years an increasing number of students have won prestigious post-graduate awards including Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman fellowships.

Teaching and Scholarship

Dartmouth faculty are passionate about their teaching and their responsibility for their students' education. This is not an obligation that either the faculty or the administration takes lightly. In my inaugural address, I suggested that Dartmouth was a university in all but name, with three well-established, world-class professional schools and with a small but energetic graduate program. And so it is. It is also a place with a deep and abiding commitment to teaching and learning and a resolute focus on our special strength as an undergraduate institution.

Photo of student painting

What happens in the classroom, the science lab, or art studio, be it at the College or one of the professional schools, is at the core of what Dartmouth does. The close relationship between students and faculty, the opportunities for students to work alongside some of the best faculty in the world, the chance to experiment with new ideas, to push the boundaries, to make mistakes - these have always been part of a Dartmouth education.

The recent gift to endow the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning will allow us to provide more support for faculty. Good teaching does not just happen. The Center will assist faculty in identifying and implementing new pedagogies and teaching technologies. Provost Barry Scherr has begun the process of appointing a director for the Center, which will be located in the Baker Library.

Photo of George Langford and student

Dartmouth faculty have a long history of excellent scholarship. Research and teaching are not mutually exclusive - being good at one does not mean being bad at the other. Indeed, the best teachers are those faculty who are closely engaged in the creation of new knowledge and who are grappling with the issues that define their fields. Our faculty - like professionals in other fields - need to stay current with the latest developments in their discipline. The fields of life sciences, cognitive science, English, history, physics, classics, and computing, to name just a few, have changed dramatically in the past thirty years, and the curriculum has needed to evolve. The perceived tension between research and teaching reminds us of the need to balance these two aspects of our mission - the education of our students and the creation of new knowledge. And it keeps at the forefront our desire to hire and retain faculty who share a commitment to this balance. Dartmouth is indeed a university in all but name. But we not only proudly bear the name "College," we have the soul of a college where students are taught by full-time faculty and where close bonds form quickly and easily. Dartmouth is one of the preeminent institutions of higher education in the world today because of our commitment to teaching and learning. This is a commitment that has marked the past and will mark the future.

Photo of researchers in lab

Indications of the continuing quality of the Dartmouth teaching and learning environment abound. Faculty across the institution contribute new insights to our understanding of the world and the issues we face. From genomics to philosophy, and from the languages to engineering and business education, Dartmouth faculty work to create new knowledge and new ways of learning and have added courses to address new areas of inquiry and to take advantage of interdisciplinary opportunities. We have also added new degree programs in genetics and public health at the Medical School. In July 1999, Dartmouth opened the Fannie and Alan Leslie Center for the Humanities to foster scholarship in the humanities. Faculty conferences have included the "Race Matters in the University of the 21st Century" and "Unleashed" (a conference on wireless technology). The conferences sponsored by the various centers and schools around the campus abound and attest to the intellectual vitality of the academic life of the College.

Over the past five years, six Dartmouth faculty received Guggenheim fellowships and ten received National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. These numbers are the most we have ever had over a comparable time period. In addition, Dartmouth faculty won awards and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, Pew Charitable Trust, Russell Sage Foundation, the Bunting Institute, the Japan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Institute, and the Bogliasco Foundation among others, as well as the from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Sponsored research supported largely by federal grants and contracts grew from $79 million in 1998 to $157 million in 2002. The Medical School alone saw a growth between 2001 and 2002 of 38 percent. Thayer School of Engineering does particularly well, with a 2002 per faculty average of about $350,000. The Tuck School has not traditionally hosted much sponsored research because of a lack of federal funding in this area. But under Paul Danos' leadership, this year Tuck faculty brought in $500,000 in federal support.

Sponsored research in the Arts and Sciences increased from $10.7 million in 1998 to $17.6 million in 2002. Some departments have had notable success including the departments of Computer Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Psychological and Brain Sciences. For example, the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences has seen an increase in sponsored research from $874,000 in 1998 to $2.54 million in 2001 and $4.6 million in 2002, and is now the highest recipient of research dollars in the Arts and Sciences. The completion of Moore Hall and the inclusion of a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, the first in an academic department in the country, has paid enormous dividends for faculty, for students, and the College.

Graduate Programs

Those things that I described five years ago as my vision and objectives for Dartmouth fully included the graduate programs. Because their budgets are largely separate from that of the College, the professional schools are essentially "tubs on their own bottoms," and they are less dependent upon endowment revenue than is the College-only budget. But while our various budgets may be separate, our faculties and students, our intellectual values and ambitions, and many parts of our academic infrastructure, are not. The amount of collaboration, cooperation, and discussion that takes places across the schools is really remarkable, and is one of Dartmouth's distinguishing characteristics. Here our size and scale become absolute intellectual advantages. Faculty from Arts and Sciences and each of the schools work closely with colleagues across the campus, while undergraduate and graduate students move back and forth freely. I am not aware of any university community in the country that does this so easily and so well. The graduate programs have each prospered over the past five years and together we have all been advantaged by this growing strength.

Dartmouth has twenty-four Ph.D. and master's programs in the Arts and Sciences, the Dartmouth Medical School, and Thayer School. These programs range from the world-recognized master's program in electro-acoustic music to the newly created Ph.D. program in genetics, as well as a Master of Public Health program in the Center for Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth. Graduate students contribute in vital ways to the creation of a rich learning environment across the institution as they interact with undergraduates, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty. We recently increased graduate student stipends and have opened new housing for graduate students on Park Street.

Photo of Tuck professor in classroom

The Tuck School, under Dean Paul Danos' leadership, has expanded the number of students in the Master of Business Administration program by one-third and has also expanded the number of faculty by a like percent. The school is consistently ranked among the very best business schools in the world and indeed twice garnered the top slot in the Wall Street Journal rankings. Tuck celebrated its centennial in 2000 and also completed a very successful capital campaign. One of the most significant results of that campaign is the wonderful Whittemore Hall facility, which combines student residences with conference and teaching space.

Photo of Thayer professor and student

The Thayer School with Dean Lewis Duncan has also undertaken some expansion including an increase in the number of Ph.D. students and in the highly successful Master of Engineering Management Program, run with the support of the Tuck School. Engineering faculty collaborate with colleagues at the Medical School, the Tuck School, and, of course, the Arts and Sciences, where the engineering program is fully integrated into the undergraduate curriculum. They have also played a central role in the Institute for Security Technology Studies and continue to compete extremely well for outside funding. A very successful fundraising effort has enabled Thayer to move forward with the construction of an engineering sciences center that will provide much needed space relief.

Photo of DMS professor and student

The Dartmouth Medical School has also prospered. Stephen Spielberg assumed the deanship on July 1, 2003, when he succeeded John Baldwin and acting dean Ethan Dmitrovsky. A pediatrician and pharmacologist, Dr. Spielberg comes to DMS after a long career in academic medicine and was most recently vice president of pediatric drug development at Johnson & Johnson. DMS has an array of successful research programs within sixteen clinical and basic science departments, the Center for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. The new facilities at the Cancer Center and Rubin Building for research and treatment are impressive; the open lab concept and collaborative values that have shaped the design of this facility symbolize and enhance the exciting work of this nationally recognized faculty.

Overall enrollments in the graduate programs have increased in recent years. Although we have no plans to expand the undergraduate student body and the Tuck School has completed its planned expansion, we do expect to see continued modest growth in other graduate programs. The academic deans, in putting forth proposals for their schools, will be looking to concentrate such growth in areas where Dartmouth can have an impact. Provost Barry Scherr will continue to oversee the planning process.

Life Outside the Classroom

Part of the assignment that the Board of Trustees asked me to take on at the outset of my presidency was to strengthen student life. This has traditionally been a defining quality of Dartmouth, and the Board wished to assure its strength going forward. In February 1999, the Trustees and I announced the Student Life Initiative. Amid much that was good about student life, we saw room for improvement. Our concerns focused on shortcomings in the residential system - we did not have enough residence halls to house all students who wanted to live on campus and many existing residence halls were overcrowded. Our housing needs dated back to the 1970s when Dartmouth moved forward with coeducation and expanded the student body without substantially increasing facilities. Students complained that they had to move far too frequently during their time at Dartmouth.

Photo of McCulloch Hall

We opened McCulloch Hall in 2000, and we are proceeding aggressively over the next five years with plans to build residence halls to house 500 students. The first phase of this construction will begin north of Maynard Street with two buildings designed by noted architect Buzz Yudell to house up to 330 students. We also have plans for a building on Tuck Mall to house approximately 150 students. We have increased support of undergraduate advisors, who play an important leadership role within the residential system. In addition, we are moving forward with plans for a dining center adjacent to the Maynard Street residence halls, which will include some additional gathering spaces for undergraduate and graduate students. Building this facility will enable us to proceed with renovation of Thayer Dining Hall to provide critical student social and program space.

The Trustees also wanted Coed, Fraternity, and Sorority (CFS) organizations to undertake a self-assessment in order to affirm their own mission and its relationship to the community. We challenged our students to meet higher expectations and, not surprisingly, they are doing so. CFS houses developed new standards of excellence - rather than meeting the previous set of "minimum standards," houses have developed a set of goals for themselves. The College paid for a physical plant audit, and the house corporations are now in the process of addressing issues identified through this audit. The College has agreed to provide low-interest loans for this purpose.

Photo of student dance performance

The Student Life Initiative Report highlighted the need for more social options for students. Some of the improvements in this area include subsidized tickets for the Hopkins Center and athletic events, increased funding for student organizations and activities, expanded hours for the Collis Center and the Lone Pine Tavern, more late night programming by the Physical Education and Recreation Program, and the addition of three new club sports. The Dartmouth Outing Club and Outdoor Programs continue to provide more activities for students. Dartmouth, like colleges and universities across the country, struggles with the problem of alcohol abuse among some students. We have made progress in this area and continue to work with students to develop effective programs.

Photo of men's soccer team

Athletics continues to play an important role at Dartmouth. Ivy League institutions have recently implemented a number of changes to ensure that students can effectively balance academic demands with athletic schedules. Although this continues to be a challenge for many students, I believe that the Ivy League manages this balance better than any other Division 1 conference. Our student athletes meet the academic standards of the College and are always students first.

The decision announced in November 2002 to cut the swimming and diving teams was a painful episode but one that has fortunately had a happy outcome. The decision stemmed from a real need to reduce costs in the face of some very difficult choices. Dean of the College James Larimore had already provided some protection for athletics, but he had little choice but to ask the area to share in the reductions that he needed to make. The reduction remained in place, but generous alumni as well as parents and friends contributed more than $2 million to support these teams, and as a result they remain a vital part of our intercollegiate program.

We have opened a number of athletic facilities in the past five years including the Boss Tennis Center and Gordon Pavilion, the Scully-Fahey Field, the Blackman practice football fields, the McLane Family ski lodge, and the renovations of the Leverone Field House, squash courts, and the golf course. In addition, we have expanded fitness and recreational activities for all students.

Some of our teams have competed exceedingly well over the past five years. As someone who attends as many home games as I can, I am eager to see us excel on the field as we excel elsewhere in this community. The appointment of JoAnn Harper as athletic director in 2002, the first woman AD in the Ivy League, has created a sense of energy and enthusiasm in the Department of Athletics and Recreation.

Sense of Community

Photo of students singing

A distinguishing characteristic of Dartmouth is the sense of community that pervades the culture here. Our location in northern New England, this incredibly beautiful campus, and the spirit of collaboration that brings together faculty, students, staff, and alumni, all contribute to this feeling. Generations of graduates return to Hanover as if returning home, and they continue to care about what happens here with all the fervor and passion of family members.

Since my appointment in 1998, one of my top priorities has been to enhance the campus climate for students of color. Our community is more diverse than it has ever been - this year 33 percent of Dartmouth undergraduates are students of color compared to 20 percent just five years ago - and the sense of community is stronger than ever. Our residential community of learning - open, welcoming, collaborative, a place that values independence and cooperation, a place that enables friendships for a lifetime - is a compelling model for higher education. The Dartmouth experience must be a positive one for all members of our community. It is also essential that the Dartmouth community mirror the complexity and diversity of the wider society if we are to provide an educational experience that fully meets the needs of our students.

Photo of students on Dartmouth Green

Following the report on the Student Life Initiative, I established the World Cultures Committee (subsequently renamed the Committee on Institutional Diversity and Equity), which reported back in the early summer of 2001. In response to their recommendations, I appointed a Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Equity and established an office of that name to provide direction to our diversity initiative across the campus.

Students learn a great deal from each other and need to learn how to live and work in a diverse environment. In 2003, the College filed an amicus brief in the University of Michigan admissions cases to support the right of colleges and universities to take race into consideration as one factor among many as they admit students. Dartmouth's individualized admissions process follows just such an approach. We were pleased to hear our process reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the Grutter decision.

In the last five years, Dartmouth has made consistent and steady progress with respect to racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and gender diversity in our faculty and staff. Within the Ivy League, Dartmouth has the highest percentage of tenured and tenure-track women faculty. Dartmouth also has one of the highest percentages for minority assistant professors in our peer group. Dartmouth's actual number of minority staff has almost doubled in this period, moving to more than 6 percent of our workforce. We can take great pride in Dartmouth's legacy and our recent work to meet our historic commitments to provide a welcoming and inclusive learning community for all students.

Physical Campus

Photo of students in Berry Library

People - faculty, students, staff, alumni, neighbors - and the values they hold make Dartmouth what it is. But bricks and mortar are central in enabling our good work to go on. In the same way that our faculty need to remain current in their fields, so our facilities need to adapt to reflect the changing requirements of students and faculty. Science buildings constructed at the beginning of the last century no longer meet the needs of scientists working in the 21st century. Likewise, residence halls constructed 100 years ago can often no longer provide either the space or the amenities today's students expect. And for all of our buildings, there are new and complicated requirements to make them safe and accessible. The past five years have seen considerable expansion of the physical campus. As we have built, we have been mindful of our own needs and careful to reflect the campus aesthetic we steward and to be responsive to our neighbors. We have adopted the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program of the United States Green Building Council for our future construction, and we have implemented extensive energy conservation and recycling programs.

New or significantly renovated facilities (in addition to the athletic facilities listed above) over the past five years include:


Student Life

Administrative and other facilities

These facilities have added immensely to the living and learning environment at the College. We continue to need additional housing to allow more students to live on campus and to relieve overcrowding. We need a new dining center as Thayer Hall and its systems are in desperate need of renewal. We need new facilities for the arts, the life sciences, computing, and engineering sciences. We need to move along the construction of Kemeny Hall for mathematics and the accompanying building for the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, the Institute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics, and the Fannie and Alan Leslie '30 Center for the Humanities.

We also need to continue renovations on Dartmouth Row and to address needs in several of our other buildings such as Carpenter Hall. The Tuck School has plans for a residential and learning center for its MBA students. Although we have invested heavily in our athletic infrastructure, we also need a competition-quality soccer facility. As we identify funds, we will move forward with our plans in each of these areas.

Financial Health

The financial health of the institution is strong. We do far more with less than comparable institutions. Our endowment per student, although it has increased slightly in recent years, is one-third the endowment per student of Princeton, an institution with which Dartmouth is often compared. Nonetheless, our endowment has grown from $1.5 billion in 1998 to $2.1 billion today. Through a combination of market performance and the generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends - for which we are truly grateful - we have been able to address a number of strategic initiatives.

Photo of art professor and student

The increase in the endowment allowed us to fund a number of strategic initiatives that I set out as high priorities in my inaugural address five years ago. These have included:

While Dartmouth's overall finances remain strong, the economic downturn in the financial markets left Dartmouth with budget deficits. We did balance the budget in 2003 and will do the same in 2004 as a result of reductions of between 2 and 5 percent in departments across the College and the elimination of fifty positions. The budget committee, chaired by Provost Barry Scherr, in consultation with the subcommittee on priorities in the Arts and Sciences, will review budgets with an eye to bringing down expenses while protecting the core academic and student life activities. As we seek to implement new initiatives, we will need to either reallocate funds or find new resources.

Dartmouth and Its Neighbors

Dartmouth and Hanover have grown together for more than two centuries and the College has a deep interest in the community. Our faculty and staff live here, family members work in the community, they send their children to local schools, and they provide a market for local businesses. The Upper Valley is very much part of Dartmouth's identity and we are committed to being good neighbors.

Photo of children at Hood exhibit

To that end, we participated in discussions with the Dresden School Board and the Town of Hanover regarding a possible land transfer that would help meet the needs of the schools and the College. Ultimately, the school district, the Town of Hanover, and the College reached an agreement that benefited us all. We have also contributed financially toward preserving land near Mink Brook. In addition, local high school students take courses at Dartmouth and large numbers of community members take advantage of programs and lectures offered by the Hopkins Center, the Hood Museum, the Montgomery Endowment, and other Dartmouth departments.

Photo of children and performer at HopStop program

In the 1980s, we bought the old hospital site explicitly so as to expand to the north. We have plans for residence halls, a dining center, and a life sciences building in this area. As we build, we are committed to work with neighborhood groups to make changes to plans where we can and still meet our own needs. In 2003, Dartmouth also bought a piece of property close to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on Route 120, which will provide the College with options for the longer term. We must continue to maintain a size and scale and openness that will protect the natural aesthetics and accessibility of the campus.

One of our top priorities is to provide reasonable housing - either for purchase or rent - for faculty, students, and staff in Hanover. Toward this end, we bought property in downtown Hanover in 1999; property that housed a large number of Dartmouth students. We do not seek to expand the campus south of Lebanon Street, and we have worked closely with the Town of Hanover as we considered the appropriate development of this property. We have also developed the second phase of the Grasse Road project and constructed additional housing on Park Street for employees and graduate students.

We have tried to reach out to the community and to work with neighbors to resolve potential conflicts. In 2001, we appointed a part-time director of community relations and we have recently made that position full time. We have an interest in a healthy and vibrant Upper Valley just as the Upper Valley has an interest in Dartmouth's strength. We are eager to work with neighbors and with local officials to accomplish our joint goals.


Five years have indeed passed quickly and, together, we have accomplished a great deal. Much, nonetheless, remains to be done as we embrace what Dartmouth is and what Dartmouth can be. The strategic plan, released in the summer of 2002, outlines goals for each part of this great institution, and they form the core of the upcoming campaign. More immediately, my top priorities are as follows:

Photo of professor and student

It is our goal to provide the best student experience and the best undergraduate education in the country. We provide a scale that is personal; a sense of shared, collaborative learning; and a faculty committed to teaching and to working with students. These same values mark the graduate programs as they seek to provide the finest experience for their students, and to do this with faculties who are engaged in the work shaping their fields.

Dartmouth attracts and retains the very best faculty and students in the world and together they make magical things happen. Some of my most gratifying moments as president have included listening to my faculty colleagues talk about their passion for teaching, for a particular area of research, and the relationship between the two; attending student recitals, presentations, and athletic events; meeting informally with students to hear about their experiences and aspirations; participating in recruitment activities and tenure deliberations; meeting with alumni to renew their bonds with the College; and working with my colleagues in the faculty and administration to steward this wonderful institution.

Dartmouth did not become Dartmouth over the last two and one-third centuries by timidity, by complacency, by an absence of ambition. The College is a place vitalized and continually revitalized by a sense of energy and of ambition. I have been honored to serve as Dartmouth's president, and I am eager, with the Dartmouth community, to continue to advance the good work of this great place.








Photo of President Wright at Inauguration
Screen shot of Dartmouth Community Medical School home page
Photo of Rauner Library
Screen shot of Tuck School of Business home page
Screen shot of Leslie Center for the Humanities home page
Photo of Scully-Fahey turf field
Photo of MRI facility
Photo of McLane Family Lodge at Dartmouth Skiway
Photo of student throwing baseball
Photo of Pow-Wow on Dartmouth Green
Photo of Hopkins Center
Photo of graduate student housing
Screen shot of Rockefeller Center home page
Photo of NCAA ski championships at Dartmouth Skiway
Screen shot of Coming of Age in Ancient Greece home page
Photo of students building a house for Habitat for Humanity

Posted 8 December 2003
Photos by Joseph Mehling '69
Copyright © 2003 Trustees of Dartmouth College