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Office of the President Emeritus
Hinman Box 6166
Hanover, NH 03755
Phone: (603) 646-0016
Fax: (603) 646-0015
Email: james.wright@dartmouth.edu
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President James Wright's letter to the Dartmouth community

April 14, 2003

Dear Friends,

In his poem "Snow," Robert Frost wrote, "You can't get too much winter in the winter." This winter in Hanover might just have proved him wrong. Our temperatures were 30 percent lower than normal, and we experienced the coldest day ever recorded for early March. The plentiful snowfall, however, made possible the creation of a wonderful Winter Carnival statue. And, to underline this special winter, the skiers won their Winter Carnival competition for the first time since 1984. In addition, Dartmouth hosted the NCAA skiing championships, finishing 6th, and the men's and women's hockey teams were in the playoffs. It has indeed been a winter with a lot of winter. Now, can spring be far behind? (No, but it did snow in early April!)

As a strong indication of Dartmouth's growing popularity among the nation's top students, undergraduate applications to Dartmouth increased by 16 percent for the Class of 2007, to a new record level. This was the greatest increase among our peer institutions, and it provides continuing affirmation of the recognized quality of the Dartmouth undergraduate experience. Our intimate setting and special sense of community, combined with close interaction between students and faculty, small classes, faculty who are passionate about their teaching, a diverse student body that loves the College, extensive opportunities for independent study, and our excellent off-campus programs result in one of the best educational experiences in the country. These qualities continue to define Dartmouth as a very special place.

* * * * *

This year, Dartmouth students and faculty garnered numerous awards and other recognitions. I have room to mention only a few of them. Professors Judy Byfield '80 in History, Roberta Stewart in Classics, and Barbara Will in English received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, while poet Cleopatra Mathis received one from the National Endowment for the Arts. Faculty from Thayer School of Engineering, the Dartmouth Medical School, and from Arts and Sciences continue to compete successfully for grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. You may have seen media coverage of several Dartmouth research projects, including the work of Dr. Elliot Fisher and Professor John Skinner, which suggests that more health care does not necessarily translate into better health care, or John Baron's research, affirming that an aspirin protocol may lower the risk of colon cancer. Dartmouth manages better than any place I know to focus on the undergraduate experience and also be a place of discovery.

Three Dartmouth students are on their way to Oxford University on Rhodes scholarships. Heidi Williams '03 will study for a Masters of Science degree, specializing in the mathematical foundations of computer science. Fiona Herring '02, now studying computer science at the London School of Economics, will study social anthropology. And Amar Dhand '01, who is currently a student at Harvard Medical School, will work toward his doctorate in education. Also, Collin O'Mara '01, who graduated with a double major in classics and history, received a Marshall Scholarship to study for his BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.

I am delighted that, following the regular periodic internal review process Paul Danos has agreed to serve another term as Dean of the Tuck School. The Tuck School continues to prosper under Dean Danos' leadership. He has hired new faculty, expanded the size of the MBA program, and opened Whittemore Hall, a marvelous facility. Most importantly, he has fostered a residential MBA program that is one of the best in the world. For the second year in a row The Wall Street Journal ranked Tuck the Number One business school in the country.

I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Stephen P. Spielberg as Dean of the Dartmouth Medical School. Dr. Spielberg comes to us from Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development where he was Vice President for Pediatric Drug Development. He has also held teaching and research positions at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Toronto, Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, and Merck Research Laboratories.

On Sunday, March 30th, we joined students and community members in Enfield to celebrate the completion of a house built by the Dartmouth chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Under the guidance of the Tucker Foundation over 250 students from across the College participated in this effort. The Tucker Foundation also sponsored an alternative spring break this year that sent 42 students to work on three other Habitat projects in the southern U.S., as well as to Florida to work with underprivileged children and to Costa Rica to help construct a clinic. As I told the students in Enfield, I am proud to be at a place where students are so committed to service.

Finally, congratulations go to Murry Bowden '71, who was named to the College Football Hall of Fame. As a young junior faculty member I watched Murry play; a few years ago I told him that he had made the hardest tackles I have ever seen at Memorial Field. He joins his coach, the late Bob Blackman, in the hall. (Prior to Murry's selection, the most recent Dartmouth player to be so recognized was Bob MacLeod '39.)

* * * * *

President John Sloan Dickey regularly told Dartmouth undergraduates "the world's troubles are your troubles." In this way he sought to encourage students to be responsible world citizens. Mr. Dickey's statement continues to resonate. We are very much a part of the world community. Venezuelan labor strife and the ongoing crisis in the Middle East have had an impact on what we pay for oil (and in a winter like this, that is substantial); the war in Iraq and the threat of terrorism have raised questions about off-campus programs, emergency protocols, and campus preparedness; health care costs for our employees have skyrocketed; and the downturn in the financial markets has had a negative effect on our finances. Dartmouth is a real part of the real world - the bad, along with the good. This is no ivory tower.

The war in Iraq has stimulated a great deal of debate on campus. Students, faculty, and staff have participated in a series of discussions on various aspects of the war, and, like the rest of the country, the Dartmouth community includes people who represent the whole range of opinions. But it is moments like these that underline more than ever the importance of open dialogue and the need to protect and even encourage freedom of expression. I have also encouraged people to be especially sensitive to the most vulnerable members of our community - those who have family members involved in the conflict or who are from the Middle East or are of Arab or Muslim heritage.

We have taken a number of measures to respond to the threat of terrorism, the war with Iraq, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Our spring term off-campus programs all started as scheduled; the health and safety of our students and faculty are uppermost in our minds, and we are monitoring those programs closely. Faculty leaders have reviewed specific contingency plans and protocols with their students, and we have communicated this information to the parents of all students currently enrolled in such programs. We have also increased our alert on campus. Hanover and Dartmouth remain peaceful in a tense world, but we know full well that we are part of the world - reminders of which come regularly. The federal government has suggested that colleges and universities could be targets of terrorist activities. A team of administrators is meeting regularly to ensure our preparedness. We also work closely with the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and local town officials to coordinate our efforts. The world's troubles surely are our troubles!

* * * * *

In the years when the financial markets were good, the Dartmouth endowment grew very well. We ranked 8th for returns among the 35 private schools with the largest endowments, and Dartmouth's endowment per student increased at the 7th highest rate (ranked with Harvard) among all schools. At the same time, Dartmouth's spending rate from the endowment ranked 13th in the group of 35. Moreover, we maintained a AAA bond rating. The performance of the Dartmouth endowment continues to be one of the best in higher education, and our spending rate, which the Board of Trustees reviews annually, has been prudent, strategic, and responsive to the needs of our community.

The growth in the endowment over the last four years has allowed Dartmouth to address critical priorities and major needs. We kept tuition increases down to a minimum and reduced our dependence on tuition. We twice enhanced our financial-aid packages, as part of the College's ongoing commitment to attract the very best students to Dartmouth. As a result, we have one of the most economically diverse student bodies among our peer institutions. We invested in faculty and staff compensation - Dartmouth had lagged in both areas, which hurt our competitive position - and in the library and computing. We funded several capital projects, as well. With the construction of McCulloch Hall, we took an important first step to meet our undergraduate housing needs. And we addressed pressing academic needs with the Baker Library renovation, the Wilder expansion, the renovation of the Fairchild Science Center, and the renovation of Silsby Hall. Finally, increased revenue enabled us to enhance an array of academic and student life programs, including athletics. These investments helped ensure the quality of the learning environment for our undergraduate students.

As a historian, I knew that the good times could not last. As a President, I surely wished they might, at least, have lasted for a little longer! The decrease in endowment revenue has led us to reduce expenses and to look for greater efficiencies. We have cut budgets by approximately $5 million in FY 2003, and we project a $7.8 million reduction in FY 2004. We have reduced programs and activities in all areas. The Trustees also voted to increase tuition by 4.9 percent, slightly higher than the increases we have enacted in recent years. We are surely not alone in having to cut expenses. Corporations and businesses, as well as institutions of higher education around the country, have imposed hiring and salary freezes, cut budgets, and have even laid off employees.

The good news is that we continue to be blessed with generous supporters. We have begun planning for a capital campaign, and alumni/ae giving continues to be a critical element in our ability to move forward with new initiatives. The Dartmouth College Fund provides absolutely vital support toward the meeting of our key priorities including financial aid and academic programs. While we have done well, in recent years we have seen a decline in our donor participation numbers, and we need to recover ground in this regard. A Dartmouth education depends on the quality of our faculty, our students, and the programs that we offer - all of which depend, in turn, on the support of alumni/ae. We hope that everyone can step forward in this time of need.

Every area of the College has implemented expense reductions, although we have tried hard to limit their impact on academic and student programs, and we have accordingly taken the greatest reductions in administrative areas. Of all the reductions, the one involving swimming and diving received the most attention. No one set out to eliminate this activity, and the cut would not have been suggested if we had not had to make severe budget reductions. Consequently, we were delighted to be able to find a plan that allowed us to reinstate swimming and diving. This episode demonstrated remarkable spirit and ingenuity on the part of our students. as well as generosity on the part of many alumni/ae, parents, and friends, who worked with the Athletic Director and Dean to create a way to sustain swimming and diving. Susan and I were pleased to join the team members at their last home meet. It was a festive occasion and a winning one!

* * * * *

Sadly, this winter Jean Kemeny, First Lady of Dartmouth 1970-81, passed away. Susan and I had visited her just days before her death and told her (using the title of her 1979 book) that it was "Different at Dartmouth" and that she had helped to make it so through her numerous contributions. We and many, many friends attended the Rollins Chapel memorial service and warmly remembered her spirit. She was an extraordinary woman, and we shall miss her.

Susan and I hope to see many of you on our travels this spring, and we look forward to a wonderful Commencement in June. In the meantime, it is hard to focus on our business of learning without pausing to reflect on the current world situation. Our thoughts are with our forces in Iraq and our prayers are for their safety and for peace for that suffering region.

Sincerely,

James Wright

Last Updated: 8/21/08