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>  News Releases >   1998 >   September

Dartmouth: Forever New An address by President James Wright

Posted 09/23/98

President Wright's inaugural address, continued

There are many examples of our research heritage. It was here at Dartmouth that the first medical x-ray in the nation was taken. It was here that George Stibitz ran the first digital computer, that John Kemeny and Tom Kurtz developed both the BASIC computing language and timesharing. It was here that Ted Geisel and Robert Frost and Louise Erdrich played with the magic of language and shared with us their creative genius. Dartmouth is a place that has brought together accomplished scholars and talented students -- scholars and students sustained by a love of learning. This is not only what calls us here, it is the purpose that binds us together.

Our goal, then, remains the pursuit of our own historic mission. Our commitment is to learning and scholarship, within a talented and diverse community. We seek nothing less than to meet our own aspirations and purposes. And we will settle for nothing less. This requires that Dartmouth continue to evolve and to change, just as our society evolves and changes. Today, I say to you, that Dartmouth, while proud of its heritage, must be forever new.

However deeply rooted in its rich history, Dartmouth is a dynamic, living community. We are free to set our own course. We welcome today students who will live their lives out in the 21st century. Our purposes are about their future and not our past. The Koran teaches that every soul should "look upon the morrow for the deed it has performed." Dartmouth is focused upon the morrow, the next century.

This is a community whose best hopes and aspirations can become a model for others to emulate. As we articulate and pursue our own niche, one that synthesizes the best of the college and the university, one that builds upon our rich past, we need to be comfortable with what we are. But we must never be complacent with what we are. We should recognize that Dartmouth remains a work in progress.

What does it mean for us as faculty members that Dartmouth is both a college and a university? It means that we share institutional obligations, even as we remain active participants in the worldwide community of scholars within our disciplines. It means that our small size can be an advantage, because of the flexibility it affords. Cooperative endeavors and shared ambitions often bear more and better fruit than can result from individuals working alone. Cross-disciplinary collaborations in many fields not only enhance the teaching and research enterprises, but they also contribute to personal and professional satisfactions. Being a faculty member at Dartmouth provides the opportunity to teach and to work closely with some of the finest undergraduate students in the country, in a residential community that encourages and supports research.

What does it mean for you as undergraduate students that Dartmouth is both a college and a university? It means a size and scale and aspiration sufficient to afford a rich curriculum, but within a community that one can stroll across in 10 minutes and meet friends along the way. It means an unsurpassed range of off-campus opportunities second to none and arts programs that are incredibly rich and accessible. It means the opportunity to study with faculty who are committed both to teaching and to scholarship. Perhaps most important, being a student at Dartmouth means being encouraged to take one's self seriously as a young scholar -- a person of promise who has a rare and valuable opportunity to learn and grow. It means that here students are not merely passive recipients of information, but are active participants in their own learning process. It means also that the out-of-classroom experience complements and supports the central mission of the College. Whether it is in athletic competition or recreational sports or artistic pursuits, or in conversations at the residence halls or dining tables, we recognize that learning here has never been --nor should it be -- limited to the classroom.

What does this synthesis mean for you as graduate or professional school students? It means that your professors are as committed to teaching and to the quality of your academic experience as are those who teach only undergraduates. It means that you, too, benefit from studying within a community large enough to be intellectually vital while it remains one of a human scale -- where you have an opportunity to know not only your classmates and colleagues, but also the faculty with whom you work.

What does this synthesis mean for you as a Dartmouth graduate? You too can take pride that the undergraduate program that will remain at the heart of this College is envied by many and is second to none. It means that you can take pride in the fact that your alma mater is enriched and enhanced by the presence of three of the oldest professional schools in their respective disciplines. It means that the whole institution benefits from the presence of select graduate programs within the sciences -- small programs, excellent in their own right, that enrich and enhance the entire institution. It means that you have a justifiable pride in the scholarly accomplishments of this faculty. As alumni and alumnae, your loyalty to Dartmouth -- your support, your enthusiasm -- have always been, and will continue to be, integral to the College's success.

And what does this synthesis mean for those of us who form the staff and administration? It means that we facilitate the mission and success of this complex institution, we steward a rare community of learning, and we use our skills to maintain and promote its many purposes. As staff and administrators you are the part of the Dartmouth family that enables it to function. Your selfless energy and your commitment to maintaining this place encourage in me a sense of confidence in our future. I am pleased to be part of the administration of such a place and to have you as colleagues.

My commitment, then, as your 16th President, is to affirm our purpose and to build upon our enviable strengths. I expect to pursue my vision of Dartmouth energetically and to use the persuasive powers of this office to strengthen further this great institution. And I expect to be held accountable for our success in leading Dartmouth into the new millennium. I welcome the challenge.

In the 17th century, the Japanese poet Basho wrote: "In my new robe this morning -- someone else." I do not expect to be someone else in my new robe. But I do like its fit. And I am prepared, in this new office, to take on new challenges and new roles. I look forward with anticipation and excitement to the work ahead. Together we can accomplish much.

Now I would like to take a moment to address the Class of 2002 in particular. I have had the pleasure of welcoming you individually to Dartmouth and I am pleased to join with you on a new and exciting journey. You will share much together as a class, and through your studies, activities, and interests you will share much with others in this community. But don't ever forget that it was your own accomplishments and promise that brought you here. And ultimately it will be against your own accomplishments that you will be judged and that you will judge yourself -- whether you have pushed yourself, stretched and grown; whether you have availed yourself as fully as you might have of the rare and precious opportunities that this place will afford you. The burden of regret is a heavy one. Take on the burden of responsibility instead; it is no lighter, but surely it is more rewarding in the end. Emily Dickinson wrote:

We never know how high we are
Till we are asked to rise
And then if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies.

By the act of matriculation you have been asked to rise. You have become part of Dartmouth, and Dartmouth forever more will be a part of you. You will never be the same. Four years from now you will graduate from Dartmouth, as tens of thousands did before you. You will go on to make a difference -- in business, public service, the professions, education, the arts, and myriad other endeavors. But you should know that by your very presence here, Dartmouth itself will be changed, as well. This is as it should be. For along with me, and with the faculty and administrators, staff and graduates, you each assume responsibility for making certain that the richness of this special place endures and grows. Take on this responsibility with confidence and joy -- but also share with me a profound sense of gratitude for the privilege we have been given.

We have work to do, members of the Class of 2002. We have work to do, you and I -- and it is time for us to begin! Thank you.

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