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HANOVER, N.H. – David Thomas McLaughlin, 14th President of Dartmouth College (1981-87) and a noted leader in both the nonprofit and corporate worlds, died Aug. 25 at age 72.
Mr. McLaughlin died of apparent natural causes in Dillingham, Alaska, during a fishing trip with friends and his two sons. A private family funeral service is planned for this weekend, and a memorial service will be held on the Dartmouth campus at a time to be announced.
Dartmouth President James Wright said, “Former Dartmouth President John Dickey told students ‘the world's troubles are your troubles,’ and David McLaughlin took this challenge as a life guide. Mr. McLaughlin did so much for Dartmouth, but the richness of his contributions to a broad range of areas — education, business, government, philanthropy, and international relations among them — is virtually unparalleled. He left this College and this world a better place.”
At the time of his death, Mr. McLaughlin had recently completed (in June) a three-year term as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross. He was also serving as Chairman of Orion Safety Products of Easton, Md., and as a Trustee or Director of the Center for Excellence in Education, Colby-Sawyer College, After School All Stars (a non-profit organization providing after-school services for children), and Viacom, Inc. (previously CBS Corporation).
Mr. McLaughlin had come to the Dartmouth presidency from the business world and from Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees, which he had chaired. After leaving Dartmouth, he served a wide range of nonprofit and corporate organizations in a governing or executive capacity, and was particularly well known for his work with the American Red Cross and with The Aspen Institute from 1987-97, first as Chairman and then as President and CEO.
Mr. McLaughlin was born March 16, 1932, in Grand Rapids, Mich., and graduated from East Grand Rapids High School. He received the A.B. degree from Dartmouth in 1954 and the MBA in 1955 from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
As an undergraduate, Mr. McLaughlin excelled in academics, service activities and athletics. His academic accomplishments won him membership in Phi Beta Kappa, and he was President of his class as a junior, President of the Undergraduate Council, a member of both the Green Key service society and Casque and Gauntlet, a senior honor society, and an Air Force ROTC cadet. As his class neared graduation, it awarded him the Barrett Cup, recognizing the senior “giving the greatest promise of becoming a factor in the outside world through his strength of character and qualities of leadership, record of scholarship, broad achievement and influence among his fellows.”
He was also widely recognized for his athletic achievements, which included starring in varsity football, basketball and track. As a wide receiver on the Dartmouth football teams of 1951, ’52 and ’53, he set several records that stood for more than 20 years.
Upon graduation from Dartmouth, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but passed up the challenge of professional football to earn the MBA degree at the Tuck School. After graduating from Tuck, he served in the U.S. Air Force as a jet pilot for two years.
Following his military service, Mr. McLaughlin joined Champion Paper, Inc., where he worked for 13 years. He advanced to become successively President of Shield-Ware, Inc., a Champion subsidiary, Vice President and then President of Champion Packages, Inc., and President and Division Manager of Champion Papers, Inc.
He joined the Toro Company as President and Chief Operating Officer in 1970, and two years later assumed the additional responsibility of Chief Executive Officer. In 1977, he was elected Chairman of the Board of Toro, also retaining the role of CEO.
Throughout his business career, Mr. McLaughlin maintained a deep interest in education and served Dartmouth steadily in a variety of alumni volunteer capacities. He was elected to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees in 1971 and became its Chairman in 1977, continuing in that role until 1981.
While Mr. McLaughlin chaired the board, Dartmouth was seeking a successor to John G. Kemeny, who had announced his intention to step down after 11 years as President of Dartmouth. After conducting a national search, the board concluded that its own chairman was the person best qualified to lead the institution. The board announced on Feb. 23, 1981, that it had elected Mr. McLaughlin the 14th President of Dartmouth, noting his “extraordinary qualities of leadership, his knowledgeable dedication to the liberal arts in education and his devotion to Dartmouth.” The decision was unusual but not unprecedented, having last occurred in 1893 when the board elected William Jewett Tucker, then a member of the board, the ninth President of the College. Mr. McLaughlin was inaugurated as President of Dartmouth on June 28, 1981.
Mr. McLaughlin was known to have considered John Sloan Dickey, Dartmouth’s President during his student days, to be a mentor and role model, and to have derived great pleasure from following in his footsteps to become President of the College.
During his six years as president, in a time of economic stress for the nation and the College, Mr. McLaughlin succeeded in carrying out an ambitious agenda for Dartmouth, helping keep it in the forefront of liberal education. During his tenure academic and athletic facilities were enhanced; the Rockefeller Center, Hood Museum and Friends of Dartmouth Rowing Boathouse were built; classrooms were renovated; the Skiway was improved; and the Berry Sports Center was built. His academic initiatives included the establishment of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding and the Institute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics. Faculty salaries increased 43 percent over a five-year period, the College’s “need-blind” admissions policy was continued and the endowment grew to a new high of $521 million.
Dartmouth’s professional schools also grew under President McLaughlin’s tenure: the Thayer School of Engineering received a $15 million grant to expand and improve facilities; the Tuck School of Business was strengthened; and the Dartmouth Medical School was brought into financial equilibrium, greatly increasing its sponsored research and fund raising efforts. He also won approval of a plan to relocate the Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital from the north end of Dartmouth’s campus to a new home two miles away in Lebanon, N.H. The move took place in 1991, facilitating two key developments: making room for expansion of Dartmouth to meet the 21st-century needs of students, faculty and staff, and the creation of a whole new campus for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, now regarded as one of the leading medical centers in the nation.
In October 1986 — after 10 years as a member of the Board of Trustees followed by five years as President — Mr. McLaughlin announced his intent to step down from the presidency within a year. The board issued a statement saying, “During his tenure David McLaughlin has established educational initiatives that will benefit current and future generations of Dartmouth’s faculty and students. Notable among these are his commitment to enlarging the intellectual life of the student beyond the classroom. . . his persistent concern for faculty compensation and his visionary approach to the relocation of the Medical Center. . . . Dartmouth today is a remarkably healthy and proud institution, whether evaluated from an academic or financial standpoint. This is due, to a large extent, to the steadfast and patient leadership that David McLaughlin has provided.”
Mr. McLaughlin then divided his time between the nonprofit and corporate sectors. He was Chairman of The Aspen Institute from 1987-88, then President and Chief Executive Officer until 1997. In 1988 he also became Chairman and CEO of Orion Safety Products, serving in that capacity until 2001, when he relinquished the role of CEO but continued to serve as chairman until his death. He joined the Board of Trustees of the Center for Excellence in Education in 1997 (chairing that body from 1999-2000). He became a member of the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross in 1998 and served in that capacity until 2001, when President George W. Bush appointed him Chairman of the American Red Cross. He joined the Board of Trustees of Colby-Sawyer College in 2000 and the Board of Directors of After School All Stars in 2004.
He also served as a member of the American Bar Association’s Ethics 2000 Commission from 1997-2003, and as Chairman of the New Hampshire Governor’s Education Funding Commission from 2000-2001.
From 1990-94 he also served on the Board of Trustees of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, the Dunwoody Institute, George Williams College, the Better Business Bureau of Greater Minneapolis, Inc., the Freshwater Biological Institute Foundation, Kimball Union Academy, the Federal City Council and the Business-Higher Education Forum. During the same period he chaired the Tuck School Board of Overseers, was an Incorporator of the New Hampshire Charitable Fund, and served in volunteer capacities with Washington College, Stanford Research Council, the Washington Strategy Seminar, the National Chamber of Commerce and the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts.
At various times between 1976 and 2002 Mr. McLaughlin served on the boards of ARCO, ARCO Chemical Company, Horizon Banks, Inc. Holding Company, Chase Manhattan Bank, Chase Manhattan Corp., Dayton Hudson Corporation, First National Bank of Minneapolis, Economics Laboratory Inc., Hamilton Allied Corporation, Meredith Corporation, PartnerRe, Atlas Air, Inc. and Infinity Broadcasting.
He held honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Heidelberg College, Norwich University, Washington College and Monmouth College. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Society of Corporate Executives, the Century Association and the Federations Foundation Board.
Mr. McLaughlin is survived by his wife, Judith; two daughters and two sons: William R. McLaughlin of Minneapolis, a 1978 graduate of Dartmouth and 1981 graduate of the Tuck School of Business; Wendy McLaughlin of Minneapolis, a graduate of Babson College; Susan Jangro of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., a 1981 graduate of Dartmouth; C. Jay McLaughlin of Easton, Md., a 1985 graduate of Dartmouth; and 13 grandchildren.
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