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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Posted 04/17/09
The 10th Earl of Dartmouth visited his namesake Dartmouth College (named for his ancestor the second earl) this week at the invitation of his friend, Dartmouth President James Wright.
William Dartmouth, the name he uses apart from his title, first met Wright in 1998, the year the latter became president of Dartmouth. The two have been in touch off and on since. "I was aware that President Wright would be retiring from that post at the end of June and I wanted to come visit while he's still president," the earl says.
While at Dartmouth, the earl attended (and spoke briefly at) one of the College's Webster Senior Dinners the evening of April 14. He also met with President Wright and his wife Susan DeBevoise Wright at the president's home on campus, took a guided tour of campus, and participated in a luncheon with members of the Hill Winds Society, a diverse group of current Dartmouth undergraduates who serve as ambassadors to the alumni body. He even took the opportunity to visit the Hood Museum of Art, where he viewed two 18th-century portraits by well-known portraitist Pompeo Batoni, including one of the second Earl of Dartmouth.
“I am really happy to have had the opportunity to hear Lord Dartmouth speak during his visit to campus,” says Courtney Talmadge ’09, who attended the April 14 senior dinner. “He was an interesting and charismatic speaker, and having him in our presence opened my eyes to a lot of Dartmouth's history.”
At the dinner, the earl told students that he was aware of Dartmouth the College from an early age, as a result of the Dartmouth “Alumni Magazine arriving regularly—and quite exotically—through the letterbox.” He also mentioned that the first Earl of Dartmouth’s mother was a Washington, and that her family’s coat of arms included stars and stripes long before there was a United States, leading some people to speculate that it may have been the source for one of America’s emblems.
Aimee Moon ’09—who was seated between President Wright and William Dartmouth at the dinner—says that “Lord Dartmouth's visit reminded me of Dartmouth's lasting ties around the world and I think everyone in the room was touched by his speaking at our dinner.”
This was not Lord Dartmouth's first visit to the college that bears his ancestor's name, but it was his first visit while holding that title himself. As an Oxford undergraduate in 1970, while his father was the ninth Earl of Dartmouth, the current earl made one brief visit.
It appears that only twice before has an Earl of Dartmouth visited the College while holding that title: in 1904, when the eight earl came as the guest of honor for the laying of the cornerstone for a rebuilding of Dartmouth Hall (the College's first building) after it burned earlier that year; and the ninth earl (the current earl's father) in 1969 for the College's bicentennial festivities.
“My family is immensely proud of the school's name and I've very much enjoyed visiting again,” the current earl says.
President Wright, introducing the current earl, noted that the second one contributed the initial £50 for the establishment of the school and helped Wheelock obtain another £200 gift from the king, resulting in the College being named after the earl in the hopes of securing additional support.
Wright then joked that he had told the current earl that “his ancestor’s original donation was the greatest naming-gift bargain in the history of philanthropy”—adding in seriousness “and the best investment in his family’s history.”
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