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>  News Releases >   2009 >   June

Gifts of $15.5 million honor President James Wright and Susan DeBevoise Wright

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/09/09 • Media Contact: Susan Knapp (603) 646-3661

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The Wrights
President James Wright and Susan DeBevoise Wright at the 4,802-foot summit of Mount Moosilauke. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

In his forty years at Dartmouth, James Wright has been a professor, dean of faculty, provost, and president. Susan DeBevoise Wright, over three decades, has been a career services director, class dean, and executive director of the Montgomery Endowment, a program that brings extraordinary figures to campus to teach and engage with students and faculty. But no matter the position, for the Wrights, the job has always been about enabling students and supporting faculty.

So when Dartmouth’s Campaign Executive Committee undertook a fund-raising effort this year to honor the Wrights — on the eve of James Wright’s stepping down as president — students and faculty were the ultimate beneficiaries. Gifts of $12.5 million were made in the Wrights’ name to endow student scholarships and to support the student experience through the Dartmouth College Fund.

In addition, a $3 million gift from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation will establish the James Wright Professorship, a new faculty chair that will be awarded to an outstanding scholar-teacher with no restriction as to academic discipline and whose area of scholarship transcends normal academic boundaries with the potential to influence intellectual life across the College of Arts and Sciences. During Wright’s presidency, he made faculty growth a high priority. Over the last decade the College increased its Arts and Sciences faculty from 380 to 439, moving the undergraduate student-faculty ratio from 10-to-1 to 8-to-1.

Wright is retiring as Dartmouth’s sixteenth president on June 30, after an eleven-year tenure. Jim Yong Kim, chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, will succeed him on July 1.

“As a scholar, teacher, and administrator, Jim Wright brought extraordinary passion and leadership to Dartmouth, earning widespread respect for his role in guiding the College through challenging times,” said Campaign Executive Committee co-chairs Brad Evans, Class of 1964, Peter Fahey ’68, and Steve Mandel ’78 in a joint statement. “Susan Wright has been a mentor, whose wisdom and exceptional talents have guided and inspired Dartmouth students for more than thirty years. We wanted to create a lasting tribute to the impact that Jim and Susan have had on past students, and a vehicle that would touch Dartmouth students forever in Jim and Susan’s names.”

The gifts announced by the committee will establish the “James and Susan DeBevoise Wright Scholarship Fund for Undergraduates,” with $8 million in commitments funding sixteen scholars. A $1 million fund in their names has been established for students at Dartmouth Medical School, $2.3 million has been added to established family scholarship funds at the Tuck School of Business and the College in their honor, and $1.2 million has been contributed to the Dartmouth College Fund and the Parents Fund. The Wrights have made the Dartmouth College Fund a priority in their own personal giving, having supported a Dartmouth College Fund scholar for each year of the Wright presidency.

Under President Wright’s leadership, Dartmouth has significantly expanded the faculty, attracting accomplished new scholar-teachers to Hanover; made Dartmouth more accessible than ever to qualified students; brought a renewed spirit of community to the campus; and added important facilities that have enhanced not only the learning environment but also Dartmouth’s distinctive sense of place.

The Wright administration more than doubled the budget for undergraduate financial aid (from $24.5 million in 1997 to $65 million today), waived tuition for families that earn less than $75,000 a year, replaced loans with grants, and expanded the need-blind admissions policy to international students.

President Wright has consistently emphasized the importance of a diverse community to a liberal arts education, and increased the percentage of students of color on campus from 20 percent in the Class of 2002 to 36 percent in the Class of 2012. International students now account for 8 percent of the Dartmouth population, up from 4 percent a decade ago. A national advocate for the well-being of wounded servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Wright has welcomed nine veterans to the student body since 2007.

To adapt to an evolving curriculum and out-of-classroom demands, more than three dozen academic, residential, and athletic facilities have been completed or built outright during Jim Wright’s tenure. Another two dozen have been renovated.

The achievements have been financed largely through the Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience, which to date has raised $1.2 billion of its $1.3 billion goal. Twenty-one alumni and parent volunteers serve on its Campaign Executive Committee.

“Others can extol the range of Jim’s accomplishments as president, but I will remember his passion for meeting with alumni and sharing his ambitious vision for our College,” said Amy Cholnoky ’77, a former president of Dartmouth’s Association of Alumni and a student in Wright’s “History of the American West” course. “He was always willing to speak out on alumni affairs when we needed his leadership. He could have easily floated above the fray, but chose the more difficult path, the one in the best interest of the College. I’ll always think of him foremost as a teacher, but his lessons go far beyond the classroom.”

As a Dartmouth senior in 1984, trustee Karen Francis received career advice from Susan DeBevoise Wright. “It was the smartest move I could have made,” said Francis, who would become the first woman to run the Oldsmobile division at General Motors. “Susan had an ability to inspire hundreds, if not thousands, of us for the journey ahead. And she did it with such sincerity and warmth.”

As executive director of the Montgomery Endowment for the last ten years, Susan DeBevoise Wright brought luminaries to campus for lectures, performances, and intimate discussions with students. Montgomery Fellows have included Merce Cunningham, Lucille Clifton, Joan Didion, Mary Robinson, Oliver Sacks, and others. A force in civic and community affairs, she has been the honorary chair of Dartmouth’s annual United Way campaign and Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center’s annual Prouty fund-raiser, a director for the Upper Valley United Way, and served on the boards of other local organizations.

Despite the rigors of an Ivy League presidency and a demanding travel schedule, the Wrights were fixtures at student sporting events, recitals and opening nights, lectures, and other campus events. President Wright regularly hosted lunches with undergraduates in his Parkhurst Hall office, and met often for informal conversations with individual students and student organizations.

Gifts to honor the Wrights are part of the College’s Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience, the most ambitious fund-raising initiative in Dartmouth’s history. The campaign is seeking investment in four initiatives: to advance leading-edge teaching and scholarship; to enhance residential and campus life; to honor its commitment to making education accessible in the undergraduate college; and to raise unrestricted dollars. The campaign is institution wide, embracing its undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts and sciences and its three professional schools, Tuck School of Business, Thayer School of Engineering, and Dartmouth Medical School.

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Last Updated: 9/14/09