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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Dartmouth’s 58-year tradition of bagpipe music at Commencement continues this year with graduating senior Sharon Dauson ’09 joining College Piper Joshua Marks ’96 to lead the senior class procession.
Dauson, a history and economics major from Pittsburgh, Penn., looks forward to celebrating her graduation in this slightly unusual manner: “My mother will appreciate the fact that she will be able to pick out who I am amongst the masses.” After the procession, Dauson will change in to a cap and gown and join her class for the rest of the ceremony.
Bagpiping was first incorporated into Dartmouth’s Commencement exercises in 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first sitting president to deliver the College’s Commencement address. In honor of his visit, an extra dose of pomp was added to the circumstance and Andrew Logan of Springfield, Mass., was hired to play the bagpipes. Logan continued to play at every Commencement for more than 40 years.
Logan’s run ended when Marks asked to play at his own Commencement in 1996. “I requested that if Mr. Logan wished to continue playing in any year, the College ask him first,” explains Marks. “He deferred for a few years, and when he officially retired the honor passed to me.” As a student, Marks was known for his habit of practicing his instrument in outdoor locations, including the Bema and the College cemetery. Marks also piped for the Marching Band and led the Freshman Sweep at Homecoming.
At Commencement, Marks likes to mix things up, but there are three songs that he plays every year: “Highland Laddie,” a traditional salute to the chief tune; “The Marine Corps Hymn,” in honor of President James Wright’s military service; and the Alma Mater, which he plays as he marches past the 50-year reunion class. Marks says he will play until his own 50-year reunion, when he looks forward to receiving “that nifty 50th reunion panama hat,” but adds that he would be happy to continue playing beyond that point. “I serve at the pleasure of the College,” he says.
Marks and Dauson both became interested in bagpiping at a young age: Marks began taking lessons at age seven, while Dauson started in the third grade. But while Marks says he didn’t begin to seriously practice and study until after his first year at Dartmouth, bagpiping played a major role in Dauson’s childhood. “I grew up attending Highland Games and spending time around bagpipe bands,” she says. Throughout middle school and high school she entered competitions and played in shows.
After piping on Sunday and collecting her diploma, Dauson plans to spend the summer working at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. “So if you have a strong desire to hear more bagpiping,” she says, “you can track me down there!”
This year marks only the second time that Marks has had a piping partner during the procession. In 2000, he was accompanied by two graduating students from Dartmouth Medical School, James Feeney and Travis Matheney. But Marks may have some company again soon: Dauson’s younger sister Erin also plays the bagpipes and will graduate from Dartmouth in 2011.
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Last Updated: 9/15/09