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Opening event of inauguration activities for Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim offer great leaders' "Reflections on Leadership for Social Change"

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 09/21/09 • Media Contact: Latarsha Gatlin (603) 646-3661

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"Ask great questions." "Feel engaged with the world's problems." "Create a moral purpose."

“What I learned from him [the late John Kemeny, 13th president of Dartmouth] is something that has stayed with me — that the smartest people ask more questions than they answer. Great leaders know how to ask great questions.” — Jeffrey R. Immelt ‘78, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of GE.

Panel photo
Dr. Paul Farmer (far left) makes a point during Dartmouth's "Reflections on Leadership and Social Change" panel discussion Sept. 21, 2009. More info: (Photo by Joseph Mehling.)

That was the kind of insight a packed house in Dartmouth’s Spaulding Auditorium got for 90 minutes Monday afternoon as five extraordinary leaders from different fields sat side-by-side on the stage discussing their “Reflections on Leadership for Social Change”.

The panelists were Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder (along with President Kim and Ophelia Dahl) of Partners in Health; Ed Haldeman ’70, chair of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees, who recently became chief executive officer of Freddie Mac; Immelt, who is also a Dartmouth trustee; Michael Porter, the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School; and Ruth Simmons, president of Brown University. The session was moderated by Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

The opening event in two days of activities surrounding the inauguration of Dr. Jim Yong Kim as president of Dartmouth drew out the participants on how they became the leaders they are, what students need to know to be the leaders they want to be and how President Kim can lead most effectively at Dartmouth. Each shared personal stories about how they became leaders and the teachers who spotted leadership ability in them before they saw it in themselves.

Immelt spoke of working with former Dartmouth president and noted mathematician John Kemeny, from whom he learned as an undergraduate the importance of asking lots of questions.

Panel photo
From left: global health pioneer Paul Farmer MD, Harvard Business School Prof. Michael Porter, Brown University President Ruth Simmons, Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim, GE CEO Jeff Immelt '78, Freddie Mac head Ed Haldeman '70, and panel moderator Prof. Sydney Finkelstein during Dartmouth's "Reflections on Leadership and Social Change" panel discussion Sept. 21, 2009.. More info: (Photo by Joseph Mehling.)

Brown University President Ruth Simmons said a high school teacher spotted potential in her, introduced her to the arts and “helped me learn to express myself. I found a teacher with the ability to show me what was possible in life. I think that’s why the question of mentoring is so important.”

Haldeman said as the topic of social change arises, “how to influence young people, doesn’t mean we have to refocus everyone in a different direction.” He stressed that there’s still a place for change and responsibility in the world of business and economics.

Farmer said that especially in a privileged and remote environment like Dartmouth’s, it’s important to remember there is still suffering and need in the world. “Haiti was my greatest teacher but I was prepared for Haiti. Students, just like faculty, need to feel engaged with the world’s problems.”

The discussion wrapped up with each panelist giving President Kim advice on how he can best lead at Dartmouth.

“Tradition is important but there are three things that are really important,” said Immelt. “One, a commitment to integrity and complete transparency in what you do. Second, commitment to performance. And the third, commitment to change — and I know we’ll get that out of you.”

Porter said: “I’m not going to surprise anyone with my advice. Jim, have a strategy. Chart a course that is modern and forward-looking that is truly unique. If you create a moral purpose and update it, I think you’ll be enormously successful.”

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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Last Updated: 1/6/10