The loyalty of Dartmouth alumni/ae to their alma mater is legendary. With 69,000 living alumni/ae (including the graduate programs and professional schools), we have one of the smallest alumni/ae bodies in the Ivy League and yet, I am sure, none is more passionate than ours. Every year 5,000 alumni/ae interview prospective undergraduate students; 2,000 alumni/ae volunteer as class, club, or affiliated group leaders; and more than 22,000 have volunteered to serve as career advisors. Many more offer gifts of time, thought, and financial support to help us to meet our objectives.
During my visits with alumni/ae as a faculty member, dean, provost, and president, I have always appreciated the chance to exchange information, to hear new ideas, and to receive feedback. This give and take is immensely enjoyable and helpful. Although there may be disagreements among us, the affection alumni/ae feel for Dartmouth is reinforced time and time again. I regret that during the last several years this natural form of alumni/ae engagement has been marked by a polarization among some alumni/ae around perceptions of College policy and, more immediately, governance.
After careful study of the institution’s needs, the Board decided in 2007 to expand its membership by eight. Five new Charter Trustees were elected to the Board this fall, adding new skills and talents in health care, finance and business, and technology, among other areas of expertise. In 2007, the Board also adopted precepts designed to improve the Alumni Trustee nomination election process. They charged the Association of Alumni and the Alumni Council to develop and implement a process for selecting Alumni Trustee nominees that preserves elections, maintains petition access to the ballot, and adopts a one-vote, majority-rule election process.
I recognize that not all alumni/ae agree with these decisions, but the Trustees judged they were necessary to ensure that Dartmouth’s Board has the ability to respond effectively to a changing world and make certain the College continues to be one of the world’s finest academic institutions. I agree with their actions. Our focus now must be on working together to make sure alumni/ae are informed about the College’s priorities and the challenges we face. This must be a two-way conversation, and it will be a work in progress. Vice President for Alumni Relations David Spalding ’76 has already initiated this process with alumni/ae leaders and his Alumni Relations colleagues. Alumni/ae are a vital part of Dartmouth’s past, present, and future, and we must continue to work together to meet our mission and sustain our shared values.