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"Yes, this is Dartmouth"

Revived Senior Dinners focus on continuity of the Dartmouth experience

Almost two hundred people filled the Daniel Webster Room at the Hanover Inn on the evening of Apr. 18th. Mostly '05s with a healthy sprinkling of alumni, they were the first people in more than twenty years to take part in a Dartmouth tradition: the Daniel Webster Senior Dinners. Seated at each table were six seniors and two alumni ranging from Harold 'Hal' Ripley '29 to freshly-graduated '04s. Dean of the College James Larimore opened the festivities with brief welcoming remarks before the assembled tucked in to an elegant three-course meal.

Lea Threatte '01
Lea Threatte '01, an attorney with the New York firm Simpson, Thatcher and Bartlett, spoke at the Apr. 18 Daniel Webster Senior Dinner. (Photo by Genevieve Haas)

The event was the first in a series held subsequently on Apr. 26 and May 2. Two more dinners will follow, on May 9 and 10. Organizers hope that the dinners will make graduating seniors feel as welcome to enter the ranks of alumni as they were when they entered Dartmouth as first-year students. President James Wright emphasized the continuity of the Dartmouth experience in his remarks to the seniors and guests while they polished off their crème bruleé.

"You have become a part of Dartmouth," Wright said, "And Dartmouth has become a part of you." Wright touched on a number of the events and issues that characterized the last four years, noting that many of the seniors present were away on their

Dartmouth Outing Club pre-orientation trips when news of the September 11th attacks broke. "You bonded in a time of national tragedy," Wright told them.

Wright also noted that Dartmouth was recently recognized by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton as one of the world's ten most enduring institutions. Defined by Booz Allen as an institution that "has changed and grown in unswerving pursuit of success and relevance-yet remained true through time to its founding principles," He stirred the room with the image of today's seniors returning to Dartmouth years hence to find tomorrow's students relaxing on the Green. "When you see those students," said Wright, "you will recognize them and say, 'Yes. This is Dartmouth.' And they, in turn, will say to you, 'Yes. This is Dartmouth.'"

The tradition of Senior dinners, which was originally called "Sing-Out Dinner" because it followed an annual senior sing-along, began more than 100 years ago in 1903, under the presidency of William Jewett Tucker, Class of 1861. The tradition continued, apparently intermittently, for almost 80 years.

Peggy Epstein Tanner '79, preparing to speak at the May 10 event, applauded the revival of the dinners, a tradition she remembers fondly from her own senior year, as a means of extending Dartmouth's personal outreach to today's graduates. "That personal contact to me is what supporting Dartmouth is all about," she said.

The keynote speaker on Apr. 18th was Leah Threatte '01, an attorney with the New York firm Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett and a graduate of Columbia Law School. She spoke about the lasting impression Dartmouth made on her and recalled experiencing mixed emotions during her own graduation.  She said that whatever triumphs and disappointments this year's Seniors might face in the coming years, their Dartmouth experiences and connections would remain with them.

Victoria Lee '05, a history and sociology double major, found the dinners to be a welcome addition and said she thought that most of the senior class planned to attend, even if only for the opportunity to enjoy a gourmet meal in the Daniel Webster Room. Her classmate, Kelly Moir '05, a film studies major, agreed, adding that she appreciates the strong alumni network that Dartmouth fosters.

BY GENEVIEVE HAAS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08