Skip to main content

Office of the President Emeritus
Hinman Box 6166
Hanover, NH 03755
Phone: (603) 646-0016
Fax: (603) 646-0015

Remarks in Memory of David T. McLaughlin '54 Tu '55, President Emeritus of the College

September 4, 2004

This morning we have remembered David McLaughlin as husband, as father and grandfather, as friend, and as businessman and public servant. Even though his family was the most important part of his life and even though those other roles consumed greater parts of his life, one cannot know David McLaughlin without also knowing his 54-year relationship with Dartmouth.

Great and enduring institutions do not just happen. They are protected and nurtured and extended by the individuals committed to advancing their institutional purposes. As President, David McLaughlin said, "This is a place where you put your arms around it and you care for it." In the long history of this College there surely have been some who cared for it as deeply as David. But it is hard to imagine any who cared more than he did.

Mrs. McLaughlin - Judy - Susan, Wendy, Bill, Jay, all of the McLaughlin grandchildren, and other family members, today we put our arms around you, and together we join you in missing and grieving - but also celebrating, for this good man's good marks are all around us. Milton wrote,

Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt
Dispraise or blame, nothing but well and fair....

When David McLaughlin was an East Grand Rapids high-school football star, Gerald Ford, then a first-term congressman from Michigan, tried to persuade him to go to the University of Michigan, but David was drawn to Dartmouth. He described his relationship with the College as "a kind of love affair at first sight." It was a love affair that was to last well over a half century - to the very end of his life.

At his Matriculation in 1950 David met President John Sloan Dickey and quickly became friends with him. They would in later years go walking together in the woods or fishing, and always, as Trustee and later as President, David would visit with and seek guidance from Mr. Dickey.

And he looked out for Mr. Dickey during Mr. Dickey's final years, in ways that few would know. At convocation in the fall of 1950, David's freshman year, President Dickey challenged the incoming students to "be worthy of the privilege of being judged as a Dartmouth man." David McLaughlin surely met this challenge.

A financial aid student, he excelled in every regard - a Phi Beta Kappa major in International Studies, he was president of the Undergraduate Council and led students in opposing restrictive clauses in Dartmouth organizations. He received the Barrett Cup, given annually by faculty and students in recognition of his all-round achievement and worthiness as an individual. A star football player, he was the top receiver in the Ivy League and in the Eastern Intercollegiate Football Association, and the Philadelphia Eagles drafted him to play professionally.

But he figured that he was not going to play football for the rest of his life, and so turned down the offer and went instead to the Tuck School - and from there to an illustrious business career. But success in business was never enough for David McLaughlin. He was not yet finished.

Through all his busy days, with his work and family, he never lost touch with his College. He served as president of his class for four years, president of the Dartmouth Alumni Association of Chicago in 1968, member of the Tuck School's Board of Overseers, and member of the committee for the College's Third Century Fund. And in 1971 he became a member of the Board of Trustees, chairing the Board between 1977 and 1981.

It was during one of his very first meetings as a Trustee that the Board voted in favor of coeducation. David was an ardent supporter of coeducation - as his daughter, of the class of 1981, and his granddaughter, of the class of 2007, here today can attest. At the end of his service as a Trustee, upon his election as President of the College in 1981, the Board credited him as one "whose work will create the Dartmouth College of the 21st century." It did but he was not yet finished.

His legacy as the 14th President of the College is clear. He revitalized student life, increased significantly faculty salaries, protected and extended need-blind admissions, dramatically grew the endowment, oversaw the expansion of the physical campus with the construction of three new residence halls, as well as the Hood Museum and the John Berry Sports Center.

And, in perhaps the most long-lasting accomplishment, he helped to move the Medical Center from Hanover to Lebanon, opening up the north part of the campus for the College. I said to David many times - and told his classmates so at their 50th reunion in June - that the decision to relocate and reconstitute the Medical Center, audacious and even controversial though it was, was both right and courageous. It stands only behind coeducation in shaping the modern Dartmouth and the future of this College. The poet Thomas Gray wrote "Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere."

But for David McLaughlin, the most gratifying aspect of being president was the dimension directly involving students. He once said,

The highlight of my whole experience here has always been commencement. You see students come into this college, different sizes and shapes as freshmen, and then four years later you see a transformation go on that is pretty important...there is an ongoing process here that goes well beyond any individual.

I had the privilege of saluting David at Commencement this past June and had the thrill of seeing students and faculty accord him a warm greeting - a resounding welcome home.

He was a mentor and a friend to me. I first met him when he was Board chair and I chaired a major faculty committee reviewing the curriculum. He made clear that he would do whatever he could to advance this work and he did. For me - and for Susan - he was always a friend and a colleague, through the bad times and the good. I never asked him for a thing that he didn't respond quickly and affirmatively.

We had a quiet lunch this past April at which I told him that I wanted to do something to recognize him on the occasion of his 50th reunion. He modestly demurred - and said we had plenty of time to think about such things in the years ahead. Of course it proved to be, tragically, time that we were not to have. I believe, however, that he would be pleased with the Board's decision that I announced last week to name the student facilities we are building on the old hospital property in honor of David McLaughlin. It is appropriate and symbolic.

For over half a century, David T. McLaughlin helped to shape and guide this College - Dartmouth is a more inclusive place and a stronger place because of his contributions. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "He builded better than he knew..." We knew though, and we hope that he did.

I salute here my predecessor and my friend. We grieve, knowing that his passing was premature - he was not yet finished. But builded in our hearts is the knowledge that we were privileged to have known him and to be the beneficiaries of his legacy. And for as long as there is a Dartmouth, the College that he loved, and that loved him back, will cherish his loyalty and will be the richer for his contributions.

Last Updated: 8/21/08