Skip to main content

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

Remarks by President James Wright to the Alumni Council

November 30, 2007

Welcome back to this the 195th Alumni Council Meeting.

Let me salute the alumni award winners Leo McKenna and Peter Fahey who have both contributed so many years of support to their alma mater. Susan and I are honored to share this evening with them. John Dickey would be so proud of these graduates; as he had urged and challenged them to do, they have made a difference in their college and in the world. Leo has inspired me for many years"”a wise and loyal and discreet friend of many people, a man dedicated to Dartmouth and her students, he quietly makes a difference. And Peter Fahey has indeed made a difference as Trustee, as fundraiser, as generous supporter, as wise counselor. He and Helen are friends whom we cherish. I am delighted to help celebrate their recognition.

I would also like to thank Rick Silverman and the other officers of the Council for their leadership during this complicated time and indeed all of the members of the Council. Your alma mater very much appreciates all that you and the Council does for Dartmouth. I applaud your efforts to revise the Council's organization and activities.

I would also thank you for the amicus brief that the Council filed in support of the College and the Board of Trustees"”as I regret very much the circumstances that necessitated this.

This current litigation is distracting, troubling, and consumes time and energy that could be better invested in Dartmouth. It is hard for me to follow the logic of those who insist they are instituting legal action against the College as a means of serving the College. Or are asking the state to assert control over Dartmouth affairs as a means of making Dartmouth stronger. There surely are some whose proclaimed "love" for the college is for an abstract Dartmouth.

Let me say that my frustration is not with those who are dissatisfied with the Board's recent action. I fully understand that there are good loyal Dartmouth supporters, many long-time friends of mine including some former students, who disagreed, some angrily with the Board decision in September to expand the number of charter seats and to mandate changes in the election process. Despite this disagreement, I have absolutely no doubt that the Board made the right decision for Dartmouth. My goal tonight is not to explain or defend that. The Governance Committee report does that very well.

In fact, several months ago I determined to step back from this debate"”quite frankly this was hard for me to do. I enjoy debate and there are some matters out there about which I have ached to comment! I learned by serving under and observing some good role models"”Presidents Dickey, Kemeny, McLaughlin, and Freedman, a good man, as were they all. My role is to be President of Dartmouth and not a feisty old Marine. I have pledged to make certain that Dartmouth remains committed to its historic purpose while evolving in a world of change to maintain a position of excellence and strength. 

 So even as the rhetoric heated up this fall, when people ask me how things are going, I happily and readily say it has been a great fall term"”one that gives me great satisfaction and gives Dartmouth great pride. Dartmouth is in excellent condition. Let me give you a brush stroke overview of my fall term. My Dartmouth is not an abstract place.

  • Ravine lodge with 11's
  • Matriculation-convocation-picnic
  • Athletic practices and games
  • Student lunches"”including today
  • Dedication of Houser statue and unveiling of Batoni portrait 
  • Democratic Primary debates
  • A wonderful campaign celebration in Boston including Pilobolus
  • The Celebration of 35 years of coeducation
  • Dedication of Floren Varsity House
  • Merce Cunningham performances
  • Production of "Hair"
  • Welcoming three Marine veterans as Dartmouth undergraduates and talking with them about their experiences here.
  • Handel Society concert
  • Homecoming parade in the rain and celebration of championship football teams at half time of the home games this year
  • Congratulating seniors for winning Rhodes and Mitchell fellowships
  • Class officers meeting
  • Dinner with Casque and Gauntlet
  • Dartmouth parents gathering in New York
  • Remarkable gifts to Dartmouth
    • The Williamsons
    • The Class of 1978
    • Three Professorships
  • Dartmouth recognition for "Green" accomplishments, one of the top six colleges and universities in the country
  • Number 4 in the country and first among our peers for off-campus study
  • Dinner with students at Wheelock Cluster and a piano recital by Sally Pinkas
  • Tuck ranked number 1 again
  • Conversations with faculty about their pleasure in teaching exceptional students and their excitement with their research"”and numerous recognitions of faculty through awards and election to societies
  • And coming up in the next week"”welcoming participants to a world AIDS conference organized by a Dartmouth student, the Aquinas House annual Christmas mass, attending a New York dinner at which Reggie Williams will join others as new members of the College Football Hall of Fame, dinner at a fraternity, the tree lighting in the center of the Green, and Susan and I will host our annual Holiday party for the community

And through all of this"”over 4,000 undergraduates are taking classes from approximately 400 faculty. Students are working on senior theses and other projects. Around 1,400 students applied for early decision for the Class of 2012. And faculty are teaching, working individually with students, and working on their own research.

Now it is noteworthy that none of these wonderful events or experiences are mentioned in the lawsuit or are part of the seemingly endless comments on the blogs. 

There really are two different worlds"”the world of the real Dartmouth experience where real students and real faculty create the incredible learning experience that the College is known for and the world of the bloggesphere of hand wringing, crisis, of constant frown, and of ideology. I sometimes wonder if some of the people who have provided the money to support the current litigation truly know Dartmouth, indeed have ever seen Dartmouth, or whether this is really even about Dartmouth. But enough of that.

My Dartmouth"”and the Dartmouth of students, faculty and staff"”is the Dartmouth that alumni look upon with pride. It is the Dartmouth that energizes all of us. My Dartmouth energizes me every day. And the Dartmouth that can be inspires my every moment. This has never been a place for standing still.

This fall when I gave my annual report to the faculty I talked about those things I still seek to do, my continuing priorities. Several of these are evident"”part of our ongoing agenda coming out of the strategic planning process and the setting of goals for the capital campaign"”further enhancement of the faculty, more support for academic and non-academic programs, and completion of our facilities replacement and renovation goals.

But others have to do with enriching those things that define Dartmouth...

1. Academic Experience

Dartmouth's strength comes from an academic environment where students and faculty collaborate in the excitement of learning. My goals here include expanding the faculty to deal with enrollment issues as well as to continue to build upon areas of special strength and new knowledge.

In addition, we need to fully implement the writing and rhetoric program that the faculty have developed. We have already added 55 new authorized lines in the Arts and Sciences through a combination of new resources and reallocation. We need to do still more.

I want graduate school faculty engaged even more in teaching and mentoring undergraduates"”involving Tuck faculty is a special priority. This is a community of learning in which all parts of this place called Dartmouth, from the graduate schools to the coaches and administrative staff, join the arts and sciences faculty in enriching the student experience"”out of classroom and in the classroom. At Dartmouth we educate the best of this generation to be the leaders of the next.

2. Sophomore Summer

For thirty-five years Dartmouth has been distinguished by the Dartmouth plan and the summer requirement. For at least thirty years the summer term has been an interest of mine. I chaired a committee under President Kemeny to assess the year round calendar and summer offering. I thought then that we could do more. And I still think so. The summer term is a unique feature of the Dartmouth plan yet I do not feel that we have taken full advantage of it.

I have encouraged Dean Folt to work with the faculty to think of ways to provide a more integrated coherent program for the summer that leverages the fact that we have just about the whole sophomore class on campus during that term. I have encouraged her and the faculty to think about some different ways of organizing their teaching loads and class schedules. For example, what if courses were three weeks long so that students were only taking one course at a time?  What if we brought in faculty from the professional schools to teach? Could we consider developing a particular theme or great issue during this term? What if all of our programs and centers (Hop, Hood, etc) coordinated their themes?  (Hunger, Peace, Global Warming, democracy"”or God and Country in a free society?) There is an opportunity here that I would like to more fully leverage and I am eager to identify ways to move this forward.

3. Financial Aid

Dartmouth has a long history of providing access regardless of family means. I want to improve upon that and make Dartmouth's special opportunities"”for example internships and off campus study"”more accessible. Financial aid and need blind admissions remain a central priority.

We need to remain competitive in this area"”Williams and Wesleyan both recently enhanced their financial aid packages"”but we also need to remain true to our own history of accessibility. Dartmouth was founded to educate Native students as well as the hill country farm boys of New England.

 I would like to identify resources that will enable us to do several related things: 

  • Move to need blind admissions for international students; (building upon a vision of John Sloan Dickey and William Jewett Tucker),
  • Provide for one leave term where there are no earning expectations so that financial aid students will have the same options as non financial aid students to take on internships or other opportunities that so not provide consequential compensation;
  • Provide that for financial aid students going on Dartmouth off campus programs the incremental expenses will be covered by scholarship rather than by loan 

These three initiatives all aim at advancing our goals in internationalism and globalism and in making certain that all of our students can take advantage of activities that are at the center of the Dartmouth experience. 

  • Finally I would like us to find ways to reduce significantly the loan expectations for financial aid students. This makes us even more accessible"”and it makes post-graduation options more possible for all of our students.

4. Diversity and Community

Dartmouth has historically been marked by a sense of true community. Our future needs to be as rich. We need to continue to enhance and protect a sense of community that is diverse and is inclusive. This is often hard work"”it involves recruiting a diverse student body, faculty, and staff and then it requires that we work to make the community not only welcoming but comfortable for this diverse range of people. This is our legacy.

Diversity is about more than simply recruiting and admissions. It is about inclusion. It is about the learning environment and a culture that encourages us all to learn from each other. We will be the better for this work. Dartmouth is an extraordinary place with a remarkably rich legacy. Nearly ten years ago when I was introduced in this room as the 16th president, I said, "Our commitment to diversity is rooted in the fact that we are an educational institution. It is hard for me to imagine education going on without a richly diverse student body and faculty. The world is diverse, and so must we be. I will see that we do not let up in our recruitment efforts. But recruitment is only the first step. This community needs to do still more to welcome and salute difference." My commitment is unwavering.

My work is enhanced by recognizing that goals such as these can protect Dartmouth's competitive place and underline its singular qualities. John Sloan Dickey said in 1964, "The quality of a first-rate faculty and student body is always unfinished business. We will continue aggressively to seek and to develop the best in both. This will require major new financial resources, for the compensation of the kind of faculty we intend to have and keep and for the kind of scholarship program necessary to have a student body selected solely on its merit." I could say exactly the same thing today. Dartmouth remains a work in progress"”but it is good work that I am fully engaged in.

The good work of this good College is enhanced by your support and the recognition that despite debates over Board size and governance, we are not divided in the work that this generation has"”to extend to this century and to make relevant for this century the experiment that commenced 239 years ago over on that soft slope of a hill that is near to where Reed Hall now stands. What we do to add chapters to that story will be the legacy that will mark our period of stewardship-I am pleased to join you in that good task.







Last Updated: 6/25/09