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

Community Letter from President James Wright

May 30, 2008

Dear Friends,

Greetings. As the academic year draws to a close, I wanted to assure you that the work of the College continues and that Dartmouth is in exceptional shape. Earlier this year, I announced my decision to step down in June of 2009, and I would like to thank the many people who have sent me their best wishes. Susan and I are filled with sadness at the idea of stepping away from our current roles at Dartmouth but we are excited to be moving into a different phase in our lives. We are enormously grateful for the opportunity we have had to serve Dartmouth. But this is too soon for farewell — we still have much to do. And I surely look forward to that!

Admissions and Financial Aid

We are now completing the process of admitting the Class of 2012. A record of over 16,500 prospective students applied for just under 1,100 spaces. They are — like all classes before them — an extraordinary group of young people. Their academic credentials are impressive and are surely among the strongest in the country. International students make up 8.5percent of the incoming class, students who are first in their family to attend college make up almost 14percent, legacies are 11percent, and students of color are 36percent. Consistent with national demographic trends, we have seen continuing growth in Asian American and Latino/a students.

I was very pleased that we could expand our financial aid program earlier this year. This has always been one of my top priorities and financial accessibility is one of this College's most dearly held values dating back to our earliest days. Today, approximately 50percent of students receive some form of aid, and next year the College will spend over $67 million on aid — up from just $24.5 million in 1998 when I assumed the presidency. The new initiative ensures that we will continue to offer one of the nation's most competitive aid packages. Students and their parents appreciated the provision that there would be no tuition for students with family incomes of less than $75,000 as well as the elimination of loans. And the move to need-blind admission for international students and the provision that all financial aid students would have one summer term with no earning expectations will make a significant difference.


Our admitted students will include perhaps as many as six veterans including one who applied to the College while serving on active duty in Iraq. They will join the three marines who matriculated last year. In addition, we have admitted a young Iraqi from a refugee camp in Syria. She came to our attention through two Dartmouth students who were volunteering at the camp and who saw her potential.

I have also worked with Senators Jim Webb and John Warner from Virginia and with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to get a new GI Bill passed. Few people realize, I think, just how inadequate veterans educational benefits are, especially compared to the benefits that the World War II generation received. The 1944 GI Bill paid the full cost of attending college for many thousands of veterans, expanding access to higher education. Today, the Montgomery GI Bill does not cover the cost of attendance at either public or private colleges and universities, and many veterans are left either unable to afford college or in massive debt. We can, and we must, do better.


In addition to admitting new students, this is also the season when we wrap up our faculty hiring and tenure and promotion decisions. Just as I enjoy meeting the new students and seeing them adopt Dartmouth as their own, so too am I gratified by the quality and dedication of the faculty we hire. Through the hiring and tenure process, Dartmouth continues to place a very high emphasis on bringing to the College faculty who are superb scholars and exciting teachers — faculty who are defining their fields and expanding our knowledge and who want to learn alongside our students, who are open to new ideas in pedagogy, and are passionate about instilling a love of learning in their students. We manage to attract and retain exactly this sort of faculty year after year.

This year, Dean of Faculty Carol Folt has worked to address enrollment pressures in a number of areas including the departments of economics and government. (Provost Barry Scherr and I made additional resources available to enable her to do this.) We have also approved a new program in Writing and Rhetoric that will encourage deeper exploration of writing across the disciplines, offer student support, and improve our students' critical communication skills through new courses on public speaking. No students will be exempted from the English composition course, which all students will now take in addition to a first-year seminar. The new requirements give Dartmouth the most comprehensive writing program among our peers.

Over the next year I intend to work with the faculty to enhance the academic and intellectual opportunities of the sophomore summer, providing more opportunities for intensive study and a richer set of programs on the great issues of this century. We also have plans to enable some Tuck faculty to teach some undergraduate courses beginning next spring. And we have an ambitious capital campaign to advance and pending facilities projects to move ahead.


Dartmouth is fortunate to have so many alumni/ae who care so passionately about their college — I am sure you have heard from some of them! I recently told seniors that Dartmouth must always keep focused on two responsibilities: to provide each generation, each graduating class, an experience so strong and special that when they graduate they are convinced that the Dartmouth education they received could not be improved upon, and, therefore, surely should not be changed one bit. And the second responsibility is to recognize that even as the graduates pack to leave we need to be taking steps to improve the experience so that it will meet the changing needs of the next generation of students. This is the Dartmouth story, and Dartmouth alumni/ae share in reaffirming it. Alumni/ae volunteer in so many different ways to support the work of the College. Thank you, one and all, for everything you do for Dartmouth.


Over the last few weeks, Susan and I attended the Academic Gala, recognizing students who have completed senior honors theses or related projects, the Arts Awards for students who have made major contributions to the creative or performing arts, and the annual Celebration of Athletic Excellence that identified athletes who have excelled on and off the field of competition. All three events highlighted the remarkable accomplishments of our students. In addition, several students have received national scholarships including one Rhodes, one Beinecke, one Udall, one Mitchell, and five Fulbright Scholarships. This spring also marked the tenth anniversary of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, which publishes student research papers as well as feature stories on the sciences at Dartmouth. I remember providing funding for the journal when it first began, and I am very proud of how well it has done — through ten years of remarkable work by student leaders.

In a week, the Class of 2008 will join the Class of 1958 on the Green for Commencement. Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will speak, and the campus will be filled with alumni/ae, students, faculty, parents, staff, and friends as together we will honor our newest graduates, celebrating their accomplishments and welcoming them into the next stage of the Dartmouth fellowship. Occasions such as this remind us all that Dartmouth continues to provide an exceptional academic experience--one that prepares its graduates for a lifetime of leadership and learning.


James Wright

Last Updated: 6/30/09