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The Call to Lead

A Campaign for Dartmouth

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Our Role in Dartmouth's Future

September 15, 2014

Dear Dartmouth community members,

With the start of a new academic year, the campus is abuzz with activity as preparations are made for the fall term. New students and faculty are finding their way, poring over campus maps, schedules and syllabi, and imagining their journey ahead. In the President's Office, too, preparations are underway. I've brushed up on my calculus text and am eager for the start of a second round of Math 11! Whether you are new to campus or returning from break, Gail and I want to welcome you; this is truly an exciting time to be at Dartmouth.

It's so exciting, in fact, that we were a bit shocked by how quickly our first year back on campus had passed. In addition to putting a senior leadership team in place, we've reached out broadly and engaged students, faculty, alumni, staff, and parents in ongoing discussions around what is best about Dartmouth and where we can do better. From these discussions, an ambitious vision has been articulated in which our students and faculty will profoundly broaden Dartmouth's impact on the world.

While we are motivated by the progress made during this time, and by how much more promising work is yet underway, you might say that now is when the real work begins--sustaining our efforts as we execute on this vision in the long-term, moving ideas into action. This will require unabated commitment, both at the institutional level, and from individuals.

One might wonder how each of us can define our own role in Dartmouth's aspirations for the future. The answer I would offer is as simple as it is challenging. Think big.

In our work and studies, in our dreams and our ambitions, now is a time for thinking big--for bold efforts and intellectual risk-taking. The best way for Dartmouth to sustain an ever-increasing trajectory is by engaging a community of teachers and learners intent on rising to the very biggest challenges facing humankind. This energy has unimaginable potential and it is the key to our success.

Institutionally, we have come a long way in the past several months. Our plan to increase the number of post-doctoral fellows on campus through the Society of Fellows is well underway. Senior fellows are already at work and are recruiting an incoming class of junior fellows who will arrive next fall.

Dartmouth's faculty cluster hiring initiative is taking shape. We are in the process of searching for the first faculty cluster member to fill the newly endowed Thomas Kurtz Chair in Computational Science. Energized by an anonymous and unprecedented $100 million gift for academic excellence, the process of identifying additional areas of academic opportunity is ongoing, with some compelling ideas under consideration by the provost and the academic deans.

Our entrepreneurial ecosystem has been energized by the opening of the DEN Innovation and New Venture Incubator. As students explore their drive to innovate within a robust network of support, the center also represents a bold first step as we increase our focus on experiential learning.

Plans are being refined to expand Thayer School of Engineering to increase its ability to accommodate a historic level of student interest in building a strong engineering component into a liberal arts education.

It's also been a year of significant personal achievements within our community. In so many ways, Dartmouth's students, faculty, and staff continue to amaze us.

  • Recently, Joshua Schoenbart '16, who started his first company at age 10, represented the United States at the G20 Young Entrepreneurs' Alliance Summit.
  • Eighteen students and alumni received prestigious National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships for 2014.
  • Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Olga Zhaxybayeva was named a 2014 Simons Foundation Investigator for her work in the mathematical modeling of living systems.
  • Professor of Art History Ada Cohen received a National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship for her exploration of the idea of female beauty in the ancient Greek world.
  • Geisel School of Medicine microbiologist George O'Toole received a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health that will provide up to 10 years of funding for his research on bacterial biofilms.
  • A team of students from the Tuck School of Business worked in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition to analyze business models for combating infant malnutrition in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.
  • And I was honored to present the 2014 Sheila Culbert Distinguished Employee Award to Linda Martin for 26 years of service as administrative assistant in the Geisel School of Medicine's Office of Student Affairs.

These achievements are just a few of the countless examples of all that is right about Dartmouth.

But even where all is not right, here too we are making progress. Our campus has galvanized around a mission of strengthening the out-of-class experience, removing the barriers that bring harm to students and stand in the way of our potential. The work of the Moving Dartmouth Forward Presidential Steering Committee, formed last spring to seek out the most promising, concrete steps forward, marks a significant turning point. We have moved from a position of recognizing the impact of negative behaviors, and our entire community has begun working together to eliminate them. As College president, and as an alumnus, this makes me exceptionally proud of my alma mater.

Indeed, there is much to be proud of across Dartmouth, and even more to inspire us in our efforts going forward. In our work, let us reflect the enthusiasm seen in the many new faces finding their way around campus and seize our own unique opportunities in the journey ahead. As a community, let us look forward optimistically and engage grand challenge with great ambition. When we do, I am confident that we will be amazed to see just how far we will take Dartmouth in the process.

Gail and I are excited about the year ahead and we wish all of you a wonderful fall term!


Phil Hanlon '77

Last Updated: 9/15/14