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250th Anniversary Kickoff

January 10, 2019

I could not be more proud than to join you on this momentous occasion: the start of Dartmouth’s 250th Anniversary year, in which we will reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

Those who signed the Dartmouth charter back in December of 1769 could never have envisioned the richness of intellect, backgrounds, and activities that characterize today’s campus, nor could they have predicted the impact that this institution would have on the world two and a half centuries later.

They were no doubt focused on the inaugural Dartmouth class, the four students who would compose the Great Class of 1771. All four were white males. All hailed from New Hampshire or an adjoining state. And in today’s parlance, each was an undergraduate doing pre-professional studies - three were preparing for the clergy, one was preparing for the law.

By contrast, this June, the great Class of 2019 will be close to 2,000 strong, an equal mix of men and women. Forty percent will be people of color. They will have come from all 50 states and scores of foreign nations.

They will earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 60 concentrations, many in subject areas like Computer Science that go far beyond the wildest imaginations of those first four graduates in 1771. 

And despite all that has changed since those earliest days of the College, one thing remains the same. And that is that Dartmouth is a dynamic institution. It is a work in progress. It’s a place that, at times, falls far short, as human institutions inevitably do, but one that is always evolving and striving to better itself.

For the past two and a half centuries, we’ve navigated our way through good times and bad, through times of peace and times of war, through controversies that made us stronger, and missteps that made us wiser.

And so, our arrival at this sestercentennial milestone is, indeed, a cause for celebration. It is a time for us to reflect on our evolution as an institution, on the defining moments – both trying and triumphant – that have shaped our campus character, and on our collective achievements as a community, including the work of the brilliant minds who’ve taught here, and the bright young minds they’ve inspired.

Here in Hanover, and all around the girdled earth, we have proven our mettle through the characteristics that will forever differentiate Dartmouth.

  • Our passion for – and commitment to – liberal arts learning, the multidisciplinary lens through which we view the world and its incumbent challenges and opportunities.
  • Our close-knit community based on deep intellectual engagement. The people with whom we share our thoughts and our ideas and who support us in our ambitions, collaborate with us, and enlighten us with the diversity of their cultures and backgrounds.
  • Our profound sense of place, deep in these North Woods. A magnificent, special place that nurtures our souls, and inspires and humbles us with its majesty.
  • Our adventuresome spirit, which drives us to challenge ourselves and each other intellectually, physically, and emotionally, in all that we do. It is this indelible spirit that’s led to the breakthrough discoveries on campus and made Dartmouth graduates known for their global leadership and impact.
  • And, finally, Dartmouth’s role as a basecamp to the world – a place that eagerly sends us out to make a positive difference in the world but is always there, as she’s been for me, to welcome us back home.

These are the characteristics that have enabled us to thrive for 250 years, and will enable us to do so for 250 more.

Everyone connected to the college has contributed to the Dartmouth story. So, I encourage you to participate in the special slate of exhibits and events, performances, activities we’ve got planned for this year in honor of the 250th. Through them, you’ll find vibrant storytelling that will bring the history, the heritage, the hallmarks of our beloved college to life.

And yet, we must not forget that our 250th is as much about our future as it is about our past. This anniversary compels us to once again look ahead, and more boldly, I hope, than we ever have before. So, I hope you will also join us as we imagine the future of Dartmouth over the coming year.

Dartmouth’s path has not been perfect, but it has always been replete with aspiration and progress. That is, perhaps, all we can ask – as individuals, as colleagues, and as an institution – on this long and storied journey we call Dartmouth.

Thank you very much for being here today and enjoy the festivities.

Last Updated: 5/2/19