James Wright Helps Iraq War Veterans

A very interesting story in today’s Times about President Wright’s helping Iraq veterans. The piece centers on his relationship with Samuel Crist, whom he met while Mr. Crist was recovering at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. from wounds he received during the Battle of Falluja.

Mr. Wright realized that to get an education, these veterans would need individualized counseling that might be hard to find once they left active duty.

So he started looking for a way to meet that need. He first went to the military, but when that proved cumbersome, he got in touch with David Ward, the president of the American Council on Education, who agreed to develop such a program. Mr. Wright helped raise $300,000, and this spring, educational counselors are working at Bethesda, Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. More than 50 veterans asked for appointments with the counselors the first week the program was open, in March, and now about 100 wounded veterans are being served.


Although the new program was not intended to recruit for Dartmouth, Mr. Wright is delighted at the prospect of having a few former marines on campus next fall. One applied early decision, and was accepted, entirely apart from the program. One came through a counselor in the new program. And Mr. Crist wrote to Mr. Wright after their meeting, developing the relationship that led to his transfer plans.

This month, Mr. Wright invited Mr. Crist and one of the others to visit the campus, starting with dinner with him and his wife.

The article also touches on Wright’s background as a marine.

In a way, Mr. Wright’s quest has been a return to his roots. Growing up in Galena, Ill., he joined the Marines to put off, at least for a few years, going to work in the zinc mines that employed many in his community, including his grandfather. In that time and place, college was not for everyone. None of Mr. Wright’s grandparents finished high school, and Mr. Wright’s father, a bartender who served in the military, attended only one semester of college.

When he left the Marines, Mr. Wright enrolled at Wisconsin State University, thinking he wanted to be a high school history teacher. Instead, he earned a doctorate in history, and immediately started teaching at Dartmouth, where, since 1969, he has worked his way from professor to dean of faculty to provost and, in 1998, to president.