Long community letter from Pres. Wright

>Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2004 13:49:47 -0500 (EST)

>From: James.E.Wright@Dartmouth.EDU

>To: dartmouth-announce@locum.dartmouth.edu

>Subject: Community Letter

>Sender: massmail-sender@locum.dartmouth.edu

>Precedence: bulk

I have included below my biannual letter to the Dartmouth community. I hope that you enjoy it.


Dear Friends,

The New Hampshire primary has come and gone. We have not seen any political

candidates or their entourages for a few weeks. I told some undergraduates recently that

as Dartmouth students they have a remarkable opportunity: once during their four years

here they can count on a national political contest on their doorstep. We had students

working on just about every campaign, and we were pleased to host a candidate forum on

women’s issues, co-sponsored by the Lifetime Network and ABC-TV. In addition to the

Democratic candidates, Secretary of Education Rod Paige was here and spoke at the re-

dedication of Raven House as the home of our nationally recognized Department of


We have also enjoyed the Montgomery Lecture program on truth and ethics in

journalism, which celebrates the endowment’s 25th anniversary. Over the last few months

Montgomery Fellows have included David Shipler ’64, Roger Wilkins, Tom Rosenstiel,

Christopher Wren ’57, Anne Garrels, David Brooks, and most recently, Lewis Lapham.

The gift of the late Kenneth F. Montgomery ’25 and Harle Montgomery continues to

enliven the intellectual life of the campus.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s birth. As a member

of the Class of 1925, Ted Geisel, later to become known as Dr. Seuss, began his career as

a cartoonist and writer for the Jack O’Lantern. His many works continue to charm and

educate millions of children around the world. Students remember him this month

through a “Seussentennial Winter Carnival,” which includes a delightful snow sculpture

of “the cat in the hat,” a Seuss-inspired poster designed by presidential intern Brad Bate

’04, and a library exhibit of Mr. Geisel’s works. The College will mark the official

anniversary on March 2nd with a birthday party in Collis Common Ground. In addition,

as part of a Tucker Foundation program Dartmouth undergraduates are visiting local

schools to distribute and read from Dr. Seuss books. And of course Thayer Hall will

serve green eggs and ham!

In December, Susan and I joined many friends at two events in New York honoring two

of Dartmouth’s own. We feted former Dartmouth President James O. Freedman who was

recognized by The American Jewish Committee with its National Distinguished

Leadership Award. And we joined hundreds at the Waldorf-Astoria to cheer Murry

Bowden ’71 when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The

Dartmouth contingents were the largest group each night – and appropriately so.

* * * * *

Last summer, I completed my fifth year as president of Dartmouth, and I issued a report

to mark the occasion (posted at: www.dartmouth.edu/~fiveyearreport). It was both a

humbling and inspiring task – Dartmouth has such talented students and an extraordinary

faculty who are committed to teaching and learning in this environment. I told the

Alumni Council last spring that Dartmouth provides its students with the best educational

experience in the country (You can access the address at:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2003/may/051603.html). The protection and

enhancement of the Dartmouth experience has been our central goal over the past five

years and will remain my mission going forward. But this only affirms a deeply historic

commitment – one that I have understood since my first days here.

The school I came to in 1969 was a strong and energetic place, and I immediately fell

under the Dartmouth spell. What I admired then is what I have come to recognize and

embrace as anchoring values and purposes. Dartmouth was a place where students had an

opportunity to learn and to grow, a place marked by a culture that encouraged and

enabled, one that fostered independence and nurtured cooperation. As a faculty member,

I was able to do the things that I loved – reading and learning and writing about history at

a place that valued teaching, scholarship, and the relationship between faculty and


I learned much from the presidents under whom I served – President John Sloan Dickey’s

emphasis on internationalism and service, as well as on faculty scholarship; President

John Kemeny’s efforts to expand Dartmouth so that it truly was available to women and

minority students; President David McLaughlin’s work to strengthen Dartmouth

financially, to address out-of-classroom needs, and to facilitate the move of the medical

center; and President James O. Freedman’s eloquent and successful focus on the

intellectual strength and purposes of Dartmouth.

My goals build upon the work of my predecessors and the values that have made

Dartmouth great: assuring a strong faculty that is committed to teaching and learning;

making certain that we have a true residential community, one that is inclusive and that

encourages student leadership and independence, service and responsibility; nurturing

and enabling our strong professional schools; looking always for ways to encourage

intellectual and scholarly collaboration; making certain that Dartmouth is accessible and

available to the students who will lead in the 21st century. Doing these things may be

more complicated in the world in which we live today. They are also more essential.

The Dartmouth of 1969 was a different place in some obvious and measurable ways.

There were 3,200 students, all men of course – probably no more than 5 or 6 percent were

students of color and there were very few international students. We operated on a

conventional September to June calendar and our off-campus programs were essentially

language programs in Western Europe. The professional schools – known as the

associated schools – were small. The Medical School had a two-year program, most of the

Tuck students were Dartmouth undergraduates on a 3/2 program, and Thayer had only

limited graduate programs.

In contrast to 1969, Dartmouth now has 4,300 undergraduates, half of whom are women,

30 percent of whom are students of color, and 6 percent of whom are international

students. We operate around the year and around the world. Our professional schools

have an international reputation, and we are affiliated with the major medical center of

northern New England. Our annual operating budget is a half-billion dollars. Dartmouth

is a complex organization – but our course must remain clear. We need to focus on what

we do best!

* * * * *

While the Five-Year Report provided an opportunity to reflect on the past, it also gave

me the chance to outline our priorities moving forward. In 2002, we released a strategic

plan that described goals and priorities for every part of the institution. Our goals work

toward strengthening and protecting the core functions of the College. For the immediate

future our top priorities are to support the faculty and to continue the e
xpansion of the

faculty of Arts and Sciences, to protect financial aid and need-blind admissions, to

address program and space needs in each of the professional schools, and to move

forward with long-delayed construction projects.

Last year in my address to the General Faculty, I suggested that it may well be time for

the faculty to take a look at the curriculum, particularly at those courses aimed at non-

majors. This is no easy task. Woodrow Wilson, when he served as president of Princeton,

once said that changing the curriculum is about as difficult as trying to move a graveyard.

I have chaired two curriculum review committees myself at Dartmouth over the last 35

years. I understand first-hand the pitfalls of this task. The last full curriculum review took

place in the early 1990s, and since then the faculty have continued to assess the new

requirements. We have had some good discussions about the curriculum’s goals. We need

to be ever vigilant about ensuring that the education we provide meets both the needs of

our students and those of wider society.

An upcoming conference, organized by the Dean of Faculty and the Fannie and Alan

Leslie Center for the Humanities and scheduled for fall 2004, will examine the role of the

humanities and the liberal arts in the 21st century. While there is little doubt that the

Humanities will remain central to what we do, such reflection is critical to the continuing

vitality of our educational program. Both Susan Dentzer, Chair of our Board of Trustees,

and I addressed the place of the humanities at this year’s Convocation. (You can access

both of our addresses at: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2003/09/23b.html.)

* * * * *

Internationally recognized architect Buzz Yudell has developed the plans for the north of

campus – the North of Maynard residence halls, the dining center, and the Kemeny

Mathematics building and the Academic Centers building that will provide a home for

the Dickey Endowment, the Leslie Center for the Humanities, and the Ethics Institute.

We hired a single architect to design these buildings so that they could establish an

identity and blend into and respect the aesthetic of the existing campus. I want “keeper”

buildings constructed on my watch – places that can relate to the rest of the campus and

affirm the physical strength and beauty that mark Dartmouth.

In addition, we have begun plans to construct a dormitory on Tuck Mall. In May, we

expect to break ground for the Engineering Sciences Center at the Thayer School, which

will provide much-needed additional space for the faculty and students. An expansion of

the Sudikoff Laboratory for Computer Science is underway as is a renovation of Alumni


Longer-term construction projects include a major expansion of our arts facilities and the

renovation of the Hopkins Center. The venerable “Hop” is now over 40 years old and no

longer meets the needs of a student body larger than that of 1962. We are also working on

a Life Sciences Initiative. Our current facilities for the life sciences at the Medical School

and within the Arts and Sciences are stretched to the limit. Provost Barry Scherr is

working on a phased plan for the life sciences that will allow us to meet these needs.

* * * * *

Fortunately, our budget situation is much improved compared to the last two years. We

have managed to reduce expenses and have worked hard to reallocate resources toward

the high priority areas of academic programs and the faculty. For the five years that

ended in 2002, Dartmouth saw the second largest increase in library budgets among our

peers, and we continue to protect the library budget. We must continually watch our

expenses and look for ways to make the administration as efficient as possible, while

protecting the core educational activities. Unlike some of our peer institutions, we

avoided freezing faculty or staff salaries last year, and we will not need to do so this year

either. We have reduced the number of staff positions, through attrition and some

reorganization, and we will continue to monitor the replacement and creation of new

positions as part of a general management program.

The priorities outlined in the Five-Year Report – faculty, financial aid, and facilities – are

central components in the upcoming capital campaign. Vice President for Development

Carrie Pelzel has begun to organize for this campaign, the official kickoff of which will

be in the fall of this year. At that time, the Board of Trustees will also announce a

campaign target. The Board has been energetic – and generous – in building a strong base

for this critical effort. The campaign will ensure the education that we provide serves our

students well.

We are extraordinarily fortunate in our alumni who have invested so heavily in

generations of students. The endowment represents their accumulated faith and hopes in

the power of education and specifically in the idea of Dartmouth. This past year, several

reunion classes broke records, including the Classes of 1953, 1968, and 1978 – indeed,

the ’78s not only broke Dartmouth records, but also those of some of our peer

institutions! Thank you! And thanks also to the thousands of participants in the Annual

Fund and especially to those of you who support financial aid and scholarships. I told the

Class of 2007 at their first class meeting that they are not here as consumers – none of

them in fact paid the full cost of their education. Rather they are beneficiaries of a legacy

passed on to them by over two centuries of Dartmouth graduates. I urged them to thank

alumni and alumnae whenever they meet them. On their behalf, I do so here.

* * * * *

Before I close, I would like to let you know that one of our students, Christina Porter ’06,

has had a tragic skiing accident and is currently in intensive care at the Dartmouth-

Hitchcock Medical Center. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

We are in the midst of one of the coldest winters in my 35 years in Hanover. Benjamin

Hale from the Class of 1818 and Professor of Chemistry complained in February of 1830

that the average morning temperature in the last two weeks in January was around -15 F.

Too many days this year, the temperatures have rivaled those of 1830. But these days

define the Dartmouth experience no less than summer afternoons on the river or the fall

colors that light the hills and granite ledges. We endure and excel despite the best

challenges of the North Country. And for those who wait for spring, I share my own

annual marker, better than ground hogs: pitchers and catchers report within days!

Best wishes from Hanover.

James Wright