Joe Rago, A Loyal Son of the College – By Peter Robinson ‘79

By Peter Robinson ‘79

Trustee Emeritus

As editor of The Dartmouth Review, Joe Rago ’05 prevented the newspaper from becoming a mere outlet for outrage and provocation—as risk to the publication at that stage—demonstrating in its pages not just what conservatives denounced but what they appreciated. And what Joe appreciated was the College. He wrote pieces on Dartmouth history as fine as any ever composed. For wry wit, deep research, gorgeous prose, and sheer enjoyability, turn to Joe’s account of the origins of “Dartmouth night.” He wrote extensively about Dartmouth architecture, disparaging certain new buildings not because he wanted the campus to remain forever unchanged but because they proved unworthy of the institution. Ungainly blocks, they failed to live up to the clean, honest, classical lines of Dartmouth Row, that echo of the Parthenon in the New England forest.

A few years ago Joe sent me a collection of speeches. They had been delivered at the 1904 dedication of the new Dartmouth Hall—the original structure, as you’ll recall, had burned to the ground. “Peter,” Joe wrote inside, “I tracked down a copy of a useful book. See page 53.” When I learned of Joe’s death last week, I pulled the book down from the shelf and turned once again to that page.

“As for us, whose debt to the College is so deep,” Professor Francis Brown declared, “it is surely not for us to question the wise and sagacious orderings of Providence in her behalf and ours. No man can tie the hands of God, or prescribe the lines for his working. Each decade…has been a new demonstration that Wheelock’s service was greater than he knew. We raise the new Dartmouth Hall in the assured faith that it reaches back over the ruins of the old one, and makes connection with the same past. It is a good past, full of the lives of good and earnest men, who lived beyond themselves. It puts us under bonds.”

Magnificent journalist; warm, funny, generous, and devoted friend; intensely loyal son of the College. Joe Rago lived beyond himself. He puts us under bonds.