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                     News: Alumni Council Reports--Sarah Jackson-Han '88

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Report from the May 14-16, 2009 Alumni Council Meeting

By Sarah Jackson-Han '88


This was the 198th meeting of the Dartmouth Alumni Council. The council was founded by Ernest Martin Hopkins in 1913 to guide and support Dartmouth Alumni Relations, and it meets twice a year.

The mission of the Alumni Council is to sustain a fully informed, representative, and engaged exchange of information and sentiment between the alumni and the College, and to enhance and inspire alumni involvement that furthers the mission of the College.

This report is meant to complement the wealth of information--about this council meeting and alumni affairs in general--available on the Office of Alumni Relations Web site at

This council meeting occurred in the context of significant global and local change: A worldwide economic downtown has forced staff reductions and budget cuts at the College; President James Wright was to hand over the College presidency to Jim Yong Kim in little more than one month; and Dartmouth alumni, earlier in the month, resoundingly approved an amendment to the Association of Alumni constitution that modifies the way in which alumni nominate trustees to the Dartmouth College Board of Trustees.

Incoming Students

On Friday, Maria Laskaris '84, dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, briefed councilors on the incoming freshman class of 2013. This was the most selective year ever, with an overall acceptance rate of 12.3 percent. The incoming class is phenomenally accomplished. Thus far, 91 percent rank in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes, and 34 percent are valedictorians (statistics on the class are available in the minutes).

The Admissions office "benefited greatly" from the addition of outside readers to assess applications, she said.


Ralph Manuel '58, '59Tu moderated the next panel on veterans studying at Dartmouth as part of a College initiative--led by President Wright--to reach out to those who have served in the military. This panel constituted a highlight of this Alumni Council, and the panelists received a lengthy standing ovation. Some 17 veterans are now in the student body, with five veterans in the incoming freshman class.

Panelists included:

Samuel Crist '10, who was deployed to Iraq in June 2004.Crist was shot twice and spent a year at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. When President Wright visited Bethesda Naval and handed out business cards, Crist said, "I was so medicated at the time I didn't remember much, but fortunately I had that business card." After returning home to Texas in 2005, he wrote to President Wright. "I didn't expect that he would remember--I didn't expect a response," he said. "He called me back a week later and said it was too late to apply for 2010, but I should try to get into another school and see about transferring. I was there for about a year and then transferred."

Greg Agron '11 enlisted as a U.S. marine and was twice deployed to Iraq, after which he married his high school sweetheart--who, while Agron was working in construction after a third deployment, announced "it was time for me to go to college." A sister-in-law at Dartmouth encouraged him to apply early decision, and he was accepted, after which a phone call from President Wright prompted him to matriculate. "This is my seventh straight term, and it's been an absolute joy," Agron, a Russian major, said. "I never appreciated what a group of teachers or professors could do for you."

Tom Richardson '11 grew up in North Carolina. "My parents were extremely keen on my joining the Marine Corps," he said, "I was stationed three hours east of where I grew up. Three weeks before training ended ... they told us we weren't going to Hawaii but we were going to Iraq instead." After his discharge from the military, Richardson put himself through two years of community college, then transferred to Dartmouth.

Dean Kent Yrchik-Shoemaker, who helps with ROTC on campus, described the veterans as "an incredible addition" to campus. "Their academic background isn't what it is with the other students, but they have actively caught up and excelled." Their presence has apparently redounded to the benefit of the fraternity system as well, several councilors noted, citing the pristine condition of the houses to which the veterans belong.

Alumni Council President J.B. Daukas '84 then noted that College alumni have now voted to accept a proposed change to the Association of Alumni constitution by a vote of 10,375 "yes" (81.9 percent) to 2,293 "no" (18.1 percent). There were 12,668 votes cast on the proposed amendment. The amendment required a two-thirds supermajority of voting alumni to pass. The amendment modifies the way in which alumni make nominations to the Dartmouth College Board of Trustees.

Incoming 2009 Alumni Councilors were then presented to the Alumni Council by Martha Hartfiel '83, chair of the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee.

Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt '78 then spoke on the topic "Igniting the Creative Learner in Every Student." Over the last year, she said, the global economy has forced budget cuts and staff reductions, but financial aid has remained intact and the Dartmouth curriculum has grown. She also identified five critical areas of learning: individual attention to students; interdisciplinary thinking; international study; innovation, modernization, and a strong core curriculum; and an inclusive learning environment. She noted further that the faculty has grown by about 20 percent over last 10 years and annual research grants have also more than doubled over the same period, from $79 million to $163 million.

"It's often said that the best leaders are people who are able to retrieve information from lots of different areas of an organization," Dean Folt said. "The need for a liberal arts education is greater now than it's ever been."

Among recent developments, she cited: Tuck faculty teaching undergraduates; a new international studies minor; new off-campus programs launched, with some under consideration; new writing and rhetoric courses; the new Leslie Center for digital humanities; the Neukom Institute for Computational Sciences

Another highlight of the Council meeting was a brief address by incoming president Jim Yong Kim, who cited the emotional attachment of Dartmouth alumni to the College as a critical factor in his decision to leave Harvard and accept the position of College president. "I chose to come to Dartmouth because of the impact it had on all of you. You are all stakeholders in a very different way compared with other institutions" and their alumni, he said. "Harvard students cry when they're going to Harvard," he said. "You guys cry when you're looking back on Dartmouth."

Kim, 49, trained as both a physician and an anthropologist, receiving his MD and PhD from Harvard University. He received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 2003 and most recently served as director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is renowned for his groundbreaking work as co-founder of Partners in Health, and then at the World Health Organization, bringing effective medical treatment for H.I.V. and AIDS and for drug-resistant tuberculosis to the poor.

Kim cited the natural environment in Hanover, the social interaction among students, and undergraduate access to tenured professors as unique assets of the College. "The chance to impact thousands of young people ... is going to be much more impactful than what I can do as an individual," Kim said. Alumni councilors gave Kim a lengthy standing ovation.

Dartmouth Graduate Programs: A Changing Environment
A subsequent panel on Dartmouth's graduate programs included Tuck School dean Paul Danos, Dartmouth Medical School dean William Green, Thayer School dean Joseph Helble, and Dean of Graduate Studies Brian Pogue--all of whom emphasized the growing involvement of their programs in teaching undergraduates as well as graduates.

"We want to be the best leadership experience you can have in management education," Dean Danos said. About one-third of students and faculty at Tuck are international, he said, and most students have at least one language other than English. Tuck has notably developed the Bridge Program, in which 250 undergraduates come for a month-long business boot-camp course, of whom 10-20 percent are Dartmouth students. The Paganucci Fellowship program brings undergraduates to Tuck to research areas of social impact.

Dean Green noted that medical school faculty continue to teach and mentor undergraduate biology students, and that the medical school is working hard to preserve financial aid so that medical graduates won't choose their practice areas based on the need to repay their accumulated debt. The joint medical program with Brown University is being phased out, he said, while a new partnership with California Pacific Medical Center is starting up. The Dartmouth Institute, which is part of DMS, now awards some 60 to 70 MPH degrees every year.

Dean Helble told councilors that engineering is now the seventh-largest undergraduate major and second-largest undergraduate science major--and that about half of all undergraduates now take at least one engineering class at Thayer. One of the most popular classes is known as Engines 21--introduction to engineering--which covers innovation and creativity. Thayer now offers an exchange program with a university in Thailand as well as a number of joint programs with other departments, including studio art and public policy. Thayer now also offers an "innovation track" within the PhD program, in which top students are offered special classes, including some at Tuck, that aim to equip them to become successful entrepreneurs.

President Jim Wright gave his final address to the council at dinner on Friday night. He described his accomplishments, and what he will most miss about his presidency: interacting with students. Jim described the many changes he has seen in his 40 years of teaching at Dartmouth, observing that "Dartmouth is a dream as old as Wheelock and as young as a member of the Class of 2013." The council presented him with a citation in appreciation of his service to the College and he received a standing ovation.

On Saturday, Alumni Council President J.B. Daukas '84 presented a report by the Committee to Support Greek Letter Organizations. The committee's purpose is to support and enhance Greek letter organizations on campus and hopes to conclude its work in six months, he said. At the moment, Dartmouth comprises 29 such houses--22 Greek letter organizations have houses (15 are privately owned and 7 are College-owned)--and about 65 percent of the campus belongs to Greek letter organizations. Daukus reported that the College has made $8 million dollars available in low-interest loans for improvements to these houses and acquired two more buildings that will become sorority houses. Alumni expressed interest in a revised alcohol policy that would lift restrictions on beer kegs (thereby reducing the amount of trash in houses) and in continuing efforts to educate students on alcohol and sexual assault.

Rick Silverman '81, chair of the Alumni Liaison Committee, then presented a report from the Alumni Liaison Committee, whose purpose is to gather feedback from alumni, share it with the Alumni Relations office, Board of Trustees, and senior College administrators.

Silverman urged all councilors to send all feedback to with relevant categories in the subject line (governance, athletics, academic affairs, admissions, presidential search, composite, other, etc.) and to clearly indicate whether a message is an action item, to be handled promptly. He urged councilors to reply to every single alumni e-mail, even if only to acknowledge receipt. Silverman also presented an alumni flow chart which will be posted online at

Board of Trustees chair Ed Haldeman '70 and trustee Jose Fernandez '77 then took the stage and were applauded at length for having named Jim Yong Kim as incoming College president. Haldeman noted that the search was accomplished with the aid of six faculty members and the Isaacson Miller search firm; he also noted "dramatically improved communication between alumni and the board." Haldeman welcomed passage by an 82 percent majority of the new Association of Alumni constitutional amendment and reported that all but one trustee have been re-elected to the board for a second term. In response to the financial crisis, Haldeman reported a number of strategic staff cuts, salary freezes, and scaled-back plans, although the board has insisted on maintaining financial aid and academic programs at their current levels.

Fernandez, who chairs the board's facilities committee, reported that Dartmouth is nearing the end of a $1 billion expenditure cycle that has seen completion of the new baseball field, Tuck residential renovations, and New Hampshire Hall; the new life sciences center is underway. One faculty house is being converted into a sorority house, which will house 23 students. A final major project, funding for which remains uncertain, is a new visual arts center. The current economic climate has required postponement of a renovation to Thayer dining hall and refurbishment rather than replacement of the West Stands of Memorial Field.

Asked what councilors might tell constituents about the often contentious alumni trustee situation, Haldeman and Fernandez described the recent decision to remove one board member as difficult and troubling. Haldeman suggested that trustees have a special responsibility, while free to express any opinion among themselves, to speak well of the College in public. Asked what additional skill sets the board might require in future trustees, Fernandez suggested that more geographic diversity might be desirable, along with public service experience.

Elections Results

Martha Hartfiel '83, chair of the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee, provided the election results for the positions of Alumni Council president-elect, the council-elected position on the Alumni Liaison Committee, and membership on the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee. They are:

Alumni Council President-Elect: Tom Peisch '70

Alumni Council Liaison Committee: Susan Hess '81

Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee: Danielle Dyer '81, '89Tu and Jon Murchinson '91

At the open forum, the election results, criteria for Young Alumni Distinguished Service Awards and Alumni Award , and criteria for honorary degrees were presented. J.B. Daukas announced the Open Microphone session. No alumni asked questions or made comments during this session and Daukas opened new business. David Bradley expressed concern that post- 55-year reunion classes only have two Alumni Councilors representing the constituency. Daukas said this will be increased to three under the transition plan because of the new constitution, and that the Executive Committee will examine the population of these classes and look into the matter further.

A resolution unanimously passed to commend President Wright for his efforts on behalf of veterans of the U.S. armed services and encourage the College to continue to build on his legacy. The resolution follows:

"Over the past three years, President James Wright has worked tirelessly to bring veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to Dartmouth College as undergraduates. Through his efforts, President Wright has renewed Dartmouth's strong historical connection to our military services, he has dynamically added to the experience of numerous Dartmouth undergraduates, and he has done his part to fulfill the debt that our college owes to this country's veterans. Most importantly, though, President Wright recognized that the work is not done, and that as a leader in the educational community Dartmouth has a continuing obligation to its country and to its students to help provide veterans with the opportunity to become a part of our college. In a February 2009 address to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, President Wright said:

'As I have learned over the last several years, it is not enough to sit back passively and expect veterans to come to us. It is my observation after several years of talking to veterans--largely wounded veterans, to be sure, but I think they are pretty representative in this regard--that the financial barrier is only part of what is keeping them from thinking about higher education. They have in some cases never been encouraged to think about this and they have often come to believe they would not be welcome. We need to step up to remedy this. This requires us to remember that these are not conventional students being encouraged and supported by high school guidance counselors, teachers, and parents. They need encouragement. They need information. They need help in applying. And they need us to be flexible.'

This statement should serve as a model for Dartmouth's continued support of the veterans of our nation's wars.

Be it resolved, the Alumni Council of Dartmouth College commends President Wright for his efforts on behalf of veterans of the United States armed services and encourages the College to continue to build on his legacy."

A discussion of the current ROTC program on campus and whether it might be possible to launch additional ROTC programs at Dartmouth followed. Vice President for Alumni Relations David Spalding '76 provided the current status of Army ROTC at Dartmouth and confirmed that the program is on campus where the training takes place as well. Discussion ensued. It was decided that more information is needed by the Alumni Council Executive Committee to continue the conversation regarding ROTC on campus.

Lynne Gaudet '81, director of Alumni Leadership, read the following two resolutions thanking Martha Hartfiel '83, chair of the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee, and John "J.B" Daukas '84, Alumni Council President, for their service. Both resolutions were unanimously approved by the Alumni Council.

Resolution thanking Martha Hartfiel:

"Be it resolved that the Dartmouth Alumni Council extends its deep appreciation to Martha Hartfiel '83 for her thoughtful and energetic leadership as the 2008-2009 chair of the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee. Although there were no trustee elections this year, Martha did not rest for a moment. Instead, she guided the committee through a year of research and thought, actively soliciting nominations for the Alumni Liaison Committee, at-large Alumni Council members, and future trustee candidates. With her keen intelligence and engaging personality, she encouraged creative thinking, as the committee worked to identify and recruit alumni volunteer leaders. Martha's great sense of humor and wit caused many people to wonder why so much laughter could be heard behind those Nominating Committee doors. We understand the great sacrifice of time and energy that your job as chair required, and we appreciate not only the sacrifice, but the enthusiasm, willingness, and constant good humor with which you made it."

Resolution thanking John "J.B." Daukas '84:

"Be it resolved that the Dartmouth Alumni Council extends its sincere appreciation to John "J.B." Daukas '84 for his extraordinary leadership as president of the Alumni Council. J.B. would be the first to say that he is not an "insider," and yet through his activism and love for Dartmouth, he rose to the highest levels of volunteer service on behalf of the College. He ran as a petition candidate for the Association of Alumni, and although he was not elected, he got involved in the long effort to reform alumni governance. As a member of the Alumni Governance Task Force, J.B. worked tirelessly with alumni of many different viewpoints to propose a new Association of Alumni constitution. Although the constitution fell short of approval, it was back to the drawing board for J.B. as he joined the Alumni Council; worked with fellow councilors to propose a revised Alumni Council constitution improving representation and establishing the Alumni Liaison Committee; drafted an amicus brief on behalf of the Alumni Council in response to the lawsuit filed by members of the Association of Alumni Executive Committee against the Board of Trustees; and worked diligently to improve communications between alumni, the College and the Board of Trustees. All that hard work finally paid off, as alumni just voted overwhelmingly to amend the Association constitution and adopt important election reforms! J.B. might deserve some rest and relaxation now, but knowing him as we do, we are not quite ready to let him go. Fortunately for us, he will assume the responsibility of chair of the Alumni Liaison Committee next year, and we look forward to his wisdom and counsel in that important role.

J.B., as you hand over the gavel, may our memories of your leadership continue to inspire Councilors and all alumni for years to come.

We thank you for your unsparing and energetic dedication to the work of President of the Alumni Council."

The retiring Class of 2009 Alumni Councilors was thanked.

The meeting was adjourned.


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