J. Rick Sample
A. Leonard Smith
Alunni Council Representative
and Special Projects
Dear Classmates -
In 2014, our class will celebrate its fortieth year since the warm June day when we gathered at the south end of the Green, and made our last walk toward Baker as Dartmouth students. Considering that milestone, members of our class Executive Committee and your class officers began discussions this spring that morphed into a conversation about the opportunity and the challenge of making a class gift to Dartmouth.
Other classes have made class gifts of various types and sizes, and the College publishes an evergreen list of recommendations for those who might be interested. Our deliberations over the idea of a gift from the class of 1974 took on a bit of the character of a 'random walk' as we looked for something that would provide something of value for the College and that would have a real connection to the experience of today's Dartmouth students. With an enthusiastic recommendation and promise of leadership from Jim “Pork Roll” Taylor, we think we have found an opportunity for a class gift as audacious in scope as it is compelling in its purpose.
Together with my fellow class officers and the members of the Executive Committee, we present this idea to you with the unanimous 27-0 endorsement of those participating in our teleconferences this summer -- and with our strong encouragement for your support:
As its gift to Dartmouth on the occasion of our fortieth reunion, the Class of 1974 will fund the construction of a much-needed new bunkhouse at the College's Moosilauke Ravine Lodge complex. The target date for having funds in hand will be late summer 2013. Members of the class who are interested and in a position to do so will be invited to participate directly in the construction of this bunkhouse, working side-by-side with New England timber-frame craftsmen, Dartmouth undergraduates and other members of the extended Dartmouth Outing Club community, in two construction phases, one in the fall of 2013, the other in the spring of 2014, prior to our planned 2014 reunion. The fundraising target:
$150,000, between now and late summer 2013.
It is certainly audacious. But is it compelling? How does a “cabin-in-the-woods” rank among the priorities for Dartmouth College?
At first blush, a campaign to fund and build a bunkhouse at Moosilauke may sound a bit odd. The replacement need is real enough. The various Moosilauke structures date back between 50 to more than 70 years. The Moosilauke Ravine Lodge and its assorted bunkhouses have received increasing use over the years by those seeking a more rustic encounter with northern New England. Over the past 20 years the structure of the Lodge itself has been modified from what we would remember to handle the increased level of use, but the bunkhouses have gradually moved from aging to deterioration, and structural and fire safety issues loom in the future. Dan Nelson ’75, who heads Dartmouth Outdoor Programs, calls new, well-designed and structurally sound bunkhouses at Moosilauke DOP’s ‘highest priority’.
But what makes a difference about the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge complex, and the idea of a gift from our class to replace one of the four bunkhouses, is the role that Moosilauke has come to play in the Dartmouth student experience, beyond even what we would recall. Those of us who may have had a son or daughter attend Dartmouth, or who have known a Dartmouth student, may understand this. In the years since we attended Dartmouth, the Freshman class trip experience has evolved from an option in which many participate, to an encounter with Dartmouth's traditions and with the diversity of its student population that now includes over 95 percent of entering freshmen.
Let me tell a story.
A few years ago, I attended a Class Officer's Weekend, scheduled in September just before classes began, and on the agenda for the returning Class Officers was a dinner in the Bema with incoming Freshmen - to the best of my recollection, with something like two alumni Class Officers and 6 or 7 Freshmen per table. My table included new students from a geographic arc that ran from Kingston, Jamaica to Anchorage, Alaska - the Dartmouth of the 21st Century. All had just returned from their Freshman trips, from hiking Moosilauke, and from singing songs and first meetings with new classmates at the Ravine Lodge. From the trails and the vistas and the starlit nights where they first experienced the silence of the “still North” and the echoes of the “hill-winds”.
I remember the words of a young woman from near Philadelphia, a member of that incoming class. She said that all the other colleges to which she had applied were in urban areas. This was what she knew. Her guidance counselor had suggested she include Dartmouth because of - if I'm remembering correctly - its strong Economics Department. She'd seen the campus, once. That April the fat acceptance letters had descended on her, and as the deadline approached, she mysteriously found herself electing Dartmouth from among other good choices.
Then she came to campus, dumped her stuff in a dorm room, and bounced out of town somewhere in a bus to paddle in a canoe for a couple of days, swat mosquitoes, and get charcoal and ash all over herself trying to figure out how to cook over a campfire. Then Moosilauke, then Ravine Lodge, and meeting President Wright in a food line, who was just a guy in dockers and a golf shirt. And meeting new friends. She concluded her monologue looking at the rest of the table:
"And I found myself wondering, where has this place been all my life?"
Almost every college or university talks about community and diversity. Diversity and community. If you've wandered any website with an 'edu' domain name, you've seen these two words in some font, size 32, with the accompanying picture of happy faces you still find on boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Everyone preaches - or is it sells? - diversity and community. Dartmouth tries to do something to form community out of diversity. Gather up the incoming freshmen, distribute them into groups of six or so, let them play in the woods for a couple of days and nights, get dirty and earn a few blisters, learn who can cook and who can't, learn who may need help and who can offer it, learn how to get along on the trail where nobody's GPA matters quite as much. Then gather them back to a place somewhere north of campus, to a big lodge and assorted outbuildings, where the logs are redolent of decades of cooksmoke, where the mattresses are lumpy, where the President is a guy in the food line, and where the introduction to your fellow future doctors, lawyers, educators, finance whizzes, inventors, authors and non-profit founders begins as summer camp. Relatively speaking, few of these Freshmen join the Dartmouth Outing Club. Some may never again spend a night in a lodging unless it's a place where the housekeeping staff fold corners in the last hanging square of toilet paper. But with the trip to Moosilauke, they have entered the experience called “Dartmouth”. For the vast majority of them, because of that first encounter at Moosilauke, whenever they hear or sing Dartmouth's alma mater, they will have pictures to accompany the words.
Your class officers and class Executive Committee are presenting this project to you because we believe it accomplishes both of our objectives – value for the College and importance to the student experience. A new Class of 1974 Bunkhouse at Moosilauke will meet College and student needs at the place where now over 95 percent of entering Freshmen - whatever their origin, whatever their major may come to be - begin their encounter with their own Dartmouth experience.
That's why we present the challenge and the opportunity of this idea to you, and why we invite your participation. The accompanying response card will offer some further details, and ways in which you can participate.
I support this project. Notes from recent graduates who are sons and daughters of our class - including my goddaughter - testify that this is still the case. The fundraising goal for this project is significant. We recognize that ability to give, and personal priorities for giving, will vary from person to person in our class for honest and valid reasons. We can only ask that you consider this proposal, and the opportunity it presents for our class and may present for you to make a contribution to the college freshman experience that is unique to Dartmouth.
In the church tradition to which Catherine and I belong, when a congregation launches a stewardship campaign, it is customary for the person who first presents the program to speak to his or her personal commitment to it. Well, all right then; I'll start. I am pledging to contribute one percent of our fundraising goal for this project over the next three years. That's my promise. Think of it this way: now we don't have to raise 100% of the needed funds – just 99 percent. Several other classmates are making a similar pledge – so that takes the percentage even lower. We hope to start this ball rolling so that future pledges and contributions of whatever size may keep it rolling to the day in the fall of 2013 when the sounds of our saws and hammers can break the silence of the woods of Moosilauke Ravine, when we begin building. An average of just $100/year/classmate will exceed our target and leave some for future maintenance.
We believe that this project presents an exciting opportunity for our class. In the summer of 2014 when we return to Hanover for our 40th reunion, we have the opportunity to see the numerals “1974” above a doorway in a place where men and women of Dartmouth will begin their encounter with the community we share for many years to come.
Let's do this.
Thank you for listening.
President and Newsletter Editor