Report from the 211th Meeting of The Dartmouth Alumni Council
October 22-24, 2015

By Jacques Steinberg ’88

The Dartmouth College Alumni Council –125 members strong, representing alumni from each class, as well as a range of other Dartmouth constituencies – convened on the Hanover Plain for two days in late October for its annual fall meetings.

Among the themes of our gathering was the value (and cost) of a Dartmouth education. In the bullet points below, loosely organized by topic for easy scanning, I provide some of the news and other information that was shared with us – along with links where those who wish to learn more can do so.

But first, I want to pose a question inspired by our most recent convening – a question that all councilors are being asked to share with their constituents in their Council reports:

Seeking Your Stories of Lifelong Learning, Beginning at Dartmouth

As alumni councilors, we talked a great deal throughout our meetings on campus this fall about the value of a liberal arts education, as well as the critical importance of the intellectual experience at Dartmouth extending far beyond the classroom. We also discussed how the learning experience at Dartmouth can be lifelong.

To what extent did an intellectual experience or experiences you had while an undergraduate at Dartmouth continue to resonate after you graduated  -- whether in the work you do, or have done, or in your life overall?

The Executive Committee of the Council asks that you share your responses directly with your Council representative, via email. They will be forwarded to the Alumni Liaison Committee, which is charged with conveying alumni sentiment and reflections on a range of issues to the Board of Trustees.

And now, some news that you can (hopefully) use:

The College’s Finances

  • Dartmouth’s endowment earned an investment return of 8.3 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015 – with a value of $4.7 billion, according to Chief Investment Officer Pamela L. Peedin ’89, ’98Tu. Learn more about the endowment.
  • By one measure, the total annual cost per student of a Dartmouth education is just shy of $118,000 – though the price charged for full tuition, room and board, and mandatory fees is $62,000, according to Mike Wagner, chief financial officer. The difference is funded by sources other than tuition, including the Dartmouth College Fund, the distribution of unrestricted resources from the endowment and research grants. Dartmouth Alumni Magazine published an article in May titled “Why is Dartmouth so expensive?”
  • We learned from Ann Root Keith, Chief Operating Officer of Advancement, that in terms of the percentage of its alumni who made a donation to the college last year, Dartmouth was ranked second nationally – behind only Princeton – with 43.4 percent. (Yale followed a distant third, with 28 percent alumni participation.) Ms. Root Keith said that her office was currently studying the feasibility and potential focus of the college’s next Capital Campaign, which could begin as soon as 2017.

Campus Life

  • President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 told the Council that the Moving Dartmouth Forward Initiative announced earlier this year as a way to curb an array of harmful behaviors – including a ban on hard alcohol on campus – appeared to be having an initial impact, with transports to the hospital as a result of high blood alcohol content trending downward, by at least 20 percent since the beginning of spring term. “I think it’s early days,’’ President Hanlon said. “We need to be patient. We need to continue watching.”
  • Beginning in the fall of 2016, every Dartmouth undergraduate will be assigned to a house community, a cluster of dorms to which they will maintain affiliation throughout their undergraduate experience. The initiative is intended to build communities within the Dartmouth community that provide students with a sense of continuity, identity and a deeper residential experience. A faculty member will also reside in each house community, and help lead programming.

The Academic Experience

  • In a lunchtime address to the Council, Cecilia Gaposchkin, associate professor of history and assistant dean of faculty for pre-major advising, made a forceful argument for a liberal art education as “a good return on investment” for students, their families and the college itself. She cited Dartmouth’s emphasis on preparing students for their lives, and their work, regardless of occupation, by imbuing them with the ability to reason, think, write and grapple, with increasing sophistication, with complex matters.  Professor Gaposchkin has written extensively about all this, including this Op-Ed in The Washington Post, with the compelling headline: “Why The Tech World Highly Values a Liberal Arts Degree.”
  • Provost Carolyn Dever spoke with the councilors about the career phases for tenure-track faculty at Dartmouth, and throughout higher education today -- a progression from candidate to assistant professor, associate professor, full professor, and then professor emeritus/emerita.

Hood Museum Expansion

  • The Hood Museum of Art, originally completed in 1985, will undergo a major renovation and expansion beginning with its temporary closing in March 2016, we were told by Lisa Hogarty, vice president of campus services, and Juliette Bianco ’94, interim director of the museum, who presented along with Bob Lasher ’88, senior vice president for advancement. When it reopens in January 2019, the museum will have new galleries; a center for “object-based” inquiry; an expanded event space, and a new entrance and lobby.

Alumni Awards

  • At a gala dinner led by Council President Jennifer Avellino ’89 at the Hanover Inn, the Council presented this year’s Dartmouth Alumni Awards to Patricia E. Berry ’81, Ellie Mahoney Loughlin ’89, and Ellis B. Rowe ’74. The Young Alumni Distinguished Service Awards were given to S. Caroline Kerr ’05 and Michael J. Vidmar ’03. View a series of short, emotionally moving, video tributes to each honoree.

Second Annual Alumni Day of Service: May 7, 2016

  • Save the date! The Second Annual Alumni Day of Service will be held on May 7, 2016, and the Council encourages all alumni to participate. Please register to help lead these mobilization efforts as a service project coordinator or to simply volunteer on that day.  This day is designed to provide opportunities for Dartmouth alumni, family and friends to give back to their local communities and also strengthen alumni connections. This is a terrific way to enhance Dartmouth’s reputation as a College that cares deeply about service.

Dartmouth on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

  • Fans of Stephen Colbert and Dartmouth football got a double treat earlier this fall, when Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens appeared on Colbert’s new CBS show to demonstrate a robotic tackling dummy – designed to eliminate concussions during football practices – that originated as a project at the Thayer School of Engineering. Watch the video, in which Colbert dons a Dartmouth helmet.

Dartmouth Alumni Council on Social Media

  • The Alumni Council is expanding its reach in social media – including through live tweeting by several councilors, Alexandra Roberts ’02 and Hoi Ning Ngai ’00, of the most recent council sessions themselves, using the hashtag #DartmouthAC. Read the full minutes of our fall meetings.