Two weeks ago, the Alumni Council convened on campus, in-person, for the first time since fall of 2019 (943 days if you’re counting!). As you may know, the council’s mission is to sustain a fully informed, representative, and engaged exchange of information and sentiment between all 85,000 alumni and the College. The theme of our meeting was Reconnecting with Campus and Each Other, and it was truly a heartwarming experience to be back in Hanover with so many of my fellow Dartmouth alumni. The campus was alive, not just with Green Key festivities but with the normalcy of students engaging with each other in the academic term. We had a robust meeting agenda filled with updates from campus leaders and opportunities to explore the physical changes taking place across campus. Councilors appreciated how candid and genuine College leaders were as they continue to steer Dartmouth through a complex world.
The Student Experience
We kicked off Thursday evening with Interim Dean of the College Scott Brown ‘84a, who shared an update on the College’s significant efforts surrounding mental health and wellbeing. Dartmouth’s partnership with the Jed Foundation reinforces a strategic campus wide approach to these critical issues for both undergraduates and students of the professional schools. Dean Brown also spoke about the expanded student resources now available, such as increased mental health services and focused outreach to BIPOC students, as well as working to shift the overall campus culture to one of positive mental health.
On Friday morning, councilors received an update on the strategic vision being achieved for Dartmouth as a result of the $3 billion+ in capital investment made possible through The Call to Lead campaign from Bob Lasher ’88, Senior Vice President for Advancement. Bob highlighted how this effort, which was started eight years ago under the leadership of President Hanlon, has mobilized more than 25,000 alumni to advance Dartmouth’s academic excellence and distinction in the field of higher of education—emphasizing priorities that include expanding Dartmouth’s success in recruiting student and faculty talent, making discoveries that improve the human condition, preparing students for a lifetime of wise leadership, as well as the extraordinary improvements in access and affordability that the campaign has made possible. To date, $3.26 billion has been raised through the campaign, and the College is just 1,200 graduates away from reaching a 60% alumni participation goal—an unprecedented signal of grassroots support in the Ivy Plus peer group. Bob introduced the investments made in new campus teaching, learning, and athletic facilities that councilors would tour for the remainder of their visit, and councilors were encouraged to invite their constituents back to campus to experience the enhancements firsthand.
Interim Director of Athletics and Recreation Peter Roby ‘79 joined us virtually for a candid conversation about athletics at Dartmouth. The disruptions due to COVID-19 have been extremely difficult to navigate, but through the collective efforts of many, students are once again competing in a safe environment. The athletic teams that were discontinued and subsequently reinstated are integrating into the College, and Peter’s focus is on welcoming the players and coaches back so that they feel valued, respected, and supported in the process. Peter also shared that athletics has gone through several internal reviews to ensure the department is in the best position to provide an equitable environment and have a roadmap in place for the next athletic director, who should be announced in the near term. Although Peter plans to reenter retirement on June 30 of this year, he is committed to ensuring a smooth transition once the new AD assumes the role.
Physical Enhancements to Campus
A highlight of the meeting was the opportunity to tour two recently completed buildings in the West End District, Dartmouth’s hub of technology and innovation: the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Societyand The Class of 1982 Engineering and Computer Science Center. The spaces are truly inspiring and highlight the interdisciplinary collaboration happening among students and professors, as well as Dartmouth’s focus on energy efficient design for new teaching and research facilities.
Board Chair Emerita and Chair of the Hopkins Center Advisory Board Laurel Richie ‘81, Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Arts and Humanities Samuel Levey, and Bob Lasher ‘88 updated us on the plans for the expansion and renovation of the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Goals for the Arts District—with The Hop as the centerpiece–are defined as Welcome, Gather, Create, emphasizing the Hop’s unique role as both an arts center and a student center, as well as a new emphasis on creative production by students and faculty. Construction will begin before the year end, and we look forward to seeing it complete in fall of 2025.
Finally, we got to explore Anonymous Hall on the north end of campus. The building honors the countless alumni and friends who have faithfully and quietly (“anonymously”) supported the College over two centuries and is the permanent home of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies and the Program in Linguistics. The space is impressive, and I urge you to check out the roof deck, which has gorgeous views of the College and Upper Valley!
The Year Ahead
To conclude the meeting, President Hanlon joined us to share an update on the five primary objectives for his final year and to answer questions from councilors. Hadley Mullin ’96, a councilor and member of the Presidential Commission on Financial Aid, also shared highlights from the PCFA’s Year One Summary Report. In the Board of Trustees open forum, Caroline Kerr ’05 and Odette Harris ’91 answered many of our questions on a number of issues, including the student residential and academic experience, status of the presidential search committee, and the Trustees’ approach to revised plans for new student housing.
As part of our spring meeting, Alumni Council members also had the opportunity to vote for several new leadership positions on the council. I’d like to congratulate the following:
President-Elect 2022–2023: Alex Barnett ’07
Alumni Liaison Committee 2022–2025: Cheryl Shepard ’90
Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee 2022–2025: Kate Carolan ’05 and Luzi Robinson ’88
And finally, after a two-year hiatus, we were delighted to celebrate four Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award winners: Kate Lyon ’05, Ashley Shackelton ’05, Andrew Son ’09, and Nadine Parris ’06. We also honored three Alumni Award recipients: Catherine Briggs ’88, William Bogardus ’67, and Adrienne “Tee” Lotson ’82, at the annual Alumni Awards gala. We all walked away with our hearts full of admiration for these amazing alumni and their service to the College. They each embody volunteerism for the greater good, and they are the very definition of “bleeding green.”
I appreciate you reading through this update! Please continue to share your thoughts with Alumni Council by emailing your councilor or the Alumni Liaison Committee. I can assure you that every message is read and the feedback and themes drive our agendas for future meetings and updates to fellow alumni.
It’s been my pleasure to serve as president of the Alumni Council, and the true gift has been meeting so many amazing alumni who I wouldn’t have otherwise known. The council will be in amazing hands next year with Chitra Narasimhan ‘92 at the helm!
Laurie Lewis Shapiro ‘95
Alumni Council President