Dartmouth Alumnus Comes Back To Lead His Alma Mater

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Dartmouth College is officially welcoming President-Elect Philip Hanlon to campus this week, though he won’t take office till July.

He comes back to his alma mater from the University of Michigan, where he was provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Dartmouth’s unofficial historian once taught the college’s new leader.

Jere Daniell, class of 1955, taught history for many years at Dartmouth, and his house near campus is crammed with documents and photographs spanning decades of college life.  He even archives all his grade books, so he knows that Philip Hanlon – class of 1977 – was a good student.

"He did very well in the course," Daniell recalled, after checking his records. "There were only three students who got straight As and he was one of them."

Perfect marks in his history classes were rare, Daniell says, especially for math majors like Hanlon.

And he commends Hanlon for being able to concentrate on his studies even though he belonged to the  notoriously rowdy fraternity lampooned in the movie "Animal House."

Hanlon will be the first Dartmouth alum to take the helm since David McLaughlin, who served in the early eighties.  Historian Daniell says in those years, choosing a Dartmouth grad for president set up a tricky relationship with his fellow alums.

"There were lots of alumni who wanted to turn the clock back and the clock didn’t turn very well… Well, that’s not going to happen with Phil because no one’s going to romanticize about the late seventies. That’s the Animal House era," said Daniell with a smile.

Hanlon says he will take an active role in student affairs, and will not tolerate hazing, binge drinking, or sexual assault on campus. He also expects his experience at Michigan will help him keep Dartmouth’s budget in line.

"Michigan has been, I think, a national model for how we can find opportunities in the operational areas to cut costs to operate efficiently, to save money and, certainly, as I said, it’s important for any college or university to be doing that. And I will be bringing my experience and lessons learned to Dartmouth," Hanlontold VPR.

Many faculty hope Hanlon will spend more time raising money than cutting costs. Historian Daniell says the timing is right for a leader like Hanlon, who has run a big university.

Dartmouth may be smaller than the sprawling University of Michigan, and more focused on undergraduate programs. But Daniell notes it’s become administratively complex, with a medical school and center under the president’s umbrella.

"So to have been a successful administrator up through the ranks–he’s 57 years old or something like that-lots of experience in a complex modern university is the important part of it."

But Hanlon says he won’t spend all his time behind a desk. He wants to teach, too.

In a self-introductory video on Dartmouth’s website, he says that while all good colleges want to graduate good citizens, Dartmouth aims higher, preparing gifted leaders.

The coming years will allow him to put that theory to a real-world test.


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