Thayer 150th Anniversary Gala

Good evening! It's a thrill for Gail and me to be here to welcome so many of you back to campus as we celebrate Thayer's 150th Anniversary!

Thayer holds a very special place in our hearts here at Dartmouth. It has, of course, played a significant role in our past, but it is also defining our present while helping to shape our future. And it's a tremendous source of pride for our entire campus.

As you may know, I am constantly speaking to groups of alumni, parents and families, and friends of Dartmouth, both on campus and off. I talk about the Dartmouth experience and my vision for our institution. About the outsized impact we and our graduates can and do have in the world, particularly for a college our size.

But what you may not know is how often I point to Thayer as an example of all that's right with Dartmouth.

Thayer exemplifies the magic that can happen when all of our institutional strengths and priorities align. When experiential learning is at the forefront of the student experience. When outstanding faculty members work across the basic to applied research spectrum and pull both undergraduate and graduate students, alike, into their scholarly work. When we eliminate traditional barriers that exist between disciplines and schools and apply a liberal arts lens to finding innovative solutions to vexing problems. When we don't just think outside the box, but, as I know the folks at Thayer like to say, ensure there is no box.

I don't take credit for any of that. No. Those things were set in motion at Thayer long before I arrived on campus. But I do get to brag about it!

The success of Thayer is the handiwork of generations of visionary leaders, from Sylvanus Thayer, himself, to Frank Garren, to Myron Tribus, each of whom had the wisdom and foresight – at every moment in Thayer's history – to be bold, to take risks, and to evolve the institution in ways that would allow the Thayer School and its graduates to write a proud history and build an even brighter future. Fitting for an engineering school, don't you think?!

As a result of their efforts – and those of countless others through time – I can stand here proudly today and say that demand for Engineering courses has skyrocketed. The number of patents, licenses, and business start-ups emerging from Thayer faculty and Thayer students are the envy of every engineering school. And our Thayer faculty are, without a doubt, among the very best teacher-scholars in their fields.

Just look at Eric Fossum, who recently won the Queen Elizabeth Prize – considered "the Nobel Prize" of engineering – for his work on CMOS image sensors. Or Tillman Gerngross, who was just elected to the National Academy of Engineering and is the founder of not one, but five successful biotechnology companies. Or Mary Albert, who has been leading the U.S. Ice Drilling Program established by the NSF since its inception nearly a decade ago. I could go on and on.

And as I reflect on Thayer's first 150 years, I realize that so much of what's great about Thayer's past is what's great about Thayer today.

It's incredible to think that Thayer welcomed its first female students in 1966, long before Dartmouth went co-ed, opening the door to women in STEM fields before STEM was even part of our vocabulary, and that just last year, it became the first school to award more undergraduate engineering degrees to women than men.

Or that its partnership with Tuck dates back to 1922, a time when interdisciplinary collaboration was certainly not the norm. Yet it continues that tradition today through the Master of Engineering Management professional degree program and so many other initiatives.

Or that it recognized the inextricable link between engineering and art back in 1972, when Charles Nearburg paved the way for modified engineering degrees, and that it's continuing to expand opportunities for students to combine the two today. Just this winter, an intensive course offered in conjunction with The Hop allowed first- and second-year students to design a whole new suite of musical instruments using unconventional materials.

And let's not forget the project-based approach to real-world challenges pioneered by Dean Tribus and Professors Russell Stearns and Robert Dean back in 1961, which remains a defining characteristic of the student experience at Thayer to this day. I can think of no finer example than the Mobile Virtual Player, a robotic football tackling dummy designed by Thayer students that has significantly reduced concussive head injuries and been featured on every major media outlet, from NPR to Stephen Colbert.

For all of those reasons, it should come as no surprise that my vision for Dartmouth today seeks to replicate so much of what's happening at Thayer across our institution.

So tonight, I simply want to say "thank you" to everyone involved in making Thayer's first 150 years such a resounding success.

I especially want to thank Joe Helble and our exceptionally talented Thayer faculty and staff, who consistently deliver the best and most innovative experiences for our students. The Thayer Board of Overseers, for their insights and input into helping us plan for Thayer's next 150 years. And the generations of graduates seated before us tonight who have gone on to distinguished careers, continued to make us proud and kept their alma mater close to their hearts.

I can't thank you enough for your generosity, engagement, and contributions to Thayer's success. Thanks to your efforts, the major expansion we have planned will not only make more innovative learning opportunities available to both engineering and non-engineering majors, alike, but ensure that Thayer will always be a shining example of all that's best about Dartmouth.