2022 State of the College Address

President Hanlon delivered his annual State of the College address at the fall meeting of the general faculty.

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining me for this annual meeting of the general faculty and my final State of the College address. It's hard to believe we've been together for nearly a decade, but I – together with Gail – am so grateful to all of you for your friendship and partnership throughout my tenure. 

Our support for each other has always been especially important during difficult times – this fall being one of them. We've suffered so much sorrow in our community over the past few months. We've mourned the loss of three bright students – Joshua Watson and Sam Gawel of the Class of '23 and Richard Ellison, MD, a graduate student who was in-residence as part of our Master of Health Care Delivery Science program; two recent graduates with promising futures ahead of them in Alex Simpson '22, and David Gallagher '20; and our cherished colleagues Deb Nichols and Luke Veenhuis. And just last week, our hearts grew heavier still with the loss of much loved long-time faculty member and President Emeritus Jim Wright, whose impact on Dartmouth and on all of us have been expressed so beautifully in the tributes that have been pouring in. I know they've been a comfort to Susan, so thank you.

In these moments, I am reminded of the power of our Dartmouth family to lift us up and help us through when we need it most, and that we can draw strength from one another. That's one of the many reasons why today's gathering is so important...and why I encourage all of you to participate in our Day of Caring on Friday in whatever way is most meaningful to you.

As I look back at the last decade, our community is our greatest strength.  Not just in challenging times but also the many times when we've shown what we can accomplish together in moments of institutional energy and advancement. So today, I want to spend some time reflecting on our current momentum as we prepare to welcome a talented new leader in Sian Beilock.

In early November of 2012, almost exactly ten years ago, I accepted the Trustees' offer to become Dartmouth's 18th president.  Almost immediately, I began listening and learning – making scores of calls over the subsequent months to many of you.  During those early days, I invited you to share your dreams for Dartmouth. I asked:

Where does our greatest potential lie and where should we make our biggest bets?  How do we position Dartmouth as a beacon for talent in every corner of the globe?  What does the world need from Dartmouth, and what can Dartmouth and its graduates do for the world?

I posed the same questions to students and alumni across the globe. And together, we dreamed big.  

  • We dreamed of moving to the forefront of global higher education by offering one of the most competitive – and generous – financial aid programs.
  • We dreamed of creating new initiatives that would support the success of every student and uniquely prepare them to make a difference while at Dartmouth and after graduation.
  • We dreamed of dynamic new spaces on our campus that would enable state of the art teaching, research and creative work.   
  • And, we dreamed of Dartmouth faculty and students teaming up to make discoveries that would improve the human condition.  

From these dreams, a plan took shape with leadership at its core.  

And I mean leadership in two senses: preparing Dartmouth students to live lives of leadership and impact, and elevating Dartmouth's place as a leader on the most pressing issues of our time. With a higher sense of service to society, we framed every one of our actions over the past nine years around the urgent, consequential appeal of answering this call to lead.

We chose to double down on our historic strength as a world-renowned liberal arts college AND a dynamic research university. And we were able to bring unprecedented levels of resources to bear in support of this plan through prioritization of internal spending and the philanthropic generosity of the Dartmouth family.  

Indeed, almost a year ago, we announced that tens of thousands of Dartmouth alumni, parents, faculty and staff had already invested an incredible $3 billion in that plan. And because of it, we've helped make Dartmouth history. 

Yet our success is measured not by funds raised but by lives changed and the impact we are having on the world around us through the three bold goals at the heart of our vision for Dartmouth.

Goal #1: Attract exceptional talent to our campus. Our academic clusters and Fellows programs are bringing best-in-class faculty to Dartmouth who are engaging students like never before in cutting edge research. 

And transformational investments in student support have enabled us to become need blind for all undergraduates, replace loans with scholarships in our undergraduate financial aid packages and insure that a global experience is part of every Tuck student's education. Ten years ago, these were "moonshot" aspirations, and we are now one of only 5 U.S. universities to offer these commitments.

Goal #2: Make big bets on discovery. We've amplified our ambitions and organized our research agenda around areas where Dartmouth has the talent, passion and history to lead in shaping global solutions to urgent world issues. 

World class facilities like the Irving Institute for Energy and Society and the Class of 1982 Center for Engineering and Computer Science are fueling interdisciplinary collaboration alongside Tuck and Thayer in the West End, a revitalized Dartmouth row doing the same in the Humanities, with the soon-to-be renovated Hop and the Hood energizing the Arts District. 

Thanks to more than $400 million in investment by our community, every Dartmouth student can be versed in the great challenges of our time – energy and the environment, cancer prevention, international diplomacy and security, the welfare of indigenous communities, computation in the service of just communities to name a few … and from Dartmouth will emerge the innovators, business leaders, and policy makers committed to leading positive change in those arenas.

Goal #3: Elevate the student experience to better prepare graduates for lives of leadership. Strategic investments have enhanced the powerful combination of curricular and extra-curricular learning that equips Dartmouth students with leadership, confidence, and know-how to succeed in an increasingly complex world.

I'm talking about pairing the power of the liberal arts and professional education with exceptional opportunities to learn by doing – whether it's through research, internships, outdoor programs, entrepreneurship, the arts, or athletics – all of which help cultivate skills that will serve our students well throughout their lives.

Taken together, this work has empowered and inspired students like Jackson Spurling, a Dartmouth '23, who co-authored a paper with his economics professor, Danny Blanchflower, that immediately caught the attention of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. 

The Council was particularly interested in Jackson's key finding, which built upon Danny's earlier research and showed that a broader measure of labor market slack than the unemployment rate explains wages.  The finding not only showcased the depth of Jackson's intellect, but helped advance U.S. economists' understanding of wage equations.

Students like Jackson go on to make big impact in the world after graduation…just like Barry Sharpless, a Dartmouth '63 who was recently awarded his second Nobel Prize in chemistry, or Jennifer Carlson '04 whose important work in Sociology was recognized last week with a MacArthur award. That's the power of a Dartmouth education.


As proud as I am of what we've achieved over the past decade, I'm equally proud of how we achieved it.

The Dartmouth community came together under the biggest tent possible.  In fact, we are on the doorstep of being the only $3B campaign at any institution to have also achieved a 60% or higher participation rate from alumni.

In addition, we undertook this campaign with the confidence to think big and let our ambitions soar.  In doing so, we learned that when the Dartmouth family comes together, we are unstoppable.  One lesson I will pass on to our next President is that no bar is too high for Dartmouth when we are united in our cause.

Perhaps nowhere is that more evident that in the difficult work we've undertaken as part of Moving Dartmouth Forward and ongoing work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. We will soon unveil a strategic plan that will guide this work which must continue unabated.

The investments we've made and the hard work we've put in are visible in so many ways  – from our return to R1 status in the Carnegie classification and our invitation to join the AAU…to the incredible uptick in external awards and accolates being earned by all of you…to the dramatic rise in admissions yield as our competitiveness has grown. 

All of it is a testament to our collective effort to invest in academic excellence and put in place the mechanisms needed to help our community thrive. 

So, what's in store for the rest of this year? A lot, because we're not done yet!

As many of you know, I've been leading a multi-city tour to thank all of the generous donors who have helped to make the Call to Lead Campaign such a success and to show them the impact of their giving.  At the same time, I continue to rally the remaining support needed to get us to the finish line on a few remaining projects – namely, our endowed scholarship goal, the renovation of the Hop, and some of our critical DEI inititiatives. Important announcements on all those fronts later this fall and winter, so stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, Mike Harrity is doing a great job leading the Athletics Department as we continue to implement our Athletics Action Plan following last year's three external reviews. 

On the new revenue generation initiative, I am delighted to report that the search for an inaugural director of the Business Innovation unit has been completed. The search committee was chaired by Matt Slaughter with help from Rick Mills and participation by faculty and trustees. One candidate, LaMar Bunts, rose to the top and he is enthusiastic to have begun his work for us last month.

Next month, we'll be capping off what's been an incredible year of golden anniversaries as we celebrate 50 years of coeducation. It will, of course, coincide with the reopening of Dartmouth Hall, and I hope that all of you will join us for the festivities on November 11 and 12. We will highlight the importance of the Humanities for Dartmouth as well as celebrate the success of our alumnae and the role they've played in supporting our beloved College.  

And let us not forget that this weekend we will celebrate 50 years of the Dartmouth Cancer Center, whose fundamental results in immunotherapies and precision prevention are bending the curve on cancer survival.  

Finally, most of you know about the transformation project underway in Arts & Sciences through which we are looking at the fundamentals of the organization and the budget model for the institution. This is a high priority for both Sian and me as we see the opportunities afforded by different models to strengthen Dartmouth generally and Arts and Sciences specifically.  I've been pleased to see high levels of faculty involvement in the planning process, and we anticipate that the planning committees will propose options by the end of the academic year.

Despite much to be proud of and awesome opportunities ahead, we also face some meaningful challenges, both in our own community and in the world at large.

Mental health is, of course, a top priority. There is so much to be done and our partnership with the JED Foundation will help guide our continued investment and build-out.  And I thank all of you who have already contributed with deep concern for our students, faculty and staff.  The stakes could not be higher, and I know this will remain front and center for the institution in the years ahead.  

The U.S. continues to face a persistent breakdown in civility and dialogue that, at times, spills onto our campus. We mustn't lose focus on strengthening our community and reinforcing the fundamental value of open dialogue and respectful debate.   

And finally, let me note a challenge that we've discussed many times before.  Our lofty aspirations – to attract the most talented students and faculty to our campus, to teach them in a deeply personal way, to align the community around some of the great challenges facing humankind, and to empower our students through our unique blend of curricular and extra-curricular activities … these aspirations are really expensive.  We will need to continue to set priorities so we make best use of every dollar and to bring forward inspirational ideas that will allow us to grow the pie substantially as we do.

I've spent a lot of time with Sian over these last few months, and I'm confident that Dartmouth has a bright future ahead. She is bright and energetic, and places a high priority on academic excellence.  I know you'll be supportive partners to her as she assumes leadership of the institution we know and love.

Next term, I will be in the classroom as I have been every year during my presidency – this time teaching Math 28, Introduction to Combinatorics.  This is the course that turned my 19 year old self onto Mathematics – a budding interest that was then nurtured at every turn by the Dartmouth faculty of the time – Joan Hutchinson, Bob Norman, Ken Bogart, Jim Baumgartner, to mention a few.  As I have spent my career at other outstanding universities, I have come to realize just how special my Dartmouth experience was … the close connections between faculty and students, the rich liberal arts training, the profound sense of place and the adventuresome spirit it instills.  That magic combination is what brought me back to Dartmouth all these years later with the privilege of serving the Institution that had done so much for me.  

In conclusion, I can report that the state of the College is robust and dynamic … moving forward to amplify those things that differentiate us … facing challenges with resolve and foresight … grabbing tomorrow's opportunities with enthusiasm and creativity.  Thank you all for being part of this amazing moment at Dartmouth.