Dartmouth Gives President-Elect Hanlon ’77 a Warm ‘Welcome Home’

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Philip J. Hanlon ’77 was welcomed to Dartmouth and officially introduced as the 18th President in the Wheelock Succession on Friday, January 11, 2013.

Philip J. Hanlon

President-Elect Philip J. Hanlon ’77, a mathematician, plans to teach during his presidency. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Hundreds turned out for President-Elect Hanlon’s first public appearance, filling the seats in Spaulding Auditorium and then waiting in line to shake his hand in Alumni Hall.

The new president was clearly moved by his reception in Hanover. Following a lengthy standing ovation as he was introduced in Spaulding, Hanlon said, “It feels great to be coming home to Dartmouth.”

Hanlon, currently provost at the University of Michigan, and his wife, Gail Gentes, had a full day on Friday, meeting with faculty groups and Trustees. On Saturday, Hanlon and Gentes are scheduled to stop by several athletic events and meet with groups of students.

Hanlon also met with local and regional media on Friday, telling reporters, “I’m so excited to be taking on this role. Dartmouth is one of the nation’s great institutions of higher education, and it’s an institution that’s shaped my life in really important ways. To be able to come back and lead this great college and try to make it the best it can possibly be and work with a group of talented people here is just a thrill.”

Hanlon takes office at Dartmouth on June 10, 2013.

In his remarks to the crowd at Spaulding, Hanlon invoked the names of his Wheelock Succession predecessors, including his one-time mentor John Kemeny, who was president when Hanlon was a student and taught mathematics during his presidency.

In his remarks, Hanlon said the job of any liberal arts college is to prepare its undergraduates to be active, engaged citizens. However, he continued, “at Dartmouth, we expect more. We expect our graduates to be leaders who will not only engage in public discourse and debate but actually shape that debate and point the way forward.

“Whether it is through our top-ranked undergraduate program or through our outstanding graduate and professional programs, preparing our students to be leaders is, in my mind, the most important work that we do at Dartmouth. And I am eager to be part of that work. So, like John Kemeny, I plan to teach undergraduate classes during my time as president—assuming the math department will have me,” Hanlon added, evoking much laughter from the audience.

Phillip J. Hanlon

Hanlon waves as he is introduced to the Dartmouth community. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Noting the contributions of former presidents James Wright and Jim Yong Kim, Hanlon said, “I stand on the shoulders of incredible leaders who have made Dartmouth the great place it is today.”

He also recognized President Carol L. Folt for her service in the interim period following Kim’s departure on July 1, 2012, to lead the World Bank.

Hanlon said Folt “deserves our praise and thanks for her continuing, expert service as interim president.”

Folt called Hanlon a “creative problem solver,” and said she has “great optimism” for his presidency. “He has a clear vision for what Dartmouth must do to continue its trajectory of accomplishment in these changing times.”

At the Spaulding ceremony, Hanlon thanked members of the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee, in particular committee Chair Bill Helman ’80 and Vice Chair Diana Taylor ’77, for “placing their confidence in me.”

He also thanked family members, including Gentes and her brother, William Gentes ’77, who introduced his sister to Hanlon many years ago.

In addition to Friday’s crowds at the ceremony and reception, many more watched a live webcast of the event, which is available on Dartmouth’s YouTube channel. Students played a part in Hanlon’s welcome ceremony, as the Glee Club closed the event with a performance of Twilight Song and Dartmouth’s Alma Mater, which brought the crowd to its feet.

A number of the students attending the event arrived curious about Dartmouth’s next president and left enthusiastic.

“We just had to come,” said Jon Kubert ’16, and his classmate Steven Povich ’16 agreed, adding, “I like the idea that he’ll be teaching.”

Phoebe Racine ’14 said she was impressed, “particularly by the fact that he is continuing to teach here, which I think shows his commitment to education.”

“A lot of us have been exposed to him just through reading articles in the school paper. Seeing him here in person was very encouraging,” said Henry MacQueen ’14.

Dartmouth Native American Studies Chair and Professor N. Bruce Duthu ’80 said that his peers at Michigan told him that Hanlon’s “commitment to teaching is very, very real,” and that the president-elect is “committed to liberal arts education, which, as a faculty member, makes me feel very, very excited.”

“Everything we thought we needed in a president, it just seems like Phil has it all,” said Martha Johnson Beattie ’76, vice president for Alumni Relations.

Hanlon said leading Dartmouth “at this time in history is inspiring—as we approach the 250th anniversary of the College in the midst of historic changes in higher education.”

The nation looks to its institutions of higher education to bring forth the talent to address the challenges of the day, he said. “And as we engage the great issues of the world on our campus, it is imperative that we involve our students in this research work so that they understand firsthand the power of critical analysis and creative thinking and carry that understanding with them into the world.”

Comparing the tensions of the present day to the turmoil and change of the 1970s, Hanlon noted the profound changes in the modern workplace created by information technology. It is an environment, he said, “driven, to a greater and greater extent, by individual empowerment rather than the strength of large organizations, a work environment characterized by increasing levels of volatility, complexity, workforce diversity, and global reach. These changes to the workplace compel us to rethink the ways in which we prepare our graduates to lead.”

In the face of such challenges, Philip Hanlon is just the man for the job, said Board Chair Steve Mandel ’78 as he introduced Hanlon. The search process was extensive, Mandel said, as committee members looked for a new president with qualities including “everything from leadership and commitment to Dartmouth’s mission, to academic ambition and the heart of a teacher.”

Mandel said board members didn’t expect to find one person who had all these qualities. But then, “we met Phil, a man who possesses all of the skills needed to lead us into the future and reinforce Dartmouth’s position at the forefront of higher education,” he said.

Hanlon, the 10th alumnus to serve as Dartmouth’s president, has been a University of Michigan faculty member since 1986 and has served in a succession of administrative leadership roles at Michigan, where he was appointed provost in 2010. As a mathematician, Hanlon focuses on probability and combinatorics, the study of finite structures and their significance as they relate to bioinformatics, computer science, and other fields.

Kemeny’s influence on Hanlon will no doubt extend well beyond mathematics. Dartmouth’s 13th president is held in high regard for his leadership of the College during a time of great change, and yesterday Hanlon seemed not unlike his teacher and mentor.

Chuck Sherman ’66 said Hanlon “meets my criteria” to be Dartmouth’s 18th president. “I wanted another (John Sloan) Dickey or a Kemeny, and I think he’s going to be a good combination.”