Speaking at his Inauguration as the 18th president in the Wheelock Succession, Philip J. Hanlon ’77 called on students to look to the words of Ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes and find at Dartmouth their own “fulcrum and lever” to move the world.
Before the crowd of about 2,800 that gathered on the Green to celebrate Inauguration and the Convocation of the College’s 244th year, Hanlon issued a call-to-action to the entire Dartmouth community: “During this time of great change in higher education, let us commit to keeping Dartmouth at the very forefront in teaching and learning,” he said.
Doing this requires harnessing the power of experiential learning—learning by doing, embracing new technologies, leveraging Dartmouth’s professional schools and unique setting, applying scholarship to address the world’s most complex problems, and ensuring a safe and inclusive community that is welcoming to all.
Stating that “we are poised to make the largest-ever investment in Dartmouth’s academic enterprise over the next decade,” Hanlon announced two initiatives that he said embody the College’s “dramatic investment in the future.”
He outlined the creation of a Society of Fellows program, which will give emerging postdoctoral scholars the opportunity to “learn the art of teaching from the true masters on our campus, while bringing to Dartmouth their own unique passions and innovation.”
And he announced the founding of an Innovation Center and New Venture Incubator at Dartmouth, to challenge students and develop in them “a world-class entrepreneurial competency, delivered by faculty and staff from across the campus as well as Dartmouth alumni around the world.”
Hanlon’s personal commitment to teaching was frequently mentioned by the speakers. New Hampshire Governor Margaret Hassan, an ex officio member of Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees, hailed Hanlon’s commitment to inspired teaching that informs the future leaders of the state and the nation.
Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan where Hanlon taught mathematics for nearly three decades, called him an “effective, memorable teacher” in her introductory remarks.
“This commitment to teaching may sound standard to the Dartmouth community, because Dartmouth excels at undergraduate education. But at a major research university like Michigan, it is an exceptional philosophy and practice. And Phil was our champion,” she said.
What They Said
“I am in President Hanlon’s math class this term, and on the first day he told us to call him Phil. Seeing him in class, and then seeing him speak on stage today was amazing. Phil is so willing to teach, and being welcomed by him personally made Inauguration such a memorable experience.”
— Anna Gottardi ’17
“It is very exciting to have President Hanlon start his journey as we, as a class, are starting ours.”
— Mariah Reese ’17
“I think it’s wonderful to have another alumnus of the College serve as president. President Hanlon has a sterling academic record. I think he will make a terrific president.”
— Richard Pugh ’51
“There has been so much excitement around Inauguration, it really brings an energy and an optimism to campus. I’m super excited.”
— Colin Quinn ’15
“It’s great to have President Hanlon back at Dartmouth. He has been out in the community engaging with all types of people on campus. I think he really wants to build on that great community at Dartmouth.”
— Rob Lauzen ’15
“He seems to have such an energetic presence, and I know he will do great things in the years to come.”
— Todd Timmerman ’89
In fact, Hanlon started his day teaching Math 11—“Multivariable Calculus for First-Term Students”—at 8:45 a.m. In his afternoon remarks, he recalled studying math in his undergraduate days with President John Kemeny.
“The man was a teacher at heart, and a brilliant one. And I’m committed to being part of this important tradition,” Hanlon said, mentioning that Kemeny’s grandson Jean-Luc is among the students in his class.
Coleman also praised Hanlon’s skill as a leader at the University of Michigan, where he helped guide the major public university through a time when public funding per student dropped by 50 percent.
“But composure is Phil Hanlon’s calling card,” Coleman said. “The man does not flinch. He steered the university through some of our most fiscally challenging years, all the while advancing academic excellence and impact.”
The ceremony celebrated the incoming Class of 2017 while honoring the succession of presidents back to Eleazar Wheelock and the first Dartmouth Commencement in 1771.
Presidents Emeriti Jim Yong Kim and James Wright, respectively 17th and 16th in the Wheelock Succession, were present for the ceremony. Kim, who is now president of the World Bank, transferred the Wentworth Bowl and the stewardship of Dartmouth into Hanlon’s hands, hailing “the glorious return of one of our best and brightest to our beloved College on the hill.”
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson formally welcomed the Class of 2017 in observance of Convocation, and Undergraduate Student Body President Adrian Ferrari ’14 delivered the Convocation address.
Ferrari—still sporting tricolor hair from his recent turn on the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge crew welcoming new students on First-Year Trips—addressed the incoming class with a personal story of finding a place and a community at Dartmouth through the kindness of a fellow student.
He urged the ’17s to carry forward the welcoming atmosphere of Trips into their daily interactions.
“Whether that sense of community persists depends entirely on the actions you take to let the people around you know that you care about them,” he said. “Get to know your classmates, make an effort to be kind to them, and when you do, I look forward to watching you thrive here.”
Hanlon echoed Ferrari’s sentiment, challenging students to “consider, with every action you take on this campus, whether you are strengthening our community, or undermining it. You must always choose to strengthen it and you must hold this commitment dearer than any other.”
The ceremony was punctuated by musical performances from The Harlem Quartet, the Dartmouth College Glee Club, the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble, and the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir.
Earlier in the day, Hanlon hosted a cookout for the Dartmouth community. He and his wife, Gail Gentes, chatted with students, faculty, staff, and alumni along Tuck Mall while the crowd enjoyed vibrant performances by the Gospel Choir and Dartmouth Idol All-Stars.