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Jim Kenyon: Members of Class of ’71 Urge Dartmouth to Do Right by Stricken Classmate

  • After going for a walk, Kathy and Andy Harvard have a cup of coffee together in his apartment at Wheelock Terrace in Hanover, N.H. on Nov. 12, 2015. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jed Williamson photograph) ">

    Andy Harvard is shown during a trip to China in 1980. (Jed Williamson photograph)

  • Kathy and Andy Harvard go for a walk along the Connecticut River in Hanover, N.H., on Nov. 12, 2015. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thomas Loucks, left, and Andy Harvard in a 1973 photograph. (Courtesy photograph)

Published: 6/11/2016 11:19:01 PM
Modified: 6/13/2016 10:08:40 AM

Over the next few days, after the freshly minted graduates and their families have cleared out, the Dartmouth College Class of ’71 will filter into Hanover for its 45th reunion.

The class, one of the last at Dartmouth not to include women, has a lot planned for its four-day stay beginning Thursday. Golf, pilates and a gardens tour, followed by champagne and strawberries, are on the itinerary.

That’s just the first day.

But there’s a chance this reunion could also take a serious bent. A platform for influential alums, if they choose, to send a message to President Phil Hanlon and his highly paid executive team that indifference toward one of their own is unacceptable.

I’m talking about the way that Dartmouth has treated its classmate Andy Harvard, on whom, as I wrote last fall, the college has turned its back in his time of need for the last eight years. Michael Maynard, a former president of the Class of ’71, recently went to bat for Harvard with the powers-who-be. “The Dartmouth experience,” as the college’s marketing department likes to call it, wasn’t quite the way that Maynard remembered from his undergraduate days.

“Dartmouth is not a family any more,” he told me. “It’s an institution.”

They arrived in September 1967, 834 young men mostly in their teens, and nearly all of them white. Amongst their ranks was a soft-spoken Eagle Scout, the son of a surgeon who taught at Yale Medical School.

“Everyone joked about his name, and him going to Dartmouth,” recalled classmate Pete Webster.

Like many of his classmates, Andy Harvard was drawn to Dartmouth by the surrounding mountains, rivers and lakes. But perhaps even more important, it was 8,000 miles away from a war in Southeast Asia that had begun to swallow up other men of their generation.

As a freshman, Harvard joined the mountaineering club. “He took to rock climbing right away,” said Tom Loucks, a classmate who literally taught him the ropes.

At Dartmouth, Harvard found his calling. Before long, he was ice climbing up Cathedral Ledge in the White Mountains and scaling 20,000-foot peaks in Bolivia with his band of Dartmouth brothers.

“They climbed everything they could get their hands on,” said Kathy Harvard. By the time she met her future husband, he was on his way to becoming a world-class mountain climber with four Mount Everest expeditions to his credit.

Harvard’s classmates read about his adventures in National Geographic and, after he climbed Everest in 1986, watched him star in a TV commercial for Bayer Aspirin. The commercial (still available on YouTube) showed a broad-shouldered, bearded Harvard clinging to a snowy rock cliff.

“I choose Bayer. Shouldn’t you?”

But mountain climbing and a 30-second TV commercial doesn’t feed a family of five. Hence the law degree that Harvard put to good use for 15 years as general counsel for a European agribusiness conglomerate based in the Midwest.

In 2004, supporters of the Dartmouth Outing Club persuaded Harvard to put aside his corporate law career and return to Hanover.

The DOC, considered the oldest and largest in the country, was on the verge of capsizing. The college was looking to hire its third director of outdoor programs in four years. Kayaking, hiking and mountain climbing — outdoor pursuits that helped separate Dartmouth from its Ivy League brethren — weren’t holding students’ interest the way they once did.

“The hiring of Andy Harvard ’71 as director of outdoor programs in 2004 appeared like a lifeline,” the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine later wrote.

Shortly after Harvard was hired, Maynard, a real estate and renewable energy developer in the Boston area, reconnected with his classmate. At the time that Harvard took over, Maynard’s daughter, Lauren, a 2006 Dartmouth graduate, was active in the DOC.

“He was highly respected on campus,” Maynard said. “He was loving his work, and doing really well.”

But some higher-ups in then-President Jim Wright’s administration didn’t think so. They were growing increasingly unhappy with Harvard. He missed meetings, failed to return emails and had mismanaged his department’s budget, they complained.

In July 2008, Joe Cassidy, the college’s acting dean of student life, informed Harvard that he had until the end of the week to empty his office in Robinson Hall. The college distributed an email claiming that Harvard had voluntarily stepped down from his $96,000-a-year job. If he wanted the four-month severance package being dangled by the college, Harvard had to go along with the fiction.

Rumors, which Dartmouth administrators seemed in no hurry to dispel, began to spread that Harvard might have a drinking problem.

“I just couldn’t imagine a situation where Andy could be terminated,” Loucks told me. “It didn’t make any sense.”

Loucks, a Denver-based mining industry executive, was among the few with whom Harvard had stayed in touch over the years. A few months before the college’s announcement that Harvard was leaving, they had gotten together when the Dartmouth ski team competed in the NCAA championships in Colorado.

After hearing the news of Harvard’s departure, Loucks tried contacting his friend. “He went silent,” Loucks said. “All of a sudden the emails stopped. I couldn’t reach him.”

Harvard became so withdrawn that he couldn’t bring himself to set foot on the campus. His blood boiled when he drove past his office. “Everything about (his firing) was very traumatic,” Kathy said. “Living in a small community, it was hard to overcome.”

Harvard began seeing Dartmouth-Hitchcock psychiatrist Matthew Friedman who diagnosed and treated him for depression. Friedman suspected there could be more to Harvard’s troubles, though. In early 2009, Harvard underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests, including MRI and PET brain scans, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

In April 2009, nine months after his firing, Harvard was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

He was 59.

Prior to receiving the diagnosis, the Harvards had hired Norwich attorney Geoffrey Vitt to work out the details of his severance package with the college’s lawyers. Vitt quickly let it be known that the Alzheimer’s diagnosis put the negotiations in an entirely new realm.

Harvard’s poor job performance, which Dartmouth officials maintained led to his firing, could now be traced to his illness, Vitt argued. That entitled Harvard to the same short- and long-term disability benefits that he would have received if he had been diagnosed while still on the college’s payroll, he contended. In 2012, the Harvards asked Dartmouth for $296,000 in disability pay and other benefits. The college stuck with its offer made before learning of the Alzheimer’s — $96,000, the equivalent of one year’s pay. Seven years after Harvard’s diagnosis, a settlement still hasn’t been reached. Why don’t the Harvards seek legal recourse?

“The law is on Dartmouth’s side,” Vitt told me.

Since Harvard’s diagnosis didn’t come until nine months after he was fired, the college had no legal obligation to provide disability benefits. And big institutions often don’t recognize moral obligations unless pressured to do so.

Last fall, Vitt handed me a stack of documents that detailed the back-and-forth settlement talks with the college that had dragged on for six years. Included were letters from two Alzheimer’s specialists at DHMC who had treated Harvard. They were sure that Alzheimer’s led to his “deficient job performance,” but the disease is rarely diagnosed in its early stages.

In November, I wrote a two-part series about the Harvards’ ordeal. It marked the first time that Andy and Kathy had talked publicly about his Alzheimer’s disease, and their struggles with Dartmouth.

Until reading the stories online at www.vnews.com, Harvard’s classmates, who by now are spread across the globe, had no idea of what he’d been facing. “A lot of emails began flying around after the articles came out,” Loucks said.

Shortly thereafter, Webster participated in a conference call with classmates who were organizing the 45th reunion. During the call, Harvard came up.

“What are we going to do as a class?” someone asked.

As is often the case in an effort to right a wrong, only a few people are willing to take the lead. Loucks, one of Harvard’s closest friends at Dartmouth, stepped forward.

Webster and Maynard weren’t as close to Harvard, but both have remained heavily involved in Class of ’71 activities. Maynard, through his daughter’s DOC ties, and Webster, who was town manager in Norwich around the time of Harvard’s departure, agreed that something needed to be done. They reached out to Kathy Harvard. She put them in touch with Vitt and Jed Williamson, a longtime mountaineering friend from Hanover and one of the people most familiar with the story.

The three classmates’ goal was straightforward: Convince the college to take another look at its decision not to provide Harvard and his family with the $296,000 in benefits that they had been seeking.

“It was a relatively small ask on (the Harvards’) part,” said Maynard. “From a financial perspective, it wasn’t a terribly large expense for a large institution.”

They contacted Bill Helman, a 1980 graduate who chairs the college’s board of trustees. Helman suggested they contact Rick Mills, the college’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.

In February, they wrote to Mills (Hanlon and Helman also received copies of their letter) to ask the college to “revisit the whole situation,” Webster said. “A number of us were concerned that it had become lost in time.”

From the time of Andy’s firing in July 2008 to the telling their story in the Valley News last November, the Dartmouth president’s office had seen four different occupants. Mills, the executive dean for administration at Harvard Medical School, came to Dartmouth in August 2013 — the same summer as Hanlon.

Harvard’s three classmates made sure Mills was aware of the DHMC Alzheimer’s specialists’ letters that the college received in late 2012.

Knowing that Dartmouth was worried about setting a precedent in Harvard’s case, the alums pointed out that it wasn’t the first to grapple with how to deal with early-onset Alzheimer’s. “Other schools and for-profit businesses have taken other approaches,” Maynard said, citing Harvard University and Google as large organizations that had helped families confronting the financial challenges of the disease.

But Dartmouth wasn’t swayed.

Having done a fair amount of fundraising among his classmates on the college’s behalf, Maynard reminded administrators what was at stake. Dartmouth’s $4.7 billion endowment, along with many of the buildings on campus, stem from the nonstop generosity of alumni.

“People like to speak with (their) wallets,” said Maynard, adding that donations from alums can hinge on whether they approve or disapprove of the college’s actions. “We wanted (administrators) to know this was another dimension that they needed to think about.”

In response to the February letter from Harvard’s classmates, the college formed a team, headed by Mills, to review the matter again. Three weeks later, in a conference call, the three alums were informed the college’s position hadn’t changed.

“They were following their policies and had the law behind them,” Loucks said. “I was disappointed, but not surprised.”

The three classmates walk a fine line. While they want to press Dartmouth, they don’t want to be perceived as troublemakers.

“We love the school and want it to prosper,” Maynard said. “This isn’t about punishing Dartmouth, but doing the right thing for Andy and his family.”

They’ve given assurances that they won’t campaign to get alumni to stop writing checks until the college changes its stance.

Nonetheless, I suspect the college isn’t thrilled that Loucks, Maynard and Webster agreed to talk with me. Dartmouth would prefer the Harvards just fade away.

“We understand that Dartmouth is within its rights, legally,” Maynard said. “But it still isn’t right. Andy is a member of the Dartmouth family.”

Last Monday, I reached out to Hanlon, Mills and Helman by phone and email. Helman, a partner in Greylock, a venture capital firm with an office in Cambridge, Mass., quickly got back to me.

With commencement and other activities coming up, Helman said, he didn’t have time to talk. “But in any case, this is not a Trustee issue, the executive team makes these decisions, and so I would not have much to offer,” he emailed.

Mills also got back to me. “Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and this is a sad situation for Andy and his loved ones,” Mills emailed. “Dartmouth tried to address the financial effect Andy’s termination had on him and his family after learning of the diagnosis.

“Dartmouth offered to provide significant support on numerous occasions, but Andy’s family declined to accept the financial support that was offered.”

In a conversation with Vitt, I mentioned Mills’ statement about the college having made multiple settlement offers. “It is simply not true,” Vitt said. “I wish they would stop saying that.”

The college made one offer of $96,000, which was rescinded after Hanlon became president, Vitt said. If other offers have been made, the college should provide written copies of them, Vitt added.

I went back to Mills. He politely declined to talk about the matter further. I never did hear from Hanlon.

Since the news of Andy’s illness became public last November, the Harvards have heard from dozens of Dartmouth alums and employees.

Some have stopped by Wheelock Terrace, an assisted-living facility in Hanover where Andy has had a one-bedroom apartment since September.

Kathy and the couple’s teenage twins live at the family’s home in Hanover. Their oldest son is in college. Kathy, who has a full-time job, joins her husband for morning coffee. She returns in the evening or brings Andy back to the house for family dinners.

“We are coping with what we have to do,” Kathy told me. “It’s expensive and exhausting, but we’ll make the best we can out of it.”

I hadn’t seen Harvard since last fall. Although he seemed a little less sure on his feet, he still bore a solid resemblance to the world-class mountain climber in the Bayer Aspirin commercial from 30 years ago.

He sat in his favorite living room chair, with Kathy next to him. He lifted himself up to retrieve a small case from his desk. He pulled out a brass key to the city of San Francisco, awarded him in 1983 by then-mayor and now U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Her husband was part of a Harvard-led expedition to Everest.

Harvard took his time in finishing sentences, and sometimes the words trailed off as he seemed to lose a thought. “So many people still think it’s one of those diseases that only old people get,” Kathy had told me earlier.

An estimated 200,000 Americans — 5 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases — suffer from the form of dementia that strikes people younger than 65.

Harvard, who turns 67 next month, has never been a “reunion guy.” But on Thursday, he and Kathy plan to attend an outdoor luncheon that’s on the Class of ’71 itinerary. On Sunday, he’ll join a few classmates, friends and family on the short hike up Moose Mountain in Etna to the DOC’s Class of ’66 Lodge.

While overseeing the DOC, Harvard spearheaded the fundraising drive and shepherded the students who rebuilt the lodge from the ground up after years of neglect.

Only 9 miles from campus, just off the Appalachian Trail, the hike to the lodge is a Harvard favorite these days. It takes less than 30 minutes, crosses streams and traverses up and down a ravine.

“If you want to go in there, you walk,” Harvard told me with clarity that had escaped him for much of our conversation. “There’s not a road; no cars. To get there, you really want to have to be there.”

His friends will hang a plaque bearing Harvard’s name near the lodge’s stone fireplace. “We want him to know that his work has been appreciated,” Williamson said. “It’s the very least we can do.”

Dartmouth could do a lot more.

Whether Harvard’s classmates take up his cause this week remains to be seen. Alums might disagree, or even be disgusted by what their alma mater is doing or, in Harvard’s case, not doing. But they don’t want to risk becoming persona non grata. They still want the president and admissions office to take their calls when a child or grandchild has designs on attending Dartmouth.

But personally, I can’t think of anything better for them to do over their four days in Hanover than pressuring Dartmouth to act like the college they remember.

Golf is a great game, but this is real life.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.




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