Dartmouth president to step down in 2023

  • Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon answers questions during an editorial board meeting at the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. August Frank

  • Presidents Emeriti Jim Yong Kim, left, and James Wright pass on the Wentworth Bowl to Philip J. Hanlon, Dartmouth's 18th president at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 20, 2013. The bowl, which was given to the college at the second commencement in 1772, is handed down to each president of the college. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Sarah Priestap

  • Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon and his wife Gail Gentes give a house tour to members of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority, including from left, Rebecca Asoulin, of Santa Monica, Calif., Rachel DeChiara, of New York City, Mercedes de Guardiola, of New York City, and Ariel Klein, of Great Neck, N.Y., in Hanover, N.H., on June 5, 2017. They won the tour as part of a sorority fundraiser for the Special Needs Support Center in Lebanon. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file photograph — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2022 1:11:30 PM
Modified: 1/25/2022 9:33:49 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College President Philip J. Hanlon will step down in June 2023, the college announced Tuesday.

Hanlon, a 1977 Dartmouth graduate who has served his alma mater since 2013, informed the college’s board of trustees of his decision at a meeting on last week, and announced it first to the college community Tuesday morning, then to the general public.

The trustees praised Hanlon for improving the college’s “academic excellence, inclusion, and impact.”

“As the vision I set forth almost 10 years ago becomes reality, the time is right to pass the torch,” Hanlon said in a written statement.

The 17-month gap between Tuesday’s announcement and Hanlon’s departure is intended to give the trustees time to find his successor and to ensure a smooth transition, he said.

In praising Hanlon’s work, Elizabeth Lempres, chair of Dartmouth’s board of trustees, cited a 50% increase in annual research spending; dramatic improvement in the number of students applying to Dartmouth; greater racial diversity among faculty and students; and major investment in the college’s “academic enterprise.”

Many of these achievements are linked to Dartmouth’s $3 billion “Call to Lead” capital campaign, which is nearing completion.

Hanlon’s decision was preceded by a flurry of announcements in recent weeks, including an extension of need-blind financial aid to international students that reversed a decision six years ago to end such aid, and the establishment of the Byrne Family Cancer Research Institute, created by a $25 million gift from Hanover philanthropist Dorothy Byrne.

The list of Dartmouth’s structural improvements, buoyed by a 300% increase in stock market value since 2013, is dauntingly long. It includes the campus’ West End, which now houses the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, founded in 2016 using an $80 million gift from the Irving family, and the creation of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies.

Hanlon also implemented several initiatives intended to improve the social climate on campus, and while new buildings have risen, these efforts remain works in progress.

Dartmouth banned hard alcohol on campus in 2015 and started a “house” system, similar to Harvard and Yale. It also required a four-year sexual violence prevention and education program for students.

At the same time, nine women filed a class action suit against the college in November 2018, detailing a long history of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of three psychology professors who had left the college that year. The suit was settled in 2020, and the college created a Campus Climate and Culture Initiative in 2019.

“It takes a long time to make meaningful change,” Diana Whitney, a 1995 Dartmouth graduate and a founder of the Dartmouth Community against Gender Harassment and Sexual Violence, said Tuesday.

Last year, Whitney and others said it was time for Hanlon to step down. With his departure date set, she restated her desire to see Dartmouth name a woman as the college’s next president.

“Absolutely,” said Stan Colla, a 1972 graduate and the college’s former vice president of development and alumni affairs. “I think the institution would benefit from having the vision and sensitivity of a woman at the top of the administration.”

Among Ivy League universities, only Dartmouth, Columbia and Yale have not had a long-term female president.

Even 50 years after Dartmouth first admitted women, the culture on campus still favors men, Colla said.

“It’s time for (Dartmouth) to see itself as a coed institution in all kinds of ways,” Colla said.

In most respects, Colla added, Hanlon’s tenure is likely to be viewed as a success by the Dartmouth community. He achieved much of what he set out to achieve, and the college “handled the pandemic about as well as a school could,” Colla said.

Hanlon earned his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology and taught mathematics first at MIT and then at the University of Michigan, where he rose through the administrative ranks. He served as provost, a university’s chief academic officer, at Michigan for three years before coming back to Dartmouth.

As president, Hanlon also has continued to teach math courses. His academic background set him apart from his immediate predecessor, Jim Yong Kim, whose brief tenure ended when he became head of the World Bank.

“I think he does understand academia deeply, because he’s spent his life in it,” Benjamin Valentino, chairman of the Government Department at Dartmouth, said Tuesday.

In addition to teaching, Hanlon also has been a regular presence on the sidelines at sporting events, Valentino said.

If he closes out his tenure as it’s going now, Hanlon will have been a stabilizing presence at the college, Valentino said, noting that he arrived just after the Great Recession and with any luck will see off the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re going to miss him.”

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.

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