What's in a name?

by Cristian Cano | 5/10/17 2:20am

What does it take to get a building named after you? Do you need to donate an unfathomable amount of the “Big Greens?” Do you need to discover the cure for cancer — in five different languages? Do you need to be the great-great-great-great-grandchild of some obscure College trustee?

To find out the answers to these questions, the Mirror visited Rauner Library this week to learn more about the names behind our favorite and objectively best buildings on campus: the all-freshmen dorms. (Sorry, McLaughlin and East Wheelock freshmen, but upperclassmen live there too!) So, if you’ve ever wondered about the stories behind the people who were great, but only great enough for one of the Choates, you’ve come to the right place.

George Henry Bissell, Class of 1845

Like Judge, Bissell’s namesake also existed on another building — the Bissell Gymnasium — before it was demolished. It’s no wonder that another building was named after him instead; after all, he is the man whom many consider the father of the American oil industry. At Dartmouth, he became fascinated with the properties of petroleum and realized that its uses could be revolutionary. He, alongside an associate, traveled to Pennsylvania to buy the land that would be utilized in America’s first organized oil firm. Somewhat surprisingly, he never held a formal position at Dartmouth after his graduation, but considering his groundbreaking work, it’s no surprise why the College would want to memorialize him.

Albert Oscar Brown, Class of 1878

Brown’s passion for the law most definitely aligns with the zeal of many government majors today. After Dartmouth, he attended Boston University Law School and became a taxation specialist in Manchester, New Hampshire. An outspoken Republican, he was governor of New Hampshire from 1921 to 1923. He discovered a new talent for banking and became president of the Amoskeag Savings Bank of Manchester. His connection with the College lasted long after his undergraduate years: He received a master of arts degree in 1908, and he was a member of Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees for two decades.

William Cohen, Class of 1879

The Grimes Prize recipient at his Dartmouth graduation, Cohen jumped right into his law career after his undergraduate years, starting at Columbia Law College in 1881 and becoming a partner for Morrison, Lauterbach and Spingarn in 1883. His work must have been well-received, because in 1897 he was appointed to the New York Supreme Court. He was close with former President Theodore Roosevelt and advised him at the Capitol. Cohen also received an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1899. He, too, served as president of the Dartmouth Alumni Council.

Daniel Burton Fayerweather

Fayerweather had no strong connection to Dartmouth during his lifetime, and it was a huge surprise that, after his death in 1892, his will specified that most of his multi-million dollar fortune would be distributed amongst many different universities. After a disadvantaged childhood, Fayerweather did his best to make up for lost time by attending boarding school once he became an adult — and was five to seven years older than his classmates. Not discouraged, he began working at the Hoyt Brothers’ leather house at age 32 and rapidly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a senior partner and having control over the United States’ largest tanneries. His fortune was unknown during his lifetime, but after his death, word quickly spread. The Fayerweather donation was not tied down to a specific cause, so then-College President William Jewett Tucker used the money freely in what he said were reconstruction efforts.

Edward Sanborn French, Class of 1906

French began his lengthy career at the Boston and Maine Railroad just after graduation. From 1908 to 1930, he served as the chief operating officer of several short-line railroads in Vermont. From 1930 to 1952, he was president of the Railroad, and from 1952 to 1955, he was the chairman of the Railroad’s Board of Directors. He directed several other corporations and continued to give back to the Dartmouth community as a trustee for over 15 years.

Clarence Little, Class of 1881

If you’re a fan of the Baker-Berry bells, then you have Little to thank: He donated $40,000 in 1928 (over $500,000 in today’s money) for the 15 bells that are still used today. What did Little do to acquire such a fortune? Well, a lot. In no particular order, he was an inspector general of the territorial militia, a Republican member of North Dakota’s first senate, chairman of the Republican State Committee, North Dakota’s representative to the Republican National Convention, a director of the Capital National Bank, president of Bismarck’s board of education, president of the First National Bank and president of the Provident Life Insurance Company. Alongside this expansive career, he also found the time to be president of the Dartmouth Alumni Council from 1915 to 1920 and trustee for another 20 years.

John Roy “Judge” McLane, Class of 1907

Fun fact: Before 2006, when the current McLane Hall was named, Judge Hall used to be known as McLane. McLane, who went by the nickname “Judge,” excelled academically — he received a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University after graduating from Dartmouth and earned a law degree cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1912. As part of a long and successful career, he opened a law firm in Manchester, New Hampshire and worked as a lawyer until his retirement in 1962. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he played a role on the selection committee for the Rhodes Scholarship decades after receiving his own, and he served as a College trustee.

James Bailey Richardson, Class of 1857

A native of Orford, New Hampshire, Richardson began his undergraduate years at Yale University before transferring to Dartmouth, where he would graduate. After attending law school, Richardson began an accomplished law career that would take him to many places: Boston Common Council, the Massachusetts State Legislature and the Superior Court of Massachusetts are just a few. He also served as a trustee of the Franklin Savings Bank and was on the New England Home for Little Wanderers board of managers. At the College, Richardson was the first alumnus designated to be a trustee in 1891 under the new system, in which trusteeship was given on a termly basis. He also started the Joel Richardson scholarship in honor of his late father.

John Brooks Wheeler

Perhaps you’ve heard of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, or at the very least, everyone’s favorite quotation from Daniel Webster about “a small college” and “those who love it.” However, you may not have heard of Wheeler: The man whose donation of $1,000 in 1816 made the entire case possible. A very successful businessman whose son attended Dartmouth, Wheeler learned about how the trustees trying to fight on behalf of the College didn’t have the necessary funds to cover the legal costs. Moved by what he perceived to be “one of those instances in which good is educed from evil,” Wheeler wrote to the trustees anonymously with his donation attached. The sum, though not enough to cover all of fees associated with the case, were enough to get things started. No wonder that Dartmouth chose to name a building after the man whose donation was, perhaps, the timeliest in the history of the College.