Alumni gather for second Dartmouth Explorers Symposium

by Cameron Roller | 4/24/18 2:40am

Ledyard Canoe Club alumni returned to the College this past weekend to partake in the second-ever Dartmouth Explorers Symposium. The last one was in 2015.

Taking place in Dartmouth Hall on Apr. 21, the event brought together Dartmouth students, alumni and community members to listen to speakers discuss the various ways that Ledyard has had an impact on their lives. The Symposium was part of the larger Riverfest weekend, an annual celebration that includes the Mascoma River slalom race, speakers and food.

The Symposium began with a welcome address from vice president of alumni relations Martha Beattie ’76, former Ledyard president Jesse Feldman-Stein ’18 and former Ledyard secretary Lily Xu ’18.

Xu, who participated in a Ledyard spring break trip to North Carolina in her freshman year and a Ledyard kayaking expedition in the Czech Republic, was one of the primary organizers of the Symposium.

“For a lot of [the alumni speakers], this is really their home as well … so having this mutual bond lets me connect with people who graduated 50 years before I did,” Xu said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Following the welcome address was a section of talks entitled “Waterways of the World,” which included discussions from Dan Dimancescu ’64 and former Dartmouth Outing Club president Viva Hardigg ’84 about their National Geographic-sponsored expeditions to the Sea of Japan and the Korean Islands, respectively. Dimancescu is also known for organizing Ledyard’s 1,700-mile Dartmouth Danube expedition, which later became a National Geographic cover story. Ledyard vice president Katherine Bogart ’20 and Jackson Harris ’20 then gave a talk on Ledyard’s 2017 winter break trip to Ecuador.

Capping off the “Waterways of the World” section of the Symposium was a talk by Dan Reicher ’78 on his Yangtze River expedition in 1984 and how the area has changed since the opening of China’s Three Gorges Dam in 2003. Reicher was a member of the first expedition to kayak the Yangtze.

In addition to being a Ledyard alumnus, Reicher is also the director of Stanford University’s Center for Energy Policy and Finance. At the Symposium, he was also a panelist at the only panel event, entitled “Hydropower: Climate Solution and Conservation Challenge,” which focused on the role of hydropower in climate and conservation, a central topic of debate among environmentalists, according to Reicher.

“The Symposium is about adventure, learning and leadership on the rivers and waterways of the world,” Reicher said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “We added a very strong [learning] component … which is that hydropower is both a climate solution and a conservation challenge.”

Watershed Studio Architecture founder Daniel Johnson and Wick Walker ’68 each gave talks in the section “A History of Racing.” Johnson qualified for the U.S. wildwater kayak team during his senior year of college and competed at the 1977 World Championships. Walker was selected for the first-ever U.S. whitewater racing team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Closing the Symposium was a series of talks that addressed how the hardships of kayaking and canoeing can carry over into real life obstacles.

Now working as a costumer for Saturday Night Live, Ana Perdita ’09 said that the lessons she learned during her time at Ledyard are relevant in her everyday work.

“When my first show closed, I learned dressing tracks on multiple shows in an effort to learn from different supervisors,” Perdita said in her speech. “My job was to study all of the quick changes and responsibilities of each dresser on a show, and then jump in at the last minute any time a dresser was sick or injured. The adrenaline was like running a river blind every night, and the kayaker part of my brain kicked in to evaluate timing and risk.”

The Symposium closed with filmmaker and writer Ben Masters giving a talk entitled “Rio Grande: the River and the Wall,” which shares a title with his upcoming documentary that focuses on the landscape of areas that are soon to receive a border wall.

Ledyard president Jordan Sandford ’19, who helped organize the Riverfest weekend, said he has been involved with the club since freshman fall after having kayaked in high school.

“The Symposium is meant to draw back all these different generations of people who have been involved with Ledyard and celebrating the past, present and future … and to generate excitement for [Ledyard’s centennial in 2020],” Sandford said.

He added that bringing generations of Ledyard alumni together was also a big focus for the Symposium.

“I think one of the really big takeaways from the Symposium …was that these achievements have a common thread, which is the people behind them,” Sandford said. “Ledyard has built a community that spans generations. Being able to come together … was probably the most powerful thing from the entire weekend.”

Correction appended (April 24, 2018): This article has been updated to reflect that Xu was one of the primary organizers of the Symposium, that her Ledyard spring break trip was to North Carolina, and that Bogart and Harris were referring to a winter break trip to Ecuador.