Dartmouth celebrates its 250th anniversary

by Arielle Beak | 1/11/19 3:20am

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by Arya Kadakia / The Dartmouth

With the advent of the new year, Dartmouth is celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding. The festivities that took place on Jan. 10 kicked off what will be a year’s worth of academic and arts programming, service opportunities and celebrations all honoring the school’s notable milestone and adhering to the theme of “Honoring Our Past, Inspiring Our Future.”

For Cheryl Bascomb ’82, vice president for alumni relations and co-chair of the celebrations, the celebration of the College’s sestercentennial anniversary is an effort to use the past to guide the College’s future.

“This really is a forward-looking endeavor, and so the classes that people are teaching and taking and the events that we’re holding really talk about Dartmouth’s story through history, but pointing forward,” Bascomb said. “How do they inform where we’re going and how do we — as alumni and faculty and students — really help create the vision that we have for Dartmouth?”

The Thursday kick-off celebrations took place in nine locations across campus, including Baker-Berry Library, the Top of the Hop and the Collis Center. College President Phil Hanlon and celebration co-chairs Bascomb and English professor Donald Pease all gave speeches in Baker-Berry Library that were livestreamed on Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary website.

Hosting the kick-off celebrations at many venues, scattered across professional schools to athletic facilities, was an inclusive effort to make the festivities accessible to all students and faculty, Pease said.

The multitude of activities planned for the year has been long in the making, with 20 committees working on individual events, according to Bascomb.

Included in the academic and arts programming planned for the year are conferences, eight new courses, exhibitions and events at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

Pease noted that the focus of the year is to honor the meaning of a true liberal arts education and the values that the College was founded on. He emphasized the unique vision of a liberal arts education in the 21st century.

“At the center, we have the relationship between professor and student, which is the bond where we have scholars who love to teach and students who love to learn,” Pease said. “That’s at the core of everything.”

As part of the anniversary events, Greenlighting Day will take place worldwide on Jan. 12. National landmarks will be lit up in green to commemorate Dartmouth’s anniversary, including Niagara Falls, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, Boathouse Row in Philidelphia, Pennsylvania, the Capital Ferris Wheel in Washington D.C. and Dartmouth Hall.

The College’s alumni network was key in organizing Greenlighting Day, Bascomb said.

“Alumni engaged almost organically to say, ‘Yeah, I want to light up this place in my town,’ so many of the places happened through the benefit of alumni,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting to say that on this day we will be lighting the world up [in] green.”

A conference based on the landmark 1819 U.S. Supreme Court case ruling, led by Daniel Webster, that established Dartmouth as a private institution, will take place on March 1 and 2. This case is also the basis of a new interdisciplinary undergraduate course that is co-taught by history professor Robert Bonner, government professor Russell Muirhead and Pease. Students will also get the chance to attend a reenactment of the case at the Supreme Court, acted out by Dartmouth alumni re-arguing the case.

“Every Thursday, students will take ownership by taking up the conversations the three of us have had on Tuesdays, raising questions, producing disagreements, introducing alternative perspectives — we think it’s going to be great fun,” Pease said.

Other conferences will be focusing on the liberal arts at Dartmouth, the College’s history of female faculty and the school’s history with slavery.

On May 25, the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra will premiere a piece commissioned by the College and inspired by the José Clemente Orozco murals located in the basement of Baker Library. A commission for the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble by composer Oliver Caplan ’04 will be unveiled the fall and will highlight special places at the College that hold importance for members of the community.

The College is also introducing “The Call to Serve,” a service initiative that aims to encourage the Dartmouth community to volunteer and reach a goal of 250,000 combined volunteer hours.

For many students, the 250th anniversary of the College is a time for the school to reflect on its past to positively inform the future.

“Dartmouth seems to be acknowledging its past a lot more than what I’ve seen [in the past], and I think Dartmouth should be in a constant process of reassessment and improving itself,” Vanessa Soncco ’18 said. “This is a time for Dartmouth to be self-aware.”

For other students, Dartmouth’s role as a powerful, high-profile institution is accompanied by the responsibility to lead by example.

“Moving forward, I think as one of the leading institutions in America, we have the responsibility to be on the forefront of change,” Jessica Yin ’22 said.