Class of 1926 notable for generosity and eccentricity

by Jessica Jacob | 6/9/96 5:00am

The Class of 1926, which returned to Hanover for its 70th reunion this weekend, will always be remembered as being a bit eccentric.

Within the class are a Nobel laureate, famous writers and actors and some of the College's most generous alumni ever.

The Blunt Alumni Center, the Murdough Center, the Darling courtyard at the Hopkins Center and other facilities were given to the College by members of the Class of 1926. Almost 90 percent of the class gave money to the College last year.

Robert May '26 made history and an extraordinary donation to the College with the same act.

May wrote the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which was made famous by the singer Jean Autry.

May built a life-sized Rudolph for his lawn in Illinois. He later gave the sculpture to the College, where it has been used in Christmas celebrations.

However creative, the Class of 1926 brought a strong intellectual presence to the College.

Kier Boyd '26 said members of the Class of 1926 were destined for success because of the College's recruiting efforts in 1921.

Boyd said Ernest Hopkins, Dartmouth's president at the time, was trying to build "an aristocracy of brains."

The Class of 1926 was the first class that took an entrance exam before being admitted to college, Senior Associate Dean of Alumni Relations David Orr '57 said. Orr's father, Stewart Orr, graduated from Dartmouth in 1926.

Many members of the class other than May have become famous.

George Snell '26 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1980. The state of Maine recently dedicated a month to Snell, who did his cancer research in that state.

Both the science and humanities disciplines were represented in the Class of 1926 endeavors.

Dick Lattimore '26 was a well-known poet. His works include "Hanover Poems," "Poems from Three Decades," "The Stride of Time" and "Sestina for a Far-off Summer."

Class Valedictorian Francis Merrill '26 became a professor in Dartmouth's sociology department. Class Salutatorian Hugh Morrison '26 became a professor in Dartmouth's art department.

Charlie Starett '26 starred as the "Durango Kid" in a western series in the 1930s and 1940s. Louis Heydt '26 was a famous movie and stage actor.

Members of the Class of 1926 also helped the College grow by donating many campus facilities.

Blunt Alumni Center, which opened in 1980, is named after Carleton Blunt '26, who gave money to renovate what was formerly a residence hall.

Blunt was not the only graduate from the Class of 1926 to leave the College a namesake.

Thomas Murdough '26 helped pay for the Murdough Center, which opened in the mid 1970s, and the Murdough Green House, located on top of the Gilman biology building.

The Haywood Lounge in the Hanover Inn is named for Sydney Haywood '26, who was director of alumni affairs for more than 30 years. Members of the Class of 1926 paid for the lounge's renovation years later.

The Oberlander Lounge in Alumni Gym is named for Andrew Oberlander '26. Oberlander was the quarterback when the Dartmouth football team won the national title in 1925.

Hebert Darling '26 helped build the Sculpture Court, the Memorial Garden and the grounds surrounding the Hopkins Center.

Frances Pan '26 founded the Dartmouth Club of Hong Kong.

Orr said it is difficult to pinpoint why the Class of 1926 has been so generous.

"We just had a very special group of people," he said.

Class of 1926 Head Agent George Scott said, "We love the College and show it in our generosity. We wish we could be more generous."

Scott said an alumnus told him in 1922, "Once a Dartmouth man, always a Dartmouth man." He said the expression holds true for Dartmouth men and women today.

"The traditions were so much a part of us," Scott said. During his interview with The Dartmouth, Scott sang the Alma Mater.

Scott said the success of Dartmouth's sports teams during the 1920s may have contributed to the class's ardor.

"We always had good athletic teams, and that has to make for an enthusiastic and spirited class," he said.

When the Dartmouth football team won the national title, many of the players were from the Class of 1926.

Although the members of the Class of 1926 are more than 90 years old, many are making the long trek to Hanover for the reunion. Asked whether he would attend the reunion, Emerson said, "Does the sun rise in the east?"

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