Alum serves College as S&S officer

by Deborah Bernstein | 11/26/97 6:00am

Safety and Security Officer Lauren Cummings '72 brings a unique and valuable perspective to his job through his own experiences as a Dartmouth student.

While some students might portray Safety and Security officers as enemies who cannot relate to students at the College, Cummings has cheered at football games, studied in Baker Library, and attended Greek parties as an undergraduate -- just like many of today's students.

As a student, Cummings said he very aware of the campus police and their role on campus. He remembers having a positive relationship with the officers and said "he did not manage to run afoul" of College rules.

His time as a Dartmouth student has helped Cummings relate to current undergraduates, he said. "I try to direct behavior without being heavy-handed."

Cummings views college as a time of "social maturation" and said he hopes students appreciate how much time Safety and Security spends helping students, rather than disciplining them. "Ninety-five percent of our time is spent on student services whereas 5 percent is spent on the enforcement concept," he said.

College Proctor Bob McEwen agrees that Cummings' perspective on undergraduate life has made him an asset to Safety and Security. He "has the advantage of seeing the institution over a long period of time and through significant change," McEwen said. "Cummings also has a better sense of how to engage students."

McEwen also praised Cummings' demeanor. "He's very receptive and warm in general," he said.

Cummings said he "absolutely loves" his job at the College and considers it an extension of his undergraduate years here. "It's like being in a constant classroom," Cummings said. "Each day is an education, I learn from each student."

Cummings feels the best part of the job is meeting students from diverse backgrounds, and while he doesn't find any frustrations with his job, he does confess to painful moments.

"There's a moment of sadness when we see a student who gets into a situation that through intervention might have been avoided," he said.

Dartmouth's problems have changed since Cummings' time as an undergraduate. "There was a different set of problems," he said. The school was "single-sex and we didn't have the cultural diversity we do now."

The issue of alcohol has escalated since Cummings' years as a student, he said.

"When I was a student here, alcohol was troubling and it's not that the institution didn't care, but our fellows were quick to take care of a person in distress," Cummings said. "The problem didn't surface."

Today, Cummings said, alcohol is a huge and much-discussed issue both for students and faculty.

Cummings came to the College from Hartland, Vt., intending to major in languages and drawn by Dartmouth's "quality of education." However, he soon fell in love with the theater opportunities the College offered.

"On the second day of school I went into the Hop stage shop and introduced myself," Cummings said. "I stayed there for the next four years."

Cummings graduated as the College's first modified major in technical-production theater arts, and stayed on to found the production department at the Hop, which he directed until 1978.

Cummings left in 1978, taking jobs in Ohio and St. Thomas, where he helped build an arts center for the College of the Virgin Islands.

A "burned-out" feeling about the theater world and a longing to see changing seasons brought Cummings back to the White Mountains. He worked with the Hanover Police Communications department for five years, and started a West Lebanon sporting goods store with a friend.

Many factors in Cummings' background led him to his current position with College Safety and Security. Cummings came from a family with a strong connection to law enforcement and his years at the College left him with a strong love for the school.

"The next step for me was to work with students," Cummings said. So in October 1988 he took the job he still holds today.

Cummings has also remained very active in alumni activities. He served as the social chair for his 20th class reunion and is also involved in planning his 25th.

He says alumni see him as a valuable resource into what Dartmouth is really like today.

"I tell them there's much that's very right about Dartmouth today," Cummings said. "This institution is doing very well. Our college is in good shape."