Susan Wright is more than just Dartmouth's first Lady

by Deborah Bernstein | 10/23/98 5:00am

Mixed in amidst works of art on loan from the Hood Museum in the president's house on Webster Ave. are the Wright family's furniture and momentos.

Susan Wright, College President James Wright's wife, has been busy moving the family into the house and moving herself into a new role at the College.

Wright recently resigned as associate director of Career Services, a position she held since 1993. Although eager to continue advising students on a more informal basis, Wright is working now to involve herself in all aspects of College life.

"It's very exciting after 20 years to have no defined job and to have to create your own role," Wright said.

The Whirlwind

Wright said she asks students in conversations what they feel her role as first lady of the College should include. Right now she said she feels "being around, getting to know students and seeing all that's going on," are crucial elements in her new job description.

Wright said she has been meeting with several students a week in her home office, in addition to hosting get-togethers with her husband for small groups. In addition, she has been attending numerous sporting events, lectures and performances.

Although she is learning a great deal about students' lives at the College, she said she misses her colleagues in Career Services.

Wright also serves as an advisor for a secret senior society and to the Presidential Scholars program. She said she wants to take time to decide where she can make further contributions.

She said she knows she shares James Wright's commitment to making the College an inclusive community where everyone is welcome.

Wright said she is also interested in helping students make the most of their educational program, especially through scholarships and working with faculty on research projects.

The Wrights will be spending Thanksgiving in Korea with a group of alumni, including South Korean ambassador and chairman of the Board of the Trustees Stephen Bosworth '61.

Wright will be accompanying her husband on a trip to San Francisco and plans to make several solo day trips to talk to alumni and parent groups.

She called the time since James Wright ascended to the presidency in August and was inaugurated in September a "whirlwind," and said it is only recently that she's been able to assess how things have changed.

Highlights so far

Moving for the first time in 14 years from Etna into the presidential home has been an adjustment, she said. In addition to the new home, its size and location on Fraternity Row has taken getting used to.

She said it's a treat to live in the house, and she enjoyed the opportunity Homecoming afforded to see current and past students on Fraternity Row. She also said Sigma Nu, the neighboring fraternity, has had the Wrights over, and that she anticipates other pleasant interactions with her Greek neighbors.

For Wright, it is hard to describe the feelings she had watching her husband being inaugurated and joining the Wheelock Succession on Sept. 23.

"It's overwhelming to realize you have this association with the College you love and your husband is doing something he cares so deeply about," Wright said.

Highlights of her tenure as first lady so far have included visiting Moosilauke Ravine Lodge during Freshman Trips, all the Homecoming festivities and meeting with the Presidential Leadership Council -- alumni of varied ages who informally advise James Wright.

Wright said she doesn't have a great deal of free time these days. The time she does have to herself she walks and catches up on errands, including buying Halloween candy for the trick-or-treaters she's been told to expect.

A former elementary school teacher and holder of a masters degree from the Stanford School of Education, Wright always assumed educating others would be part of her life, but she said she never imagined that she would watch her husband assume the presidency of a college they both love.

"It's thrilling to have your personal and professional life be one," Wright said.