New Dean of College will be busy with Initiative

by Brad Russo | 8/1/99 5:00am

After former College President James Freedman announced his resignation in the fall of 1997, many other administrators followed, most to assume bigger roles at other colleges.

One of the most prominent departures was that of former Dean of the College Lee Pelton.

Pelton had served as dean for eight years and was well known around campus, whether it be for popular steps like his "Experience Dartmouth" program in the East Wheelock residence halls, or for significantly less popular moves like his controversial alcohol reforms immediately prior to his departure.

To replace Pelton, who is now president of Willamette College in Oregon, the College selected what at first appeared to be an unexpected candidate for such a high-level administrative post.

James Larimore, a 38-year old who was still completing his doctorate dissertation at Stanford University, was chosen and took over the position July 1.

Larimore was assistant to the provost at Stanford before coming to Dartmouth. He attended East Texas State University as an undergraduate and received his master's degree in education from Stanford.

While he had been on the West Coast for many years prior to his arrival here last month, Larimore is not without Dartmouth ties. From 1983 to 1985, he served as assistant director of admissions. His sister Colleen graduated from Dartmouth in 1985 and also directed the College's Native American Program. His niece, Laura Duncan, is a member of the Class of 2001.

His new job became suddenly more interesting with the announcement of the Trustees' controversial Social and Residential Life Initiative. The dean of the College oversees many areas which will likely be affected by the Initiative including the Office of Residential Life, the Office of Student Life and Safety and Security among others.

Larimore was instantly conscious of the new importance his position would have with the Initiative debate. Shortly after the Trustees dropped their bombshell announcement, Larimore was scheduled to give a talk to the Dartmouth Alumni Club of Silicon Valley.

Larimore said there were a lot of angry people there that night but told The Dartmouth he expressed positive opinions of the Initiative. "I thought this was a call to a very deep conversation," he said.

Larimore himself is also a member of the influential Initiative Steering Committee which will recommend changes on how to implement social changes to the Board of Trustees.

Even though he has officially been dean for only about a month, the College community got to better know Larimore through a series of interviews with The Dartmouth. The new dean also visited Hanover frequently since the announcement of his selection last spring -- time spent meeting with administrators at the College and mingling with students at various events.

Regarding the Initiative -- which came as a surprise to most members of the Dartmouth community including faculty and staff -- Larimore said he was not shocked by the content and message of the plan, but did not know the specifics when he was hired.

"When I spoke with [College President James] Wright back during the Fall term it was pretty clear to me that he was a president who was concerned with students' residential experience on campus," Larimore told The Dartmouth in May. "At that point I had a sense that was an issue he cared a lot about, but I hadn't met any of the Trustees at that point and I didn't know how they'd approach it. The timing and the process was a bit of a surprise."

He said the financial commitment the Trustees pledged along with the reforms will make his job easier in a monetary sense.

In an interview the day his selection was announced, Larimore spoke candidly about alcohol and the College -- a subject of one of the Initiative's Five Principles for reform. He acknowledged that "alcohol policies have been a problem on campuses across the country" but added he does not want to be "an alcohol cop."

"We must acknowledge that Dartmouth is not a sanctuary from the law, but our primary response should always be guided by our mission as an education institution," Larimore said.

He also stressed the importance of getting to know the Dartmouth culture before making important decisions.

A heated debate erupted on campus last year around the issue of locking exterior residence hall doorways. The decision was delayed and the issue now falls in Larimore's lap.

The dean said he wants to take time before reaching a decision on the unpopular locks. "It has a very big symbolic meaning for people in the Dartmouth community and I just want to understand that better," Larimore said.

He will get to know Dartmouth inside and out along with the Class of 2003 this fall, which will be the first class he will see matriculate to the College.

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