Wright announces 46% endowment return

by Jen Taylor | 10/17/00 5:00am

College President James Wright announced at a faculty meeting yesterday a near-50 percent increase in the school's endowment -- and then outlined a litany of new buildings, projects and programs he hopes to see created on the foundation of that greater financial security.

The most noteworthy aspect of the oral report was the growth of the endowment which Wright called "phenomenal."

With the bull market economy, the endowment returns last year soared to 46.6 percent, sending the endowment up to $2.4 billion at the end of the academic year in August with an additional increase to $2.5 billion as of the end of last month.

Harvard University, albeit with a much larger endowment, reported only an 11.8 percent return rate for their 1999 fiscal year.

Another major announcement was the College's decision to place major structural changes to the D-Plan on the back burner.

According to Wright, the cost of eliminating the summer residence term, the most integral part of the unique calendar, would be approximately $33 million total, without an increase in the student body size. One million dollars would be required for operational costs, the remainder is the projected amount needed to accommodate the increased number of students who would be in residence during the other three academic terms.

Although Wright noted that the $33 million was "not sufficient enough for us to back away from doing what is necessary, it is not a priority at this time."

Instead, Wright encouraged the faculty and administrators to work together to improve continuity and enhance the academic opportunities available during Summer term.

Discussion of the Initiative was something that was largely absent from the annual report in Alumni Hall.

Wright only touched on a few of the Initiative topics, although he noted with emphasis that the College was moving forward "aggressively" in this area.

Wright did note that the College will be looking into steps to improve its advising programs -- not only for first-year students, but also for majors, pre-majors, fellowships and graduate students, in addition to counseling programs.

One of Wright's major themes was the College's current financial stability. The College president even went so far as to say that the strength of the school fiscally is possibly the most extraordinary of the 31 years he has been at the College, if not in its entire long history.

He announced that the next long-expected capital campaign will begin as early as next term.

"We need to secure this position, and to do so we must build aggressively but with a sense of purpose as well as a recognition of our limits," Wright said, emphasizing the construction theme that characterized much of the report.

Wright also included the laundry list of current physical plant projects that are underway like the Tuck School Whittemore Hall building, scheduled to be dedicated in December, and the ribbon cutting ceremonies of Berry Library, McCulloch Residence Hall, the new Scully-Fahey and Blackman fields, Gordon Pavillion and Boss Tennis Center.

"We are also moving forward with our planning for future facilities ... I attach a high priority to moving ahead aggressively in planning and developing a significant new space for the arts and a major and substantial new building for the life sciences," Wright said.

Although all this groundbreaking may be a cause for alarm for those already complaining about the College's current construction, Wright asserted that the proposed facilities were necessary.

"Bricks and mortar are essential," he said, drawing on the imagery afforded by the College's numerous classical structures. "Dartmouth has delayed too long in meeting some real needs ... We are now addressing some of the programmatic and capital needs that should have been dealt with 25 years ago, when we did not then have the resources to think about doing so."

Wright also shared his vision of Dartmouth. He said it should be possible for any student who wants to live on campus to do so. In addition, it is important for the College to draw faculty back to the College community with faculty housing in closer proximity to the campus.

The College has considered what will become of the large portion of downtown Hanover it purchased from the Hanover Investment Company last year. According to Wright, the College does not want to extend campus proper or create an institutional feel to the area which houses approximately 100 students and many downtown shops.

Instead it hoped to preserve the "whimsical" feel of a New England town working with architect William Rawn, who has designed the faculty housing on Grasse Road and major Philips Exeter projects.

With so many projects on the slate, Wright said for the short term it will be important to prioritize initiatives and develop financial plans. The academic plan and priorities will be discussed on November 11 when they are presented to the Board of Trustees at their fall meeting.

When Wright took office he said he discussed with the Board the importance of having discretionary money for short term spending.

Over the next five years Wright said he will spend $6 million of this discretionary funding on several projects including interdisciplinary endeavors, five additional senior faculty grants, the expansion of opportunities in the arts available during the summer, academic computing and innovative teaching, the creation of a writer-in-residence program, increased summer research options for students to enhance their preparation for competitive scholarships.

The faculty also awarded retiring College Librarian Margaret Otto a standing ovation at her final faculty meeting.

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