Tucker tries to provide a conscience for the College

by Kathleen McDermott | 11/21/00 6:00am

Looking beyond the lecture seats of Dartmouth Hall, William Jewett Tucker, Dartmouth's ninth president, saw the aims of the College as more than merely intellectual.

"Do not expect that you will make any lasting or very strong impression on the world through intellectual power without the use of an equal amount of conscience or heart," he advised.

One hundred years later, his words still resound, where the small white building that houses the organization named in his honor -- The William Jewett Tucker Foundation -- sits nestled between Thayer Dining and South Massachusetts Halls, lit from dawn to dusk for students and staff running from project to meeting to activity, working to further the moral and spiritual development of the College with every step.

And while for many the Tucker Foundation conjures up images of reading to seven-year-olds or nailing roofing onto a Habitat house, Tucker encompasses a much broader mission, one involving the more than 20 campus religious groups, a College Chaplaincy, and an array of "Issues of Conscience" programs.

"Dartmouth should be holistic, providing opportunities not only for students to grow intellectually, but to get a handle on their world view, grappling with some of those deeper issues," said Nicole Leonard '88, who is overseeing religious and spiritual life on campus for Tucker on an interim basis.

Leonard oversees all campus religious groups, from Al-Nur, the Muslim Student Organization, to the Campus Crusade for Christ. Tucker is "the glue that keeps them all together," Leonard said.

"It's really easy for religion to just pass by in four years, and never really think about spiritual life," but "there's support out there, if you're looking for it," said Michael Chen '01, a member of the Navigators Christian Fellowship.

Supporting communities such as the Navigators and other Tucker-affiliated groups, the foundation has helped integrate faith with learning, Chen said.

Others point to the new Tucker dean, Stuart Lord, for a greater emphasis on spirituality at the organization.

"Dean Lord has helped students realize that spirituality is important," and that spirituality and the development of a person work together, according to Asian Christian Fellowship member Basil Kim '01.

Providing a "fellowship of brothers and sisters who believe in Christ," the Asian Christian Fellowship holds weekly prayer meetings, volunteers at the Haven homeless shelter and Grace Children's Home and holds many joint activities with other campus Asian organizations, Kim said.

Tucker also provides larger and more autonomous groups such as Hillel, the Jewish students' organization, with resources, leadership and connections, according to Nicole Leiser '02, former president of Hillel.

Hillel holds religious services Friday evenings and Saturday mornings and provides a wide array of social and academic programs.

"I'm pretty content with our relationship with Tucker right now," Leiser said, pointing only to larger structural factors of the College, such as the lack of kosher dining in dining halls, which make religious life harder.

In addition to supporting the many independent student groups, the Chaplaincy hosts speakers and provides religious counseling and pastoral care.

However, the foundation currently lacks a permanent, full-time College Chaplain, with former Chaplain Gwendolyn King's shoes being filled for the time being by Leonard. Lord is searching for a full-time chaplain for the future, Leonard said.

Looking toward more change in the future, Tucker will renovate Rollins Chapel, creating more space for campus religious groups. It hopes the renovations will help unify and strengthen religious life at the College, Leonard said.

The emphasis on spiritual and moral life has not declined or diminished during Tucker's nearly 50 years, Leonard said.

About one-fourth of all students attend some form of religious activity every week, Leonard said, a number she calls significant.

"There's always been a large population of religious students, and thus always a large population of campus ministers," needing the cohesion provided by Tucker, she said.

In addition to the strong web of support for religious groups, Tucker also serves as a resource for those acting on more abstract issues of conscience, such as human rights and environmental conservation.

Sarah Stokes '03 felt her own conscience pulling her towards Tucker. When the Tucker Foundation's Director of Fellowships and Internships Mary Comeau blitzed out about human rights violations, Stokes began to imagine herself in the victims' positions.

As a result, Stokes now spends Monday nights at the Tucker Foundation with 20 fellow Amnesty International members, waging letter-writing campaigns on behalf of those imprisoned unfairly for their beliefs.

Tucker funds the signs, stamps and envelopes that Amnesty needs to function, Stokes said.

Looking at issues closer to home, the Environmental Conservation Organization takes the "think globally, act locally" theme to dorms, working to reduce the College's environmental impact through recycling and education.

According to ECO coordinators Alice Hartley '00 and Lutricia Neuse-Braunlich '02, Dartmouth definitely has a "green streak in environmental consciousness."

The Tucker Foundation's support of the group -- through hiring student coordinators and providing funds and advising -- has helped make it possible, Hartley and Neuse-Braunlich said.