There Is No Parting

by Henry Nachman | 6/10/01 5:00am

At Commencement in June of 1951, College President John Sloan Dickey told the senior class, "Your Dartmouth experiences are only beginnings, but never doubt it, they are the beginnings of a good man and a worthy life. From here on, the size of that man and the worth of that life are yours for the fashioning."

And so we left the Hanover Plain to journey to the four corners of the globe and make our mark. Now, 50 years later, we return to a Dartmouth that is different, yet in so many ways the same. Physically there are so many changes -- Hopkins Center, Hood Museum, Leede Arena, Berry Library, Moore psychology building, Burke Chemistry Lab, the Dartmouth Skiway. The student body is larger by about 1000 undergraduates and half of them are female. And the student body is much more diverse, with approximately 25 percent belonging to minority groups.

But as much as things change, so much more remains the same.

Over-arching the campus is the great love of "place," which makes Dartmouth what it was and what it is. There are many things we may not recognize, yet there are so many that we will -- the Green, the Inn porch, Bartlett Tower, Lou's Restaurant.

Fifty years ago we came to a Dartmouth that was still emerging from World War II. While most of our freshmen classmates were not veterans, there were many upperclassmen who were, resulting in a different kind of diversity than exists today.

The faculty, then as now, labored at being great teachers. Each of us had favorites who made a great impact, who truly taught us how to "think." Most of our professors lived in Hanover and we often were able to get to know them socially over drinks and dinner, as well as in the classroom. Today that seems to occur less frequently, as high housing costs lead most of the faculty to reside outside Hanover.

When we were seniors, the compulsory Great Issues course introduced us to the arena of public affairs and exposed us to the great minds, to the movers and shakers of the era. I really looked forward to the Monday evening lectures and Tuesday morning discussions, often enriched by the participation of President Dickey. It was an extraordinary experience that ushered us from academia toward life in the real world.

As Dartmouth was all male in those days, our social life turned about incessant road trips to women's colleges and our big party weekends such as Green Key and Winter Carnival. Without women on the campus, you either took to the road on the weekend or imported your date -- unless you were lucky enough to date one of the student nurses at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital.

Now, a half-century later, we return to a Dartmouth that is still "miraculously builded in our hearts." We treasure the memories, yet most of us agree that the profound changes have been necessary for the College to grow and thrive. Dartmouth seems to have gotten the formula correct -- sufficient change to have made the College even greater while preserving the traditions which are the glue that holds us all together.

The words John Dickey always used to close his commencement farewells are as meaningful today as they were when we matriculated: "And now the word is 'so long,' because in the Dartmouth fellowship there is no parting."