Trustee candidate: College should be 'absolute best'

by Jessica Spradling | 4/23/03 5:00am

Editor's Note: This is the first in a three part series that will profile the platforms of candidates for the College's Board of Trustees.

The future of the Greek system as we know it, the spending priorities that can determine the fate of our athletic teams and countless other decisions regarding the long-term direction of the College all rest in the hands of an elusive and notoriously tight-lipped group known as the Board of Trustees.

This year, Dartmouth alumni all across the globe have a chance to affect this mysterious group by electing an alumnus to the Board of Trustees to serve for at least the next five years. The Alumni Council has narrowed the selection to just three of Dartmouth's over 60,000 alumni, and the weeks-long election process will conclude on April 29.

The youngest of all of the candidates -- graduating during the same academic year in which most of the members of the Class of 2006 were born -- Richard Lewis '84 hopes to bring Dartmouth to the forefront of the international community.

In an interview with The Dartmouth, Lewis said that he feels that the College should choose two or three things to be the "absolute best at."

"Get the story out. The raw fundamentals are already very attractive," Lewis said.

"You can't be everything to everybody. We should remain one of the best liberal arts institutions, but I would like to see us become world-renowned for a few things," he said.

Being the very best at a few things, according to Lewis, would allow Dartmouth to maintain its "core ideals" of being a liberal arts College, but also give the College a few good selling points in the international community.

Lewis said he had "no preconceptions" of what these few things might be, but he felt that there were plenty of people on campus who did, and who the Trustees could get behind.

From his experience living in London, Lewis said he had learned a great deal about the international community and the outside world facing Dartmouth students upon graduation.

"Students need opportunities to understand what's going on around us. I never knew how little I knew about our country until I lived outside of it," Lewis said.

Lewis cited Dartmouth's foreign language programs and foreign study programs as being already-strong programs the College should capitalize on. Lewis himself participated in the Spanish department's Language Study Abroad to Puebla, Mexico, something he said was a "really eye-opening experience."

He has been able to maintain the Spanish skills he acquired at Dartmouth and now also speaks German, French and Italian.

"My feelings about frat/sorority life is that it should be able to meaningfully, peacefully and productively co-exist with all other parts of campus life," he said.

Lewis said he thought that the national stigma that the Greek scene at Dartmouth has is "unfortunate" and that much of it is not deserved. Lewis said he thinks that a large part of the stereotypes of Dartmouth's Greek life arose from a time when students were proud to boast about how brash their Greek system was, and that students tended to exaggerate the Greek life on campus.

He said he felt most of the bad reputation of the Greek system is derived from something that never really existed, though he did say that there were "a few things that happened that I don't believe have a place on any campus anywhere," and therefore he supported a set of "baseline rules."

"The things that are clearly bad should not be tolerated by any individual or any organization, but there are a lot of good things that come out of it," he said.

In face of the next round of budget cuts, Lewis hoped that the students and the College could look for "creative solutions" to budget cuts, such as the compromise the College made over the temporarily-axed swimming and diving programs.

Lewis felt that one of the priorities the College should maintain through hard economic times was building its population of international students. International students are often hardest-hit during economic slumps because they do not qualify for U.S. loans, and rely entirely on the College for financial support.

Lewis has built quite a resume within the international community in the two decades since he departed from sleepy Hanover, N.H. He is currently chief executive officer of Curzon Global Partners and board director of Curzon's European parent company, IXIS AEW Europe. In 18 years, Lewis has gone from brother at Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity to the London-based manager of more than 9.2 billion pounds in assets.

In addition to all of his corporate accomplishments, Lewis held positions on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of Boston, the I Have A Dream Foundation, the Hyams Foundation, the Judge Baker Children's Center, the International House of Blues Foundation and the Giving Back Fund.

Besides being a member of Chi Gam, while he was at Dartmouth, Lewis was a member of the Sphinx secret society and the varsity basketball team. He majored in economics and later attended Harvard Business School. As an alumnus, he has served as a fundraiser for the Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association.

Though he originally is from Massachusetts, he currently lives in London, England, and spends a large chunk of his summer in nearby Quechee, Vt. He is currently married to a professor at Cambridge University in England. He and his wife have one daughter, and are expecting another child in the next several weeks.