Official naming event honors Geisel family

by James Peng | 5/20/12 10:00pm

Standing beside a six-foot-tall ice statue of the Cat in the Hat, College President Jim Yong Kim announced the official name change of Dartmouth Medical School to the Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine on Friday afternoon.

The medical school was renamed for Theodor Geisel '25, better known as world-famous children's book author and illustrator Dr. Seuss and his wife Audrey Geisel on April 4.

The change honors the Geisel family now the largest donor to Dartmouth in the College's history for its continued financial support, according to a College press release.

Audrey Geisel, who is now 90 years old, was not present at the ceremony, but the speeches were recorded and streamed to her home in La Jolla, Calif.

During the event, Kim said that the relationship between the Geisel family and Dartmouth has grown and strengthened over the past few years.

"Today, our institution is proud and invigorated to bear the Geisel name," he said. "I know everyone associated with the Geisel School of Medicine will carry that name and everything it stands for with honor into the world."

Theodor and Audrey Geisel's creative and philanthropic work during their lives can serve as examples for medical school students, Kim said.

"Ted's work is rooted in the creativity, empathy and desire to think differently that the students, faculty and alumni at the Geisel School of Medicine must draw on to pursue their mission," he said.

Kim also said that Audrey Geisel, who worked as a nurse, can act as a role model through her dedication to health care and philanthropy.

"You serve, Audrey, as a timeless example of our future physicians through your lifetime commitment to making the world's troubles your own troubles," Kim said.

Donald Pease, the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, provided several anecdotes of Geisel's experience at the College and said Dartmouth provided him the foundation for the success he achieved in his later career.

"The intimate bonds of fellowship he cultivated with Dartmouth classmates supplied him the emotional resources of security, support and acknowledgement," Pease said.

Pease dismissed others' attempts to insult the medical school's new name.

"We have all been exposed to some of the ridiculous Seussisms across blogs and webpages as a consequence of the naming of the Geisel School of Medicine," he said. "What we should all know is that Ted Geisel would have enjoyed the efforts and outdone all of them."

Geisel represents the link between Dartmouth's undergraduate college and its school of medicine, Pease said.

The name change and support of the Geisel family will increase students' ability to improve the lives of others, according to Geisel School Dean Wiley Souba.

"Thanks to the Geisels, we will truly be able to create a future that is bigger than we are, a kind of future that this kind of generosity truly makes possible for each and every one of us," Souba said in his remarks.

Ashley Pinchinat Med '14 said she enjoyed hearing about the personal life of Theodor Geisel, which gave her greater appreciation for the Geisel family's philanthropy to the school.

"We're all grateful that Audrey was able to donate so much to the school," Pinchinat said.

Leo Gribelyuk Tu '13 Med '11 said he considers himself "a big fan" of the name change and the recognition that the medical school has received.

Other medical school students expressed ambivalence about the name change.

Geisel School student Matt Mackey '08 said that although the change will not have a significant impact on the school, it gives others opportunities to make jokes about the name.

"I've had occasion to be introduced in a good-natured fashion by a preceptor of mine as a student of the Dr. Seuss School of Medicine,' which, you know, is kind of cute and funny but doesn't really carry much of a professional cachet," he said in an email to The Dartmouth.

One female Geisel School student, who wished to remain anonymous because of her status as a student at the school, said others ridiculed the name while she was completing clinical rotations at an outside hospital.

"One guy said that we are going to become the laughing stock of medical schools," she said. "Dr. Seuss Med School who's going to take that seriously?"

She said that the new name, however, provides the school a sense of personality.

"It doesn't make us sound as snooty as Harvard and Yale people," she said.

Benjamin Brainard Med '96, who was present at the ceremony, said he supports the name change and the tribute that has been paid to Geisel.

"I think it's great to finally have something at Dartmouth named after Dr. Seuss," Brainard said. "After all, he is really our most famous alumnus."

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