The legacies we leave
Prospective Dartmouth students and parents arrive wide-eyed at the College after traveling far from their homes to reach the quaint town of Hanover, New Hampshire. These visitors who come to the school may make a stop inside Rauner Special Collections Library, where guides offer information about the magnitude and breadth of the library’s collections. Visitors can interact with the collection and learn about the artifacts, which range from Daniel Webster’s hat to historic documents like “The Godfather” author Mario Puzo’s papers.
From cuneiform tablets to Shakespeare’s first folio to the original copy of the Book of Mormon, there are so many items that one could ask for and touch with bare hands. Although I cannot argue that looking and touching the ornate lapis lazuli and gold decorations on a Book of Hours from the 1440s is not an astounding experience, it cannot compare to the experience of reading the stories of Dartmouth alumni. Well-known or not, if you are a student reading this article, you will leave your legacy at Dartmouth through a manila folder at Rauner that will become available after your death. The folder will include details that the College’s alumni center has tracked about you since you have graduated, and your children or perhaps your grandchildren will send more materials to the school so that your file can grow thicker.
The first folder that I encountered was that of Howard B. Lines of the Class of 1912. The first time I encountered Lines’s story was when I, along with the other tour guides-in-training, gathered around a large green scrapbook titled, “Memorabilia from College Days,” with the name Howard Burchard Lines engraved at the bottom right hand corner. The head of special collections, Jay Satterfield, opened the memorabilia to a page and asked us to pay attention to a telegram that Lines’s family had sent him a few days prior to attending his commencement on June 26, 1912. “The Western Union Telegraph Company” was written in bold letters at the center, and in purple ink were the words “Received at 56 NY R& 4 via Halifax, S S Carpathia 17, Lnes: Safe on board Capathia.” Looking up at us, Jay asked, “Does anyone know what the Carpathia is?” I can easily say that all of us trembled after hearing the answer — the RMS Carpathia was the vessel that rescued the survivors of the RMS Titanic. The mere chance of an alum and his family being involved in one of the most historically dramatized events was astounding.
Chance was the reason that he suddenly became cross-listed with a historical event, but other than that, Lines was just another student at the school. He was a brother of the now-defunct Delta Kappa Epsilon, which he called “the best of all!” He attended the football games against Harvard, Williams and other peer institutions, and he kept the scorecards in his memorabilia. He took his Math I exam, and was elated to “pass with 70!!!” He donated 25 dollars to the building of the Alumni Gymnasium so that he could say that he funded its construction. He considered the College’s book of “Regulations of the Faculty” the most important book on campus, and he got a note from the College stating that he was charged three dollars for a broken window in 11 Richardson Hall, his room during sophomore year.
However, chance was not the reason why he would become actively involved in another historical event. As a born-and-raised Frenchman until his matriculation at Dartmouth, Lines enlisted for the army during World War I. Caught in a deadly war, the Dartmouth and Harvard Law graduate died from pneumonia on Dec. 23, 1916 near Verdun; he had been in the service of the American Ambulance Corps.
Why is Lines’s story so important in the first place? The easiest explanation is what it represents. Standing in line at Novack Cafe or studying on the third floor Berry Library, it is so easy to hear the words, “I am so jaded” or “I want to go home,” and I am not denying that I have been the one saying these very words. As an American student whose family is living abroad, much like Lines, I often am homesick and I forget about the powerful and enriching experiences that Dartmouth provides. Whether it be Lines, who lost his life during World War I, or Richard Joseph ’65, a student from Trinidad who invited Malcolm X to campus his senior year and attended the Selma-to-Montgomery March, or Edward “Terry” Shumaker III ’70, who spent his time at the school volunteering for Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 Democratic primary campaign, all of them started off as students standing in the Green who celebrated Homecoming and Winter Carnival just as we do today.
Rauner, underneath its bright white interior, collects the stories of alumni whose names are both extremely well-known and those who are less so. Nonetheless, each contains a story of a remarkable life, and it is my hope that I remind you, the reader, to feel empowered by all the things that former students have done during and after their time at the College. Perhaps, as we are approaching the end of spring term, it is the most apt time for students to reflect and consider the legacy they want to leave at Dartmouth. What do you hope to have in your own yellow cabinet file at Rauner?