Victoria Blodgett remembered for her warmth, dedication to graduate student life

by Daniel Modesto | 11/17/20 2:00am

Source: Courtesy of Susan Overton

Victoria Blodgett, assistant dean of postdoctoral affairs at the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, was known for her warmth, humor and positivity. Blodgett died on Nov. 4 after a two-year battle with uterine cancer. She was 59.

“I've never seen anyone so able to engage so many different kinds of people and make them feel listened to and valued,” said Susan Overton, Blodgett’s partner of 31 years and a professor in the College’s women’s, gender and sexuality studies program.

Blodgett is survived by Overton, her three siblings Edward, Jean and William, eight nieces and nephews and others in her extended family.

Originally from Wilton, Connecticut, Blodgett received both her bachelor’s degree in American studies and master’s degree in education from Keene State College in New Hampshire. Prior to arriving at Dartmouth, she held administrative positions in residential life at her alma mater and in graduate student affairs at Cornell University, the University of Connecticut and Yale University.

Blodgett was hired in 2017 as Guarini’s assistant dean of postdoctoral affairs — a role created as part of an initiative by College President Phil Hanlon to provide more support for graduate and postdoctoral students at Dartmouth. 

Guarini dean Jon Kull said that Blodgett reinvigorated the Dartmouth College Postdoctoral Association, facilitating orientation events for new postdoctoral students, creating workshops for job advancement and organizing a day during which students can share their research with colleagues.

Kull said that Blodgett had an “ability to be empathetic and sympathetic to people,” which enabled her to help postdoctoral students effectively.

He remembered that when Blodgett first arrived at Dartmouth, one of the first things she did was meet with “pretty much everyone,” from members of human resources to the Provost’s office, including those from different departments and programs. 

“She was just a positive, no-nonsense, … smart, thoughtful person,” Kull said. “You couldn't ask for a better colleague to work with than Victoria.”

Overton remembered Blodgett’s “overwhelming spirit” and her capacity to always see the best in people.

"She always gave people the benefit of the doubt,” Overton said. “She was willing to lend most anybody a helping hand, whether that meant giving them money, or spending an hour talking with them when they were in crisis, or just laughing.”

Overton and Blodgett met at Keene State College — Overton interviewed for a job in the department of residential life, and Blodgett was the chair of the search committee. Overton said that she was most drawn to Blodgett's “very generous spirit” and described their three-decade relationship as one of the “greatest memories” of her life.

Writing professor and Guarini writing consultant Betsy Tremmel, who was friends with Blodgett and Overton, said that she and her husband, Italian professor Matteo Gilebbi, arrived at Dartmouth in fall of 2017, at the same time as Blodgett and Overton. She recalled Blodgett’s friendliness.

“She had an extreme warmth, she had a killer sense of humor and she had this ability to make you feel comfortable immediately,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have met her and Susan right when I first arrived at Dartmouth.”

Tremmel recalled one instance last January when a postdoctoral scholar came to her unsure of which job offers to consider. Tremmel knew exactly what to tell the student: “Go to Victoria’s office.” When the student arrived, Blodgett “dropped what she was doing” to help the student make the decision, Tremmel said.

“She’s the type of person who would ask people questions and really get to know them,” she said. “She helped and brightened a lot of people’s days.”

An avid golfer, Blodgett was also involved in a women’s golf league during her time at Cornell, and she served as a founding member of the Out Loud Chorus, a chorus for members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies in Ithaca, New York. 

Overton said Blodgett will be remembered at Dartmouth for “creating a community for postdocs” and making a positive impact during her short time at the College.

“Victoria had that personality that drew people to her, which allowed her to understand what community meant, and how that matters to people,” she said. 

Blodgett’s niece, Haley Bruns Tu’19, said that her aunt was “truly a special person.”

“When I think about our family reunions, like Thanksgiving and birthday celebrations, you could always tell what room Victoria was in because it was the one where everyone was laughing so hard,” Bruns said. “And so people would eventually make their way over to the room where Victoria was, because that was the room everyone wanted to be in.”

Bruns arrived at Dartmouth around the same time as Blodgett, and she said that their relationship quickly evolved from a typical niece-aunt relationship into one in which Bruns saw Blodgett as “one of [her] friends.” She said that during her time at the Tuck School of Business, she enjoyed spending time with Blodgett, Overton and their dogs.

“It felt like I was hanging out with friends,” Bruns said.  

Bruns said that her aunt was a “gift giver” whose role was to help others so they could help the world.

“It wasn't just Victoria being able to have a difference in the world,” she said. “Everyone Victoria knew could have a difference in the world. She did that just by getting to know everyone and taking the time to listen and understand everyone.”