Along for the Ride: For One Weekend, Families Attend Dartmouth Too
Family Weekend presents an opportunity to reconnect and reflect.
This weekend, as the leaves started to shift into brilliant reds and oranges, thousands of parents and loved ones descended on Hanover to reunite with family members from the Classes of 2023 and 2026. We connected with a few of the visiting parents to gauge the important — and sometimes invisible — role parents play in our college community.
One highlight was Saturday’s “Family Weekend Cookout,” where parents, siblings and students gathered to enjoy an afternoon of conversation and connection under the cooling shade of the billowing tent spread over the Lord Hall lawn.
Amid the buzz of chatter, we wound our way through the clusters of tables to find families that would be willing to share their takeaways from the weekend. We quickly realized that the families of our peers are equally — if not more — passionate about voicing their Dartmouth opinions than their students.
Jim and Emily Miller, parents of Eliza Miller ’26, are newer members of the Dartmouth community, excited to get a peek at the staples of campus life.
While the cookout was the Millers’ first Family Weekend event, Emily added that they were looking forward to attending the a cappella showcase later in the day.
Many other parents’ comments fell into the same category: enthusiastic, appreciative and pleased with any event that allowed them to spend time with their kids. The jury is still out on whether siblings felt the same.
It seemed as though the positive remarks on the cookout stemmed more from the excitement of spending time with loved ones than the meal itself. Above all, many of the families we spoke to voiced their overwhelming support for the Family Weekend’s new timing during the fall, as opposed to spring term events held pre-pandemic.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Miller said. “After the dust has settled, everyone can get a chance to check in. I really prefer the idea of [Family Weekend] in the fall over the spring.”
Many parents of ’23s were participating in their first ever Family Weekend at the College, having had previously scheduled events disrupted by COVID-19 for several years in a row. Bret Frietag, father of Josh Frietag ’23, humorously described Family Weekend as a chance to evaluate his “return on investment” a few weeks into the term, and he stressed the importance of “getting an early glimpse” into his son’s fall experience.
Jane Hutchinson, mother of Sarah Hutchinson ’22, reflected on the joys of spending time with Sarah’s friends during her visits to Hanover. Jane said that the tight-knit community at Dartmouth is apparent in students’ years-long friendships, and she spent Friday night at a Moosilauke Lodge dinner with Sarah and her best friend, “build[ing] a community around the dinner table that [she’ll] remember for a long time.”
Beyond the obvious goal of intentional time for parents to see their ever-busy students, the weekend gave parents a chance to do a “temperature check,” as Paul Griffith, father of PJ Griffith ’26, said.
It was also a unique opportunity for parents to reflect on how things have changed for their students since this time last year, and over years prior. Freitag’s observations ranged from noticing his son being “much more responsible” at the start of his third year as an UGA to Josh’s formation of “stronger friendships here than he ever had before.”
Hutchinson shared the wistful realization that weekends like this are a glimpse into a daughter’s life that is “increasingly separate from [her] own.” Along with the moments of connection and excitement, subtle reminders of the distance created by college — especially one as remote as Dartmouth — echoed throughout.
For Hutchinson, the sentimental side of Family Weekend rang especially true, as the parent of a student in her final year. Formal milestones like this weekend are a reminder that, though four years may seem like an abundance of time, family members watch them pass by at what sometimes feels like warp speed.