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James Wright to Retire in June 2009

Dartmouth’s sixteenth president, James Wright, has just released a letter announcing his intention to resign his post at the commencement of the Class of 2009, in June of that year. Faculty were not informed in advance; Trustees were informed just hours in advance. Dr. Wright will step down roughly at the end of the present capital campaign, and perhaps near the tail end of litigation seeking to uphold the democratic nature of the governance of the College, which for half of Dr. Wright’s tenure resulted in the continuous election of activist trustees critical, in various ways, of the College’s executive leadership.

The search for a new president for Dartmouth College, one conducted exclusively by the Board of Trustees, is imminent—and promises to be the most public such search in Dartmouth’s 239-year history. In his letter to faculty and students, Wright writes that he intends not to be party to the search, although sources indicate that he has personal favorites for a succession, particularly current Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt, who like Wright when he assumed the presidency is a multidecadal Dartmouth veteran.

Wright was himself hired by the Board of Trustees as president after outgoing president James Freedman expressed his recommendation that Wright be placed into the job.

Provost Barry Scherr, who has been at the College for 34 years compared to Dr. Folt’s 25, may himself be close to retirement, and is not likely to be a Wright pick. It remains to be seen what influence Wright’s endorsement, if he offers one either publicly or privately, will have with the Board of Trustees.

Meanwhile, the democratic trustee election process that has resulted in four sitting reform trustees—a quarter of the Board—remains under consideration by a New Hampshire judge, and this week the Board of Trustees delayed, for a second time, its Board-packing plan, which was mounted five months ago to dilute the influence of elected trustees by expanding the Board with hand-selected trustees less apt to levy public criticism of executive performance. The presidential search begins under the shadow of these proceedings and the four years of student and alumni activism which precipitated them.

More anon, as usual.

Letter from James Wright to Dartmouth students and faculty.

February 4, 2008

Dear Friends,

I am writing to let you know that I have informed the Board of Trustees of my intention
to step down as President of Dartmouth in June of 2009, following commencement and
reunions. By that time, I will have been at Dartmouth for 40 years as both a faculty
member and administrator - having served as Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as
Provost, and, since 1998, as the 16th President of the College. It has been an extraordinary
experience that I shall always cherish, and a true privilege about which I feel a profound
sense of humility.

At this moment, I am filled with rich memories - memories jarred by the quick passage
of time and marked by the good fortune I feel. They are memories of the students in my
history classes with whom I have learned, the faculty colleagues who bring to this
College a remarkable commitment to teaching and research, the dedicated staff and
administrators who daily contribute to the strength of Dartmouth, alumni and alumnae
whose loyalty and support of our College are legendary, and this current generation of
students who daily energize me - and Dartmouth - anew. I am continually inspired by
memories of Presidents Dickey, Kemeny, McLaughlin, and Freedman. And, I am grateful
to the Trustees with whom I have served; they are remarkably generous and selfless
contributors to the work of the College.

But between now and June of 2009, I do not intend to dwell on memory - as enjoyable as
that is. There is still much to do. Over the next months I will work to achieve the goals of
the “Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience”; advance our pending capital projects;
grow our faculty and support their priorities; implement our Sophomore Summer
initiative; help Dean of the College Tom Crady and our students address the need for new
social spaces; help recruit the Classes of 2012 and 2013 - and position Dartmouth to
continue enrolling and educating the most talented students in higher education. Finally,
Susan and I hope always to maximize our time with current students, sharing in their
aspirations, being inspired by their accomplishments, and cheering their artistic and
athletic endeavors.

By June 2009, I believe we will have made substantial progress on many of the strategic
priorities I think most important for Dartmouth. And, as much as I enjoy serving
Dartmouth in my current role, I believe that every institution can benefit from periodic
new leadership and fresh ideas. I am announcing my decision now in order to provide the
Board with ample time to organize and pursue a search for my successor. I will not be
part of the search process but I stand ready to do whatever the Board requests to assist
with recruiting Dartmouth’s 17th President.

Beyond June 2009, I plan to spend much of my time continuing my work supporting
wounded veterans and encouraging returning servicemen and women, to whom I feel a
great sense of gratitude, to pursue higher education. I intend to reacquaint myself with the
study of history, and will take some time organizing my papers and archives as well as
pursuing some writing projects. Susan and I will also take the time to catch our breath,
enjoy some travel, and spend more than fleeting moments with our seven grandchildren.

For now, Susan is in the midst of an exciting schedule of visitors invited by the
Montgomery Endowment, which she directs, and is completing thirty years of service to
Dartmouth working with students and encouraging their dreams.

Of course during this time and forever more, Susan and I will do whatever we can to
advance the work of this College on the Hill. That is a story that has no end and a
commitment that has neither conditions nor boundaries.

Thanks to so many of you for your personal friendship, energy and encouragement. Over
the next 16 months and for the lifetime that will follow, Susan and I look forward to
continuing to work with you and expressing our appreciation for all that you do.


James Wright


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