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Hanlon Confirms Dartmouth U. Talks

The Valley News ran two extended profiles of Phil Hanlon ‘77 today: Hangin’ With Phil: At Michigan, Dartmouth’s Next President Cuts a High-Impact, Low-Profile Figure on Campus and A Scholar and a Code-Breaker Who Is ‘Absolutely Devoted’ to Teaching. Both pieces were written by Jim Kenyon, who visited Ann Arbor to report on the story. (Note: you may access five stories per month on the VN before you must subscribe.) Among Phil’s comments was a confirmation that the Trustees are seriously contemplating changing the College’s name to Dartmouth University (news first revealed in this space almost three weeks ago):

An issue that Hanlon will likely have to address early on as president is whether the college should change its name to Dartmouth University.

“I understand that trustees have discussed it,” Hanlon said in an interview with the Valley News.

What does he stand on a potential name change?

“As an institution it already functions as a university, but I would like to understand all the viewpoints before offering an opinion,” he said. “I need to learn more about the issue.”

Hanlon recognizes some alumni will resist the change on the grounds that it could foreshadow a de-emphasizing of undergraduate education. “I’m a total believer in the liberal arts,” Hanlon said.

“It’s the right kind of education to develop leaders who are flexible and open thinkers.”

I was also flattered that Kenyon repeated an observation that I made to a Valley News reporter when Hanlon’s appointment was announced. Kenyon wrote today:

Dartmouth trustees would have been hard pressed to come up with a more unpretentious leader to replace the charismatic Jim Yong Kim, who resigned last year to become head of the World Bank. In fact, the contrast between the two could hardly be sharper. It’s almost as if the trustees selected the anti-Kim. [Emphasis added]

Kenyon added a separate observation about the contrast between Hanlon and Kim:

But after going outside the Dartmouth family to hire Kim, who bolted after three years without the faculty shedding many tears, the college’s trustees might have figured that Hanlon was a safe pick.

The two stories were very positive in depicting Hanlon as a humble man (the anti-Kim, remember); a strong, hands-on manager; a devoted teacher, and a hard-working scholar. For example, he has cut costs with purpose:

Employees [at Michigan]… are picking up a much larger share of health care costs in recent years. Since 2003, their share has jumped from 5 percent to 30 percent.

Only a couple of red flags were raised in Kenyon’s reporting:

…the jury is still out on Hanlon in one area of his game: Is he capable of raising large sums of money, a necessity for any Ivy League president?

“I’m not sure he has the personality for it,” said [Don] Lewis [chairman of Michigan’s math department who recruited Hanlon to Ann Arbor in the early 1980s]…

“He comes down from the ivory tower and mingles with the regular people,” said Shahin, the Michigan Daily editor. “He will not say anything to embarrass the university, but he’s not going to inspire people to jump on grenades, either.”

I imagine that Phil understands that he cannot wow people with a slick speech. Let’s hope that he also comprehends the other side of that observation: that success will only come to him via real achievements.

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