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The Genesis of the Tucker Foundation

Dickey1.jpgDartmouth’s President from 1945-1970, John Sloan Dickey, is best known on campus today for a phrase that I cannot bear to hear any longer, but the man had a great deal more to say than that. In light of the present controversy over the appointment of Bishop Tengatenga to head the Tucker Foundation, we would do well to recall the origins of that institution. As Dickey described in a lengthy article in the Atlantic Monthly in April 1955, he created Tucker to fill the lacunae left in college life by those things that had previously served what he called “the needs of conscience.” They were: “1) the tradition of preacher presidents, 2) a curriculum heavy with religion and moral doctrine, and 3) compulsory church and chapel.” He called these elements “constitutional,” and said that “their influence permeated all that these institutions were and did.”

With the evident passing of these features from Dartmouth (and virtually all other institutions), Dickey sought to create a new center for moral reflection:

Dickey Atlantic.jpg

In his article, Dickey further defined the broad role of the Tucker Dean:

Finally, here in the deanship of the Tucker Foundation is a position of both scope and prestige which, while rooted in the religious spirit, could open to its occupant the kind of intimate but wide-ranging relationship to the campus that our highly departmentalized colleges so badly need.

Given Bishop Tengatenga’s problematic past remarks concerning homosexuality, it is hardly clear that he can meet the test of “wide-ranging relationships.”

The current dispute over Tengatenga has also led to some discussion over whether the Tucker Dean can properly be called Dartmouth’s “moral spokesperson.” I don’t think that John Sloan Dickey would have chosen this term. I used the phrase “conscience of the College” in a recent post, and I like to think that I wrote it from some vestigial memory of the words of one of Dartmouth’s great Presidents.

Addendum: Dickey’s entire Atlantic Monthly piece bears reading for its forceful, yet graceful style.


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