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A Full Dartmouth Life

The obituaries of Dartmouth alumni can cause one to pause with wonder. Could a life have been any more complete? George Munroe ‘43 passed away last week at the age of 92. Below is his NYT obituary as I have reordered it for clarity:

George Monroe.jpgAs a young man, Munroe was an outstanding basketball player on three Ivy League championship teams at Dartmouth and led Dartmouth to the national championship game of the N.C.A.A. tournament in 1942. That year, he led the Eastern Intercollegiate League in scoring and was named to several All-America Teams.

His service in the Navy during World War II included duty as a combat information center officer on the battleship Maryland in the Pacific. The Maryland took part in the invasion of Okinawa in 1945, where it survived damage from Kamikazi plane attacks.

Later, while attending Harvard Law School, he played in the professional league for the St. Louis Bombers and Boston Celtics. Munroe graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School with honors and from Oxford University in England where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Before joining Phelps Dodge, Munroe practiced law in New York as an associate with Cravath, Swain and Moore and Debevoise, Plimpton and McLean and worked in the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany in the early 1950’s, serving first in Bonn as a lawyer and later in Nuremberg as a justice of the U.S Court of Restitution Appeals of the Allied High Commission.

He led the copper mining and manufacturing company Phelps Dodge Corporation from 1969 to 1987 through a difficult period for the domestic copper mining industry, as it struggled to meet growing competition from abroad and new environmental requirements at home. Munroe continued to increase the company’s production as a new hydro-metallurgical process was developed to reduce the need for smelting in the production process and Phelps Dodge, which had been the third largest United States copper producer, emerged as the domestic industry leader and one of the largest producers in the world.

Munroe was a trustee of Dartmouth College for 14 years and the chairman of its board for three years. He was also a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, serving on several of it’s committees for 25 years, and chairing the Museum’s finance committee for 8 years. Other board memberships included the Henry Street Settlement, the YMCA of Greater New York and the Academy of Political Science, of which he was chairman for 10 years. He was a director of several major corporations, including the New York Life Insurance Company, the Manufacturers Hanover and Chemical banks, the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation, Manville Corporation and New York Times Company and was a Public Governor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Munroe is survived by his wife of more than 45 years, Elinor Bunin Munroe, an artist and award-wining film maker, and by two sons by a previous marriage, Ralph of Orange, Virginia and Taylor of Atenas, Costa Rica and a grandson, Zachary. Mr. Munroe decided not to have a funeral or memorial service. Contributions may be made to the George B. Munroe Scholarship Fund at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755 or to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10021 in lieu of flowers or condolences.

Don’t be too picky. Just because he had to go to Harvard Law, and not Yale, does not mean he wasn’t a helluva guy.

Addendum: While we are looking at great Dartmouth lives, MIT Professor John Waugh ‘49, who revolutionized the use of high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, passed away last week, too. The tools that were the results of his breakthroughs are used daily by scientists all over the world.

Waugh received an honorary doctorate from the College In 1989.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

De Mortuis nil nisi Bonum*, they say, but during Munroe’s tenure as Trustee two failed Dartmouth presidencies were launched, those of McLaughlin and Freedman. When Freedman got really out of control in his war against the Dartmouth Review, Munroe did nothing. The infamous, College-organized “Rally Against Hate,” in which Freedman tried to drive the Review out of existence, occurred when Munroe was Chairman of the Trustees.

I wrote Munroe at the time telling him I thought he should be ashamed of failing to sanction Freedman, and he responded with a furious letter of self-justification.

Like many other men who are capable and successful in their lives, Munroe made a poor Trustee. He failed to exercise the managerial oversight that is the responsibility of Trustees, and was an unconditional supporter of Freedman who should have been fired.

In the end Freedman paid the price of his demagoguery. I was told by a friend who was a senior officer of the Harvard Corporation that Freedman had been on the top three list of contenders for the Harvard presidency (to replace Derek Bok in 1991), which was his and his wife’s long-time ambition, but his handling of the Review caused him to be dropped from consideration. I think Freedman had actually believed that his efforts to crush the Review would endear him in Cambridge.

So let us honor the memory of George Munroe for a life well lived in other respects than his role as College Trustee and Board Chairman.

* “Of the dead, nothing unless good.”


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