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The Human Touch

I am not the only alumnus who can’t abide Phil’s inability to celebrate the achievements great and small of students. It is, sir, as I have said, a small College, so there is no reason to miss out on those person-to-person moments that mean a great deal to undergraduates and to the community (I’m thinking of Abbey and Kyle here).

On that theme, an alumnus has written in to comment on a brief note that he received from President John Sloan Dickey (President of the College from 1945-1970) after his last game as a senior on the football team. (I have brushed out his name in the salutation.) That my correspondent has kept the note lo these many years speaks to the impact that a President can have on students:

JSD Note Comp1.jpg

He reports:

At the end of fall term my senior year, after having played football at D for four seasons, I found the attached, hand-written personal note from President Dickey in my Hinman Box. I was both stunned and elated. What better example of why my decision to attend Dartmouth over Harvard was a wise one. Can you imagine this busy man taking the time to do something like this?

And I am sure the gesture was not singular. There were 15-odd other seniors who, no doubt, also received such a missive. And who knows what other sports team members as well? And note his comment about watching us at practice. Off and on someone would say from the practice field: Look up! There’s JSD on the hill. And sure enough, there he was taking a few moments out of his day to give us his moral support.

I have kept it all these years because of how very special this personal note is to me. And it was not dictated and typed by his staff for his signature, but hand written (with the informality of a red ballpoint no less) in Dickey’s distinctive style (as reflected on our diplomas).

Perhaps at big research universities the President is a distant and august figure, but that state of affairs should not be the case at Dartmouth.

Addendum: An alumnus from the same era writes in:

And I, as one of the student managers of the football team, can attest to Dickey’s attendance at practice on Chase Field. Frequently he would walk there with his dog, chat with those of us who could take a minute to visit, and then move on to his next stop. As I get older, it becomes a more special time on which to dwell. One of those that wets the eyes with the memory, even though as senior manager I don’t recall getting such a note, which is OK. I just enjoyed my visits with him.


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