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Nelson Wormwood, Campus Policeman

Fred Berthold.jpgThe staff at the College’s Rauner Special Collections Library does a good job recording alumni memories of the old Dartmouth (do you think that they are archiving Dartblog?) for Rauner’s Oral History Project. A professor sent me a charming interview with the Reverend Doctor Fred Berthold ‘45 conducted by Mary Stelle Donin.

Berthold, who was hired at the College in 1949 as an instructor in philosophy, later joined the Department of Religion, where he became a full professor in 1956. In 1957 he was named the first dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation. In his reminiscences about the College of yore, Berthold recounted the following anecdote:

Nelson Wormwood Comp.jpg

Nelson Wormwood Portrait1.jpgNelson Wormwood! (At right.) Sounds like a character out of Harry Potter. But I bet that he did a good job keeping undergraduates on the straight and narrow.

What a contrast with today’s College. Though we have slightly more than twice the number of students on campus today as compared to Berthold’s time in Hanover, there are thirty-seven times as many campus policemen. That’s the number in the 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, if you add up all of the different people working there:

Eighteen (18) Security Officers and Guards are trained to patrol the campus on foot, in vehicles and on bicycles, and are actively involved in the personal and physical security of the campus. Seven (7) Communication Officers provide continuous coverage of the Communications Center where they answer questions, provide information, and dispatch personnel to answer calls for service and to provide assistance in routine and emergency situations. Assisting the Director in administering all of the responsibilities of the department is an Associate Director; nine (9) supervisory personnel, which include three (3) full-time investigators all of whom are trained to conduct investigations into sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and bias incidents; and one administrative assistant.

We won’t even ask how much of the Safety & Security budget is devoted to diversity training.

In its 1977 edition, the Alumni Magazine reviewed the growth of the College’s Safety and Security force (note: this data contradicts the notion that Wormwood was a one-man show; but he was certainly the sharp end of the spear):

1769-1920: no campus police
1920-or-so-1931: George “Bud” Spray
1931-1947: Spray and Nelson Wormwood
1947-1949: Wormwood and Theodore Gaudreau
1949-1963: Gaudreau, a lieutenant and two officers
1963-1964: John Carey, a lieutenant and two officers
1964-1975: John O’Connor, a lieutenant and two officers, and, I imagine, others
1976—1977: Robert McEwan, eight men in uniform and two female office staff

And so it goes.

Addendum: In his book Ten Years To Manhood, Clarke Church ‘50 recounts an anecdote about the “legendary” Nelson Wormwood:

Wormwood Clarke Church.jpg

Addendum: In another Oral History Project interview, Burton Elliott ‘48 recounts his own run-in with Nelson Wormwood:

Wormwood Burton Elliott Comp.jpg

“Topflight police work,” as Paul Newman said in Cool Hand Luke.


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