Dartmouth College

An academic jewel.

Dating from 1769 Dartmouth educates 4,300 undergraduates as well as 2,100 post-graduates but eccentrically prefers to stick with the ‘College’ designation rather than calling itself the full fledged university it in fact is.

The school prides itself on sending a high percentage of undergraduates abroad during their four year stay and has a large selection of clubs and societies. After several unsavory hazing incidents in recent years, not helped by the fact that the Animal House movie was based on one of the fraternities, it is now working hard to restore the pristine image it once enjoyed. Movie or not, it remains one of America’s greatest schools.

The setting is on the Connecticut River just across the Vermont border in New Hampshire, adjacent to the small college town of Hanover with a selection of decent eateries. Presumably the Hanover name dates from the family of George III who was the ruler of America at the time of Dartmouth’s foundation, and the school’s charter is signed in his name.

My son and I opted for the guided tour as there is so much to see.

Dartmouth Hall seen across the large quad.

The Collis Center is the main student center.

The original Dartmouth Hall burned down in 1904. Reconstructed, it houses the Departments of French and Italian Languages and Literatures, German Studies, Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literature.

Sanborn House houses the English Department which includes this lovely library.

Hopkins Center for the Creative and Performing Arts shares its design with Lincoln Center, and the same architect!

Maintenance is constant. In fact, Dartmouth would do well to spend some more of its endowment on upgrades to many of its buildings which are really showing their age.

The Rollins Chapel is non-denominational.

Our small tour group was shown around by an effervescent sophomore named Emma, from Palo Alto, who is clearly much taken with the College and its academic and extra-curricular variety.

Student housing buildings are distinguished by the Dartmouth Green shutters.

Look carefully and you will agree that the Administration is behind the curve in maintenance work.

The Rauner Special Collections Library contains many priceless originals, all readily available for handling without gloves (!). Three of the four volumes of Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’ are on display, a gift of alumnus Daniel Webster.

Dartmouth has a long and distinguished alumni roster which includes Dr. Seuss, Nelson Rockefeller, Daniel Webster, Meryl Streep, Robert Frost, Timothy Geithner, Robert Reich, Jeffrey Immelt and Salmon Chase, in addition to scores of senators and congressmen. The no less distinguished Amos Tuck School of Business can lay claim to the highest percentage of graduate donors at 66%.

Union College

A lovely, compact campus.

Established in 1795, Union College in Schenectady, New York, is home to 2,250 undergraduates and is set in 120 acres, 8 of which are formal gardens. Exquisitely maintained, the campus is a delight to walk around and while there is a variety of architectural styles, the integration of old and new is handled with exceptional skill. Nothing is out of place.

The Memorial Chapel.

Beautifully understated, as is all of the campus. There is no grandstanding here.

The Nott Memorial is a National Landmark and the center of the campus. The lower level is a performing arts facility, the middle an art gallery and the upper a serene study place.

The Nott Memorial

The lower level, for the performing arts.

Winston contemplates a magnificent Audubon print from the College’s extensive collection. This is on the center level of the Nott Memorial building.

The Reamer Campus Center, dining hall and meeting place.

Another view of the Nott.

The F.W. Olin Center houses the College’s observatory.

Disparate architectural styles are beautifully integrated.

Chester A. Arthur, 21st US President and an alumnus, is memorialized here.

Student housing.

We came away delighted with the low key presentation and excellent taste of Union College, whose alumni include William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State/War, Jimmy Carter, George Westinghouse and the aforementioned Chester A. Arthur.

Williams College

Liberal arts eduaction at its best.

Nestled in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, Williams College is renowned for its outstanding academic standards. My niece graduated hence in the mid-1980s, proceeding on to the National Institutes of Health where brains were her specialty. Certainly, there’s no shortage of brain matter at Williams which dates from 1793 and numbers some 2,200 students.

There is no central quad; rather, the 100 or so buildings are dotted around central Williamstown either side of Main Street and anchored by the Memorial Chapel, with its splendid architecture and magnificent stained glass:

Lawrence Hall houses the College’s art collection, which includes a superb Edward Hopper from 1944. The eyeballs outside are by Louise Bourgeois:

My son poses with the Bourgeois piece; no arguing with his expression.

The charming receptionist was a fount of knowledge.

Architecture reflects many periods, from the old ….

Upperclass housing on campus.

…. through the contemporary:

Magnificent use of line and light in the Green building.

Inspirational messages abound:

And, finally, this is graduation day. New graduates celebrate with a fist pump:

Alumni include President James A. Garfield, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Depression era photographer Walker Evans, actor David Strathairn, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and movie director John Frankenheimer.

Frank Shorter

A great athlete.

Frank Shorter, a graduate of the class of ’65 at my son’s prep school, returned today after 52 years to give the commencement speech to the class of ’17. My son and I were there; he returns as a sophomore in the fall. It is no exaggeration to say that Shorter put distance running on the American map, for until he came along only professional masochists ran marathons. By contrast, it’s now hard to find someone who has not run a marathon or two.

During his introduction, the Dean of the School stated that Frank was a two times Olympic gold medalist in the marathon. In fact, the Dean’s math was correct, for Shorter won the gold in 1972 and the silver in 1976. Eh? Well, after the Berlin Wall fell the East Germans tried to burn all the evidence of their crimes but a surviving copy of the records detailed the doping by their ‘athletes’ and, yes, the ‘winner’ in 1976 was #62 on the list of the 100 plus athletes whose performance was attributable to big pharma. So Frank has two golds. In his typically self-effacing way, he has not pursued the upgrade of his 1976 silver meal, the gold being rightfully his, preferring to focus his energies on fighting doping in sports.

His inspiring speech focused on what he terms ‘compartmentalization’, the ability to focus on the task at hand, filtering out extraneous distractions. A wonderful skill for any student to cultivate. In 1972 he ran the marathon just days after terrorists had slain most of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich and this mental skill empowered him to set aside the horror and focus on the task at hand. But this very same skill was fundamental to the fact that he ever became a runner in the first place, for running was his escape from a brute father who would come home daily and beat him up, when not beating up one of his many siblings. Running was his escape from this monster, and escape he did.

The Commencement Address.

With Dean Peter Fayroian at his right.

What could be better than Graduation Day on a perfect New England afternoon? My son’s old freshman dorm is center right in the background.

After ceremonies were concluded, new graduates were to be found lighting celebratory cigars – now no longer forbidden them! – on the grounds and Winston and I set about cornering the great man so that we might ask him to dedicate his biography to a budding cross-country runner, a request Frank Shorter graciously acceded to.

Winston with the inscribed biography.

The dedication.

We asked to shake this great American’s hand and now will not wash ours for a week!

You can find Frank Shorter’s biography here and it is highly recommended.

Panny GX7 at ISO 1600, 45-200mm zoom and 14-45mm kit zoom (last two images).