It’s a longstanding Dartmouth Club of Greater Boston tradition that alumni give out Dartmouth t-shirts to newly admitted students in the area. Peter DeNatale ’74 has been giving out t-shirts to accepted students for over a decade, but in 2016, when he stopped by the home of Esther Oluokun ’20, things didn’t quite go as usual.
When Peter knocked on the future Dartmouth student’s door, Esther’s father answered, but unfortunately, she had just left to get to her part-time job at H&M. Not to be deterred, Esther’s mother suggested that Peter and the whole family surprise Esther at her job. As Peter tells the story, “Our plan was for me to walk in with Hannah, Esther’s four-year-old sister, and find the store manager to tell her that I found this little girl wandering lost in the mall. When I told this to the manager, she was obviously very concerned and went off to find Esther immediately. When they returned, Esther looked both confused and relieved that her sister had been found. At that point, Hannah held up the Dartmouth t-shirt and we yelled ‘Surprise!,’ at which point Esther recognized that I was wearing a Dartmouth cap.”
Esther was certainly surprised, and says she’ll never forget the confusion she felt initially. But, “I love surprises,” she says, “and it’s little things like this that make Dartmouth unique. The effort and love that the alumni and current students put into welcoming new students is through the roof—I know of no other school that does the same. After Mr. DeNatale dropped off the shirt, I loved being able to wear it to school and brag to my friends about how an alumnus took time out of his busy day to surprise me.”
The admissions process has changed quite a lot since Peter was accepted to Dartmouth in 1970.
“When I was admitted there was no internet, so accepted students found out their admissions status by good old-fashioned U.S. mail. However, the word was that if you were denied you simply received a short letter in a business envelope, but if you were accepted you received a large envelope with a whole lot more information” he says. “When I received a ‘big’ envelope I was pretty sure that I had been accepted; I read the letter which started with something like ‘The Admissions Office is pleased,’ and I didn’t read any further, figuring that if they were pleased – then I was pleased.”
However, the emotions that come along with an acceptance to Dartmouth never change. “My acceptance made me feel so blessed,” says Esther. “I felt elated that I had made the important people in my life proud and felt proud of myself for proving I could do it.”
After graduation, Esther intends to follow in Peter’s footsteps and help welcome new students. “It’s one thing to be accepted into a school by admissions,” she says, “but it’s a whole new feeling when those who go to Dartmouth or have attended, show that they want you at their school as well.” It’s connections like this that help make Dartmouth such a special place. “I believe that Dartmouth alumni are among the most connected of any group from any college or university,” Peter says. “When my oldest son was admitted to Harvard, our Harvard friends were happy, but when my daughter, Lauren ’09, was admitted, my Dartmouth friends were head-over-heels ecstatic. Whenever I show up with a t-shirt I can tell that accepted students are stunned that we would take the time to make these deliveries, so it’s an opportunity to reinforce the life-long connectedness of alumni.”
Each year, alumni connect with newly admitted students across the country at dozens of Admitted Student Events.