• Information Booth

    Len Branch ’75. Photo by Corinne Arndt Girouard

    Put Down Your Smartphone: These Alumni Have the Answers You Seek

    Monday, August 24, 2015
    News Type

“Where is Admissions?”

“Where can I park?”

“Where can I get lunch?”

For the thousands of prospective students, tourists, and Appalachian Trail hikers who make their way through Hanover each summer, the small white information booth on the Green holds the answers to these questions and more.  A partnership between Dartmouth and the Hanover Chamber of Commerce, the booth opens the Friday before Commencement and remains in operation until move-in day in September. 

Even in the smartphone age, about 1,400 visitors each month rely on the information booth staff to give directions and provide the inside scoop on life in the Upper Valley.  A brain trust of local knowledge and obscure Dartmouth facts, staffers are ready with walking tours, maps, and suggestions for kids’ activities. Visitors to the booth can learn about hiking trails and eateries and study a list of “100 Things You Must Do in the Upper Valley,” which ranges from driving across the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge to eating soft-serve ice cream at Dairy Twirl in Lebanon.

This summer, six alumni and two students staff the booth. We caught up with three of the alumni to get their view of the Green, from the Green.

Mike and Betsy Gonnerman
Mike Gonnerman ’65 and Betsy Gonnerman. Photo by Steve Smith.

Michael Gonnerman ’65, and his wife Betsy Gonnerman

Major: Economics, with a minor in Spanish

Favorite Dartmouth experience: Studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain

Life on campus: “I had an active social life. I actually met my wife at a fraternity party. She grew up on Choate Road and was home visiting from Mount Holyoke. We’ve been married for 47 years – sometimes it works out.”

Career after Dartmouth: “I got an MBA at Northwestern and was an accountant. We lived in Washington D.C., Torino, Italy, and spent 35 years in the Boston area. Now I consult for early-stage companies.”

Life in the Upper Valley:

Mike:“We moved back to the Upper Valley in 2012. That year was Betsy’s 50th high-school reunion, which she got involved in planning, and it was a great chance for us to reconnect with the community.”

Betsy: “This is my dream come true – I was away from Hanover for 50 years and I always wanted to come back. There is something special about this area.”

On his start in the booth:
“I started last summer – I was on an Alumni Council committee and I met several other members who said they did this in the summer. I came to Blunt [Alumni Center] and signed up. I was surprised when they asked me for my social security number – I thought it was a volunteer position but it turns out there is a small stipend since students also work in the booth. We joke that the paycheck is enough for a haircut or a hamburger, but not both. My wife joins me as a volunteer, and we work as a team. She’s the real expert on the area since she grew up here.”

On downtime in the booth: “We read books, surf the internet, and chat. We also need to take notes on the visitors – where they’re from, why they’re here, what they asked about – as well as keep our materials stocked. We have a fairly extensive lists of tasks to complete when we open and close.”

Most memorable question asked by a visitor: “A father of a Dartmouth student came in looking for the College arborist – he was an arborist in Hawaii and wanted to find out how we protect our elm trees. That one took a little research, but we were able to help him eventually.”

John Engelman
John Engelman ’68. Photo by Eli Burakian ’00.

John Engelman ’68

Major: Government

Life on Campus: “Once I joined Alpha Delta, that took up most of my non-academic time, which was fairly typical for the time when I was at Dartmouth. I would go to football games with my fraternity brothers, spend the weekends with them, and road trip down to the women’s’ colleges with them. When I was at Dartmouth, the highways to Boston and Western Massachusetts were just being built, so we were much more isolated.”

Dartmouth’s impact: “Dartmouth was a transformative experience for me. I came from a Chicago suburb where everyone was the same. When I came to Dartmouth, I met people similar to me and also people different from me. They opened my eyes to things I’d never been exposed to. At Dartmouth, you can’t stay within your comfort zone. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back.”

Career after Dartmouth: “After I graduated I went to law school for a couple of years, though I never intended to practice. I changed tracks and ended up working in banking in Boston and Chicago.”

Life in the Upper Valley: “I decided to move back to the Upper Valley in 1975 when I was offered a job at a bank in town. People often say that Dartmouth students spend four years trying to get out and the rest of their lives trying to come back, and I found that accurate.”

On his start in the booth: “I started 10 or 12 years ago – I honestly don’t remember. I was recruited at a Dartmouth Club of the Upper Valley event, and I’ve done it every summer since. I enjoy meeting people with interesting and diverse questions and sharing insights. I also enjoy watching campus and seeing the students and members of summer athletic camps go by.”

On downtime in the booth: “I bring in my boombox, so when it’s quiet I listen to jazz and read a magazine or The Wall Street Journal.”

Bill Cahill and Len Branch
Len Branch ’75 (left) and Bill Cahill ’75. Photo by Joshua Renaud ’17.

Bill Cahill ’75

Major: History

Life on campus: “I was a cheerleader, a skier, and a member of Psi Upsilon – I still stay in close touch with friends from my fraternity.”

Favorite memories from Dartmouth: “In terms of academics, President Wright’s class on the “History of the American West” stands out. Personally, I remember the summer before my senior year, which I spent on campus, as an idyllic time. I then took the winter term off as part of my D-plan, and spent it in Vail, Colorado. I ended up meeting my wife on the chairlift there, so I owe a lot to Dartmouth and the D-plan.”

Career after Dartmouth: “I went to UNH for my MBA, and went to work for my family’s paper and packaging business on the New Hampshire seacoast. The business grew a great deal while I worked there, and I traveled all over the world in a sales and marketing capacity. I did that for about 20 years. I also served in the New Hampshire state legislature and have advised legislative, gubernatorial, and presidential campaigns. I now run a public-affairs consultancy focused on healthcare.”

Life in the Upper Valley: “My wife and I built a second home in the area 24 years ago while we lived on the Seacoast. We moved here full time nine years ago. The Upper Valley is a great place to be.”

On his start in the information booth: “I started about four years ago – I honestly don’t even remember how I found out about it. John Engelman ’68 trained me.”

“It’s a labor of love. It’s the best job on campus and the best office. You meet some really interesting people from around the world – both prospective students and visitors to the area. I like to think that I’m an ambassador for both Dartmouth and the town of Hanover.”

On downtime in the booth: “I read, and occasionally bring in music.  A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the Grateful Dead in honor of their farewell tour. Someone came in to ask a question and I turned it off, and he said “No, no! Don’t turn off the Dead!”

Most memorable question asked by a visitor: “One guy from Texas was passing through. He asked me how large the Green was – when I couldn’t answer he was very disappointed. He told me he was going to lunch at Molly’s and expected an answer when he came back. I looked it up and was able to give him the answer when he came back. It’s five acres. I was also stumped by a carful of older women looking for the orchid collection. I didn’t know we had one, but it turns out we do, and it’s quite remarkable.”

On visitors from afar: “People truly come from all over the world. One day I met three visitors from Japan, all here separately.  I’ve spent a great deal of time in Japan and really enjoy the country and culture, so that was fun. I know enough of the language that we were able to chat a little bit.”