A Primer on the Dartmouth Alumni Council

If you're a new member of the Dartmouth Alumni Council, the following information will help you get started. Please also consult the Alumni Council Handbook.

The Alumni Council is like the senate of the Dartmouth alumni body. The mission of the council is to sustain a fully informed, representative, and engaged exchange of information and sentiment between alumni and their College, and to enhance and inspire alumni involvement that furthers the mission of the College.

Attendance at semi-annual council meetings is expected of all members.  It is understandable that members who must travel a great distance may not be able to be present every time, but should still aim to attend regardless. Prospective members should agree to attend all meetings.

At all times, the council should have a distribution of ages within its membership.

Membership is not an honor without obligations. Membership involves prompt and effective handling of committee duties, attendance at meetings, and readiness to serve the council in the member's local area and with his or her constituency.

Vacancies on the Alumni Council are filled on the basis of nominating the very best Dartmouth citizen who will add strength to the important work of the council.

Election to council is overseen by the council's Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee and other organized alumni groups. Qualifications include:

1.  Outstanding achievement and/or special qualifications;
2.  Demonstrated active interest in Dartmouth;
3.  Availability to attend meetings;
4.  Ability to represent legitimate interests of alumni and to effectively report back to constituents on council work.

The Alumni Council elects a president and president-elect to one-year terms. The director of Alumni Leadership unit in the Alumni Relations office serves in an ex-officio position to assist on all council matters. These three officers and the chairs of each council committee sit on the Executive Committee.

President: The position of council president is held for one term of one year. Normally, but not necessarily, this position is held by a councilor serving his or her final year.  As elected leader of the Alumni Council representing the alumni body of Dartmouth College, the president calls meetings and presides when the group is formally in session.

The duties charged to the president are as follows:

  • The council president presents alumni awards annually and may be called on to represent the College at various official functions,  such as Dartmouth Night, dedications, inaugurations, and club events.
  • The council president frequently serves on and appoints members to ad hoc committees of the Alumni Council.
  • The council president is an ex-officio member of the council's Committee on Alumni Awards, the Alumni Liaison Committee, and the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee. The president is chair of the Executive Committee. 

President-Elect: Serves in place and fulfills all duties of the president when necessary and is chair of the Orientation Committee and a member of the council's Executive Committee, Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee, and the Alumni Liaison Committee.

Director of Alumni Leadership: The director of Alumni Leadership in the Office of Alumni Relations is an ex-officio member of the Alumni Council. He or she is an ex-officio member of the Nominating Committee, Executive Committee, and Alumni Awards Committee of the council.

The director's duties involve communication with members and serving as secretary of council ad hoc committees. The director is responsible for procedures in nominating and electing members to the Council. He or she also coordinates the selection of at-large members and members from the various groups electing to be a part of the council. The director suggests programs for meetings to the president of the Council and Executive Committee and plans, with the help of Alumni Relations staff, the semi-annual council meetings. The director is responsible for maintaining full records of the council, and is the principal liaison officer between the council and the College, providing continuity and staff experience to the many activities of the organization.

  • Originally 25 members, the Alumni Council has been incrementally expanded over the years. Amendments to the council constitution were approved in November 2007, revising representation and increasing the size of the council to 125 members. Additional members will be transitioned into the Alumni Council between 2008 and 2010 that will result in the composition listed below.
  • Alumni councilors typically serve for a single term of three years.  Representatives of the undergraduate classes serve,  nonvoting and ex officio, for a term of two years.
  • All former members are invited to attend meetings; this custom was started by vote of the council in 1918.

The full council meets in the late fall and late spring in Hanover. On occasion the council has held special or regular meetings away from the campus. To date these locations have been Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.

In general, the Alumni Relations Office facilitates the council's work. Other offices are involved too -- Enrollment and Admissions, the Admissions Office lends assistance;  Student Affairs, both the Athletics Director and DCAD staff are involved and the Dean of Students is consulted.

Much of the council's work is accomplished through committees. These committees are principally made up of and headed by council members. Sometimes the work of a committee may include one or more non-members of the Council from either the alumni body or some other source. For example, appropriate staff officers at the College can serve as committee secretaries to coordinate the work of groups and provide accurate information to committee members.

Committee meetings are held between sessions of the council as may be required. An outline of the functions of each of the operating committees is included below.

The Committee on Academic Affairs serves as a principal interface between the faculty and the Alumni Council of Dartmouth College such that a strong relationship is affirmed and alumni are kept informed about the curriculum and other elements of the Dartmouth academic experience.

The committee also serves as the platform for exploring intersections of the intellectual life of Dartmouth with programs or strategies that will increase engagement of alumni. The committee will work with Alumni Relations and the faculty and College representatives on the committee to identify academic opportunities to enrich the lives of our alumni as they in turn support the institution with their time and talents, with the overall goal of creating lifelong connections between faculty, students and alumni.

The committee consists of alumni councilors, the faculty representative to the Alumni Council, a representative of the Provost's office, and a representative of the Dean of the Faculty.

The Alumni Awards Committee consists of seven former recipients of the Dartmouth Alumni Award and a staff member of the Alumni Relations Office (committee secretary). This committee seeks strong alumni candidates that meet the eligibility criteria for the Dartmouth Alumni Award and selects three to four alumni recipients each year to be honored for a combination of accomplishments in Dartmouth volunteerism, career and civic involvement.

The Alumni Liaison Committee consists of the president, the president-elect, and immediate past-president of the Council, the presidents of the Association of Alumni during their term on the Alumni Council, three current council members elected by the Alumni Council, and three members of the Association of Alumni elected by the Alumni Council. A representative of the Board of Trustees’ Advancement Committee may also serve on this committee. The committee gathers feedback from alumni on topics of interest and shares this information with the Alumni Relations office, the Board of Trustees, and the senior administration.

The Alumni Service Committee maintains a central repository of information regarding existing service opportunities, and communicates this information to interested alumni constituencies. The committee also serves as a constructive resource for students, faculty, and administration who would like to discuss and receive informal feedback and guidance regarding service proposals. Members will facilitate the juxtaposition of service over existing College and alumni events. These will provide an avenue though which alumni professionals could volunteer their trade skills to nonprofits in need of these services. This committee will also serve as a liaison to the Club Officers Association and Class Officers Association on all matters relating to alumni service.

The Athletics Committee promotes the interests of Dartmouth alumni in athletics at Dartmouth, including varsity athletics, club sports, intramural athletics, physical education, and recreation. Specifically, the committee gathers and assesses information regarding the administration and financial support of athletics by the College, particularly the Department of Athletics and Recreation, as well as student participation in athletics; solicits input from the alumni body regarding the interests and concerns of alumni with respect to athletics at Dartmouth; communicates these interests and concerns to the department; and communicates the results of the committee’s work to the Alumni Council, the administration, and alumni.

The Communications Committee encourages and facilitates communication between and among members of the council and their respective constituencies regarding both the council’s activities and the College as a whole. The committee also encourages and facilitates communication within the council itself, by providing tools and resources to aid constituent discourse; metrics regarding successful communication practices; training to improve the council’s overall accessibility to and from alumni at large; and a means to safeguard the council’s legacy of information. The committee regularly reviews opportunities to improve council communications broadly.

The Enrollment and Admissions Committee serves as a sounding board for the admissions and financial aid offices on issues such as general admissions, accepted student yield, financial aid practices, and nationwide and international trends. The committee also supports the Office of Admissions in coordinating and assessing the alumni interviewing process throughout the United States and the world.

The Executive Committee consists of the president, the president-elect, and the chairs of the other standing committees of the council. Chaired by the president, this committee sets the agenda for the council and plans and designs council meetings in consultation with the Alumni Relations Office. It is also empowered to act on council business between meetings, and is the final authority on strategic matters.

The Honorary Degrees Committee seeks strong alumni candidates for the award by canvassing the alumni body. It then forwards three to five names to the College Committee on Honorary Degrees, which makes the final decision regarding recipients.

The Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee consists of the president, the president-elect, the immediate past chair of the Nominating Committee, a council member appointed by the committee for a term of three years, and six other council members elected for terms of three years by the council. The Nominating Committee makes two nominations for the president-elect, each vacancy for at-large representatives, and other positions specified in the Alumni Council constitution. Importantly, it also makes nominations for alumni trustee as provided in the constitution. The Nominating Committee welcomes alumni trustee candidate recommendations from alumni at any time.

The Orientation Committee plans and oversees the orientation of first-year alumni councilors. Responsibilities include establishing direct mentor roles for new councilors, updating orientation materials and methods, and monitoring the effectiveness of current orientation programs. The committee is chaired by the Alumni Council president-elect.

The Professional Development Committee works with the Center for Professional Development and the Office of Alumni Relations to help to generate program ideas designed to leverage alumni expertise in service to other alumni and students at Dartmouth. The committee identifies and solicits appropriate alumni to participate in professional development programs; shares information about professional opportunities serving students and alumni with constituents and current councilors; promotes college programs designed to encourage alumni to hire and mentor Dartmouth students; and plans and carries out on-campus career programming for students in conjunction with Alumni Council meetings in Hanover.

The Student Affairs Committee monitors and reports on all aspects of student life to both the Alumni Council and, through the councilors, to the alumni body. At each of its meetings, the committee has extensive dialogue with several undergraduate and graduate student leaders regarding current “hot” campus issues.

The Young Alumni Committee collects information and makes recommendations on programs for young alumni to further attract their interest and participation in Dartmouth alumni activities.

The Young Alumni Awards Committee consists of five to seven former recipients of the Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award and a staff member of the Alumni Relations Office (committee secretary). This committee seeks strong alumni candidates who meet the eligibility criteria for the Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award, placing strong emphasis on Dartmouth volunteerism when selecting two to three recipients each year.

A few examples of the importance of ad hoc committee studies to the council follow:

  • A committee study to determine policy on alumni affiliation of World War II Navy students resulted in a number of these students being absorbed as non-graduate alumni members of the war classes.
  • In 1946 the council undertook a thorough survey of all Dartmouth fund-raising activities. This led to the creation of the Development Program by joint action with the trustees.
  • In 1952, as a result of study by an ad hoc committee, a plan for making Alumni Awards to recognize exceptional volunteer service to the College was established and today over 400 alumni have been honored.
  • In 1958, a major project shared in by the council created a study Committee on Alumni Relations (CAR) functioning under the Trustees' Planning Committee. The president of the council nominated members of the 14-personed group to TPC. Several members of the council served in this important work including its chairman, Guy P. Wallick '21 of San Francisco . The committee undertook a full review of alumni relations with recommendations to the trustees for strengthening the two-way relationship between the College and the alumni. Many of the CAR recommendations, which appeared in six volumes, were put into effect. These volumes are widely acclaimed as the definitive manual of alumni relations. Ten years later a follow-up study was conducted by the council under the direction of N. Page Worthington '33 of Baltimore, resulting in a national award to the council and, more importantly, another round of new ideas and creative approaches to alumni programming and service activities.
  • A 14-member study committee, chaired by Dudley Orr '29, and including former and current councilors, trustees, students, administrators and professors, recommended that Dartmouth become a coeducational institution.
  • A study committee on Indian symbolism recommended rejecting the continued use of the Indian symbol at the College.
  • In 1980-81, a special study committee chaired by Stan Smoyer '34 and J. Blake Hering '53 recommended changes in the Alumni Council constitution to reflect the addition of class representatives to the council.
  • In 1987, a committee study of the alma mater, requested by President David T. McLaughlin '54 resulted in a new version of "Men of Dartmouth" to reflect coeducation. That new version has been generally adopted and is sung at all College functions.
  • A committee on class dues and the Alumni Magazine developed education programs to assist classes in maintaining strong treasuries to cover the cost of the Alumni Magazine and to fund class projects and reunions.
  • In 1990 an ad hoc committee to study the function and organization of the council made a number of recommendations, including establishing a College Relations function within the council to serve as a conduit for alumni concerns to the Board of Trustees and the president, and vice versa; replacing the old system of regions and districts with a new system of metropolitan and regional representatives, with provisions for direct elections of those representatives; and adding one council representative from each of the first three classes out, thereby increasing the size of the Alumni Council by three (bringing the total to 101). These recommendations were adopted by the council and incorporated into its constitution in 1990.
  • In March 1990 the council sponsored a Forum in New York City to which all alumni were invited to express their views on proposed changes in the method of nominating alumni trustees.
  • In 1994, an ad hoc committee studied the purpose, structure and organization of the Alumni Council and changes were made to the size, representation and committee make-up of the council.
  • In 2000, the Alumni Council and the Association of Alumni created a joint committee to study the governance relationship between the two organizations and the alumni trustee nomination process.
  • In 2003, the Alumni Council, at the request of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine Editorial Board, established a task force to study the magazine's business model and to make recommendations on class dues and the funding of the magazine.
  • In 2007, an ad hoc committee studied the structure of the Alumni Council and changes were made to the size, representation, and committee make-up of the council.