• Goodbye, Hello: Daniel Webster Events Celebrate Class of 2010's Upcoming Transition to Alumni Life

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010
    News Type

A hitchhiker offered kind assistance by a fellow Dartmouth alum. 

The life lessons to be learned in grungy fraternity basements.

A homespun blue suit. 

Seemingly unrelated, these topics were of shared interest to the Class of 2010 as they gathered to celebrate their collective journey through Dartmouth College at the annual Daniel Webster events for seniors, held April 25–27 in Alumni Hall.

The series of receptions offered members of the senior class a moment to reflect on their accomplishments inside and outside the classroom, catch up with friends, and learn how to stay connected to their alma mater and one another after Commencement on June 13.  

Casey Stelmach '10

The Daniel Webster event "reminded me of how strong Dartmouth's alumni network is," said Casey Stelmach '10. "It's a very interconnected and tight community." An engineering sciences major, Stelmach met members of the Dartmouth Alumni Club of Bangkok when she traveled to Thailand last year through an exchange program with the Thayer School of Engineering.

This year's event included a short video, "10 Words for the '10s,"  in which alumni offered advice to the soon-to-be-graduates. Produced by the Senior Executive Committee in conjunction with the Young Alumni of Dartmouth and Student Programs Unit of the Alumni Relations Office, the video featured heartfelt words of wisdom from alumni of various ages, some now employed at the College, some living in other parts of the country.

Counsel ranged widely from the philosophical ("Freedom within constraint is deeper than freedom from constraint") to the practical ("Find recipes on Epicurious.com").

"Use the Dartmouth family to pursue your passions and dreams," encouraged Ben Schwartz '06, who is assistant director of Admissions at Dartmouth.

Many students were visibly moved by the appearance at the end of the video by James Wright, immediate past president of Dartmouth, who four years ago had personally welcomed each member of the class with a handshake outside his campus residence. "Thank you for all you have done," said Wright. "I bid you farewell proudly."  

The event also included a number of speakers.

"If you're pondering what it's like being a Dartmouth alum, it's coming very soon," said Sylvia Spears, acting dean of the College. She encouraged the seniors to establish friendships with Dartmouth alumni by sharing stories that speak to the common Dartmouth experience.

President Jim Yong Kim, who took office last year, said he felt "unworthy" to govern Commencement for the class that had done so much to "mentor" him in his first year as president of Dartmouth.

He encouraged the '10's to reflect on their college careers not only as scholars loaded with book knowledge, but also as ordinary young people who had experienced all manner of personal epiphany in their four years at Dartmouth.

"All the experiences you've had on the playing field, in the classroom, even in the fraternity basements – they have prepared you better than any other group of seniors in the country," he said.

To demonstrate the optimism and tenacity that he believes characterize all Dartmouth students, President Kim shared an anecdote about Daniel Webster, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 1801.

Webster had humble beginnings, Kim said. As a farm boy from Salisbury, New Hampshire, Webster had so little money that when Dartmouth asked him to report to Hanover for a mandatory interview, he asked a neighbor to sew him a suit from scratch, since he certainly couldn't afford a new one. The neighbor kindly obliged, and, determined and newly dapper, Webster set off for Hanover. During his trip, it started to rain, the dye in the suit started to run, and soon Webster took on the appearance of a giant blueberry.

He remained unfazed. He nailed his interview, was accepted for matriculation, and would go on, of course, to become one of Dartmouth's favorite sons.

"Daniel Webster loved Dartmouth College," said President Kim. "And if you love Dartmouth, then I am your friend." Kim noted the exceptional affection many alumni feel for Dartmouth and the closeness in the Dartmouth community. 

"It's something about the way you treat each other, the friendships that are formed," he said. "I hate to say it, but you may never experience these things again. They do not exist at any other college or university."

Danny Goodman '60  told the class that he still remembers the free food, clothing, and shelter he received from a fellow Dartmouth alum, otherwise a complete stranger, almost 50 years ago on one of his hitchhiking trips. He suggested the seniors do five specific things to ensure this special sense of community is never lost.

"Stay in touch with each other, which is easy, thanks to the Internet," said Goodman. "Come back to Hanover. Volunteer. Get good class leadership. And support the College financially the best you can."

As they chatted, sipped champagne, and enjoyed hors d'oeuvres, the seniors were in a bittersweet mood. Former roommates smiled about old times, familiar faces finally exchanged names, and friends who'd had time only to speak in passing since freshman fall relished the chance to catch up. But there was also an unmistakable heartache in the air.

"My four years at Dartmouth passed so quickly," said Jen Gaudette '10, a government major who will attend Columbia Law School next year. "I can't believe I have only a month to say goodbye to this place where I've made so many meaningful friendships and learned so much." 

"This event reminded me of how strong Dartmouth's alumni network is," said Casey Stelmach '10. "It's a very interconnected and tight community."  An engineering sciences major, Stelmach met members of the Dartmouth Alumni Club of Bangkok when she traveled to Thailand last year through an exchange program with the Thayer School of Engineering.

"The alums invited me and another Dartmouth student to their meeting one evening, where we had a nice dinner and got to meet a number of Dartmouth alums living in Bangkok now," said Stelmach. "It was a social event and a lot of fun."

Biiology major Elizabeth Gray '10 said that although she's sad that her time as an undergraduate is almost up, she's excited about the future. "My heart is happy, because now I have tools as an alum of Dartmouth that I wouldn't have anywhere else." 

 Brittany Coombs '10 is the Web communications intern in the Alumni Relations Office.