• Lisa Koestner Mortell '95: 2008-09 Dartmouth Young Alumni Service Award Recipient

    Thursday, April 9, 2009
    News Type

What Made Her “Sort of an Evangelist for Dartmouth”

I came to Dartmouth sight unseen. I never visited the College before I arrived for my freshman fall, but from the moment that I set foot on campus, I felt as if I'd found my home. I immediately took to Dartmouth, and it was a tremendously exciting and wonderful place to go to college. As a student there, I felt that I was surrounded by the most extraordinary people I'd ever be surrounded by.

The ability of undergraduates to have meaningful relationships with professors was the thing that, particularly after leaving the College, I have felt the most grateful for. It's the kind of opportunity that doesn't present itself at every college of Dartmouth's caliber, and it's one of the things that have made me a sort of evangelist for Dartmouth when I meet high-school students as an interviewer. As an alum, I like to see that the College is continuing to give undergraduates the experience that I was lucky enough to have.

Aside from the quality of students' relationships with professors, the quality of the relationships between students is also very important to me. There's something about being in the woods of New Hampshire – there's not too much else out there – that really encourages you to bond with the people around you, and those people just happen to be some of the most incredible people you'll ever meet.

Early on, I decided that I wanted to find a way to repay the College for what I'd been given. I became involved with the Dartmouth College Fund while I was a student – first as a student caller, and later as an intern in that office. After that, I went on to focus my career on development and fundraising for nonprofits. I've seen firsthand what a huge difference philanthropy makes for the College, and that's something that I've enjoyed doing because I feel that it gives back to Dartmouth in a tangible way.

An experience that I've found particularly rewarding is volunteering on a local level with the Dartmouth Association of the Rocky Mountains. I moved to Denver when I was 22, and I literally didn't know a soul there. I jumped right into local alumni activities, and I found that to be a wonderful introduction into the Dartmouth College family. Alumni life is a thread that attaches all sorts of different people to one another; it shows us that we actually have so much in common. I've always enjoyed giving back to the local alumni here in Denver. We're sort of an island away from the East Coast, but we certainly keep that Dartmouth flame burning nice and bright and green.

As Dartmouth moves into the future, I think that continuing to grow and evolve as an academic community is important. It's wonderful that the College is always striving and building and improving; those developments contribute so much to the vitality of the environment. However, the spirit of Dartmouth lies in maintaining the quality of personal experiences and interactions for students, and I'm optimistic that that spirit will continue in perpetuity. That's what makes Dartmouth special, the fact that even as things change, its core values stay the same.