Mourning Dartmouth’s Jim Wright
Some days ago, we shared the very sad news that Dartmouth College President Emeritus James Wright, a former Marine and one of the nation’s fiercest advocates for veterans in higher education, died at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire, not far from the College on the Hill he once led as the sixteenth president in the Wheelock succession. Since President Wright’s death, we’ve highlighted but a few examples of the remarkable contributions this kind man made to our world, including: (1) recommitting Dartmouth to its founding mission of educating Native Americans by launching the Native American Studies program during his tenure; (2) significantly expanding access to Dartmouth for low-income students and underrepresented minorities; and (3) fiercely advocating for America’s brave veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan by helping pen, and lobby for its passage, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill as well as the Yellow Ribbon Program, to subsidize the full cost of a college education for our troops.
But before President Wright led an Ivy League institution, he was a teacher of history with a specialty in the American West. Today, we thought we’d share with our readers a tribute that one of his former history students, Jake Tapper, offered to him at the close of his CNN program. As Tapper said, which you can view below, “Professor Wright became my history professor in March 1988 and he never stopped being my professor. The class was, if memory serves, ‘History 2: History of the American West,’ and it was a joy. It set me on a course to become a history major and history became a lifelong passion. And Professor Wright, President Wright, Jim, was along with me the whole time, guiding me, encouraging me, sending me cheers, compliments, articles he’s written, books. Wright was a Marine veteran. He was a lover of students and teachers and democracy and his family and Dartmouth College. He was an intellect and never an elitist. He was a friend to us all. He taught me history. He taught me reverence for service. He taught me empathy for veterans and their wounds. He taught me friendship and he taught me fellowship and I will miss him deeply.”
We thought we’d also share our own President Wright story today as he led the College on the Hill during our college years. When Brian’s then-boyfriend, the All-American men’s lacrosse goalie who led Dartmouth to its first Ivy League title in the sport (and became the first goalie to score a goal in an NCAA Tournament game in decades, later even becoming the first openly gay male professional team sport athlete when he was drafted by the Boston Cannons), came out publicly on ESPN and was dubbed “the most accomplished male team-sport athlete in North America to be openly gay during his playing career,” President Wright sent the sweetest note to Andrew. President Wright let Andrew know that he was very special and that he had made his college very proud. His words moved us greatly and made us care deeply for President Wright and his family.
Jim Wright ended every convocation speech, a ceremony at the start of each Dartmouth academic year, with the words, “We have work to do, you and I — and it is time for us to begin.” Reflecting on his words, Dartmouth’s current President Philip J. Hanlon wrote, “Jim Wright’s work continues as a legacy here at Dartmouth and beyond. And our work to live up to that legacy has just begun.” We’d like to share one additional quote uttered by Jim Wright, in his beautifully sonorous voice, at our commencement: “You are ever a part of Dartmouth undying, as Dartmouth is forever a part of you.” James Wright is ever a part of Dartmouth undying, as Dartmouth is forever a part of him.
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