Alumni Gifts of $10 Million Will Fund Poverty Research

Dartmouth will recruit leading scholar-teachers to explore the fundamental causes and consequences of extreme poverty and to develop workable solutions that will benefit people around the world living in the poorest conditions, thanks to $10 million in gifts from alumni, combined with $5 million in matching funds from a previous gift.

President Phil Hanlon ’77 speaks on Dec. 1 at World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., as Board of Trustees Chair William Helman ’80 and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim applaud. Kim, Hanlon’s predecessor, is also Dartmouth president emeritus. (Photo by Grant Ellis/World Bank)

These gifts, announced Tuesday, will allow Dartmouth to establish a cross-disciplinary group of faculty, known as an academic cluster, to drive leading-edge research in the field of poverty alleviation and human development. The gifts will permanently endow three new professorships and provide additional resources for research and interdisciplinary collaboration.

At a time when half of the world’s population subsists on less than $2 per day, these three new scholars will join other leading experts at Dartmouth to conduct innovative research and multidisciplinary collaboration to better understand the fundamental causes of poverty. The new faculty members will also teach new courses that will enable students to gain both the data analytic skills and the conceptual understanding necessary to improve conditions for many of the world’s poorest communities.

Creation of the academic cluster in poverty alleviation and human development is made possible through the generosity of Georgina Tugwell Russo ’77 and Thomas A. Russo ’77; with additional major gifts from Peggy Epstein Tanner ’79 and David Tanner; and an anonymous donor.

Dartmouth is already recognized internationally for its commitment to research and outreach related to improving the human condition. Its resources include the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, which connects students with international learning opportunities; the Young African Leaders Initiative, a program operated by 20 universities and the U.S. State Department, that seeks to strengthen entrepreneurship and civic leadership throughout Africa; the Geisel School of Medicine’s Center for Health Equity, which partners with underserved communities to provide equitable access to high-quality health care; and, most recently, the King Scholar Leadership Program, created by Dottie and Bob King ’57, which prepares community-minded students from developing nations to become leaders in the effort to reduce poverty in their home countries.


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“Dartmouth’s commitment to think globally dates back to 1946, when President John Sloan Dickey implored graduating seniors to make the world’s troubles their troubles,” says President Philip Hanlon ’77. “The faculty in this new cluster will reach across campus, tapping into the incredible expertise that Dartmouth already possesses to work in partnership with faculty in all of our schools. They will vigorously explore the root causes of poverty, partner with governments and nongovernmental organizations, and explore innovative solutions. Their work will bring real improvement to the lives of the world’s poorest citizens.”

President Hanlon and his predecessor, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, now president of the World Bank, announced the creation of the cluster and its supporting gifts on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at an event they hosted for more than 600 alumni, parents, and other guests at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Featured guests included U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ’88; U.S. Representatives John Carney ’78 and Ann McLane Kuster ’78; former Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation CEO and Dartmouth Trustee Chair Emeritus Charles “Ed” Haldeman ’70; current Dartmouth Board Chair Bill Helman ’80; former Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism and current Norman E. McCulloch Jr. Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin; and nine King Scholars from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.

The Russos, who both sit on the President’s Leadership Council, have endowed the cluster’s distinguished professorship. Georgina Russo, formerly an assistant vice president in international banking at Wells Fargo, also serves on the John Sloan Dickey Center Board of Visitors. Thomas Russo is portfolio manager and managing member of the investment firm Gardner Russo & Gardner, LLC.

The Tanners serve on numerous not-for-profit boards. A former chairman of the Tucker Foundation’s Board of Visitors, Peggy Tanner currently serves on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees and is chairman of the board of Seeds of Peace. David Tanner is the managing director of the investment firm Arlon Group and is chairman of the board of Montefiore Health Systems.

Preparing Global Leaders

According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme, approximately one out of every nine people on the planet does not have enough food to lead a healthy life, and about one in three children is chronically undernourished—conditions that exist, in large part, due to poverty and unstable food markets.

“Dartmouth’s Department of Economics is already a leader in understanding how individuals and families make resource allocation decisions,” says Professor Michael Mastanduno, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Deeper, more comprehensive research in this field will inform policies that help target and deliver resources in poor communities. We can also advance a better understanding of the factors that, for example, influence food producers in developing counties, such as how they respond to unstable prices and fluctuating demand, with a goal to stabilize markets.”

Similarly, Dartmouth is home to experts who understand the relationship between health, health care, and poverty. The new cluster will build on Dartmouth’s track record of creating and delivering effective health interventions, and will team with experts at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, the Geisel School of Medicine’s Center for Technology and Behavioral Health, and other Dartmouth resources.

Advancing data collection and analysis will be a priority for the cluster, as many nations are struggling to capture even basic information about their populations. In several developing nations, for example, fewer than half of all births are recorded, and many countries have not conducted a census in decades.

Dartmouth will recruit three leading scholars with expertise in the economic, social-spatial, and health aspects of global poverty. These new faculty will be: a distinguished professor in economics, specializing in developing economies; a professor of public health in the Geisel School of Medicine; and a professor of either anthropology or geography, with expertise in the collection and analysis of qualitative and/or spatial data.

“These three faculty will create and supplement interdisciplinary research projects involving Dartmouth faculty from multiple departments, as well as from Geisel, the Tuck School of Business, and Thayer School of Engineering,” says Provost Carolyn Dever. “They will also design and co-teach courses directly informed by their research. The resulting curricula will create tremendous opportunities for our students to learn—from some of the world’s finest scholar-teachers—how to use data powerfully and effectively in support of identifying poverty-reduction strategies and policies. This learning experience will inspire many of our students to take on the tremendous challenge of reducing global poverty by pursuing its issues in a meaningful, permanent manner.”

The Academic Cluster Initiative

Academic clusters are a central element in President Hanlon’s institution-wide strategy to expand on several of Dartmouth’s areas of distinction by recruiting outstanding scholars from multiple disciplines who teach and conduct research on related topics and questions that address major global challenges—helping make Dartmouth a magnet for top faculty and student talent.

In 2014, Dartmouth received a $100 million gift, half of which is being used as a match toward the creation of academic clusters. Through the end of this calendar year, each $10 million received to create a cluster will trigger a $5 million match. The faculty in poverty alleviation and human development is the seventh cluster out of a possible 10 to receive this match.

The other clusters are the William H. Neukom Academic Cluster in Computational Science, the Jack Byrne Academic Cluster in Decision Science, the Richard M. Levy 1960 Academic Cluster in Health Care Delivery Science, and clusters focusing on globalization, neuroscience, and digital humanities.