President Hanlon wrote to seniors the night before they started spring term classes.
In a personal message to members of the senior class on the first day of spring term—their final Dartmouth term—President Philip J. Hanlon '77 talked about his own senior spring, 43 years ago, and told students he misses their presence on campus. He called on them to put their leadership skills to work during this unusual time and to stay close as a class.
"This is your leadership moment. This is the moment you've spent the last three and a half years preparing for. It's one that will require every ounce of creative problem-solving, resilience, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness that we have been working to instill in you," President Hanlon wrote in an email sent late last night to the Class of 2020.
"Your fellow students … will be looking to you in the face of this lousy hand we've all been dealt by an unprecedented global health crisis. When you step up with a positive, can-do spirit, they will be watching and learning. And as sure as your actions will bring you closer together as a class, they will define your class—the Great Class of 2020—forever."
Two weeks ago, Dartmouth decided to move all spring term classes online for all undergraduates and graduate students and sent students home. In addition, most Dartmouth employees are working from home.
Hanlon told students that their last term as undergraduates is very different from his. He recalled enjoying one last hike up Mount Moosilauke, one final swim in the Connecticut, and one last season of intramural softball. He finished and defended his senior honor thesis and prepared to start a PhD program the following fall at Caltech.
"Today, you, too, experience the first day of Senior Spring, though it is not the way anyone wanted it to be. For sure, the classes you will take, despite being virtual, will be outstanding. But you are separated from the magic of the Hanover campus, from your classmates, and from the special opportunities to celebrate the friendships you've forged during your time as students.
"We miss you. We miss the positive energy that, in a more perfect world, you would be bringing to campus today. I wish you could be here physically, engaging in the time-honored Dartmouth traditions centered around friendship and place, with a heavy dose of rigorous academics. I feel for you and share your deep disappointment and frustration. It is entirely understandable and a testament to how much you've come together as a class during your time in Hanover."
Hanlon told the seniors that they have been "granted an extraordinary gift … the legacy of leadership."
"As bittersweet as it may be, COVID-19 has given you a powerful opportunity. Through nearly four years of learning both in the classroom and through a myriad of other activities, you have grown and matured. You have sharpened your understanding of the world and elevated your perspective on success and disappointment.
"In due time, we will find a way to celebrate all you've accomplished and all that your Dartmouth experience has meant to you, with all the appropriate fanfare. For now, I encourage you to put all you've learned—and will learn this term—to work to help your friends, your families, and your communities through this crisis and to show your younger classmates what leadership, compassion and humility are all about. I know you will."
For the latest information on Dartmouth's response to the pandemic, including visit the COVID-19 website.
Susan J. Boutwell can be reached at email@example.com.