Starting with the Dartmouth Marching Band leading a procession from Parkhurst Hall and closing with the voices of the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir ringing in the atrium of the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, community members marked the decade of service of President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 and Gail Gentes on Wednesday with exuberance and joy.
The more than 300 people gathered for the event to honor the outgoing president and his wife heard from deans, senior staff, trustees, students, and even a professor who taught Hanlon listing their many accomplishments.
Senior Vice President and Senior Diversity Officer Shontay Delalue, who emceed the celebration, recalled that when she first met Hanlon as she was interviewing for her job, she asked him what he hoped his legacy at Dartmouth would be.
“I distinctly remember he replied, ‘I’m not interested in leaving a legacy. I just want to do good work.’ That has stayed with me, and in the time we’ve worked together he has supported my work and encouraged my leadership,” Delalue said.
But as speaker after speaker stepped up to pay tribute to Hanlon and Gentes, a legacy was there to see. Moving Dartmouth Forward, the $3 billion Call to Lead campaign, enhancing Dartmouth’s stature as one of the nation’s leading research universities, increasing inclusion and diversity, expanding undergraduate financial aid, the Dartmouth Hall renovation, the West End project and on and on.
Speaker after speaker also returned to the theme Delalue began with. It was the kindness, encouragement, and an authentic sense of caring from Hanlon and Gentes that made the whole community capable of greatness.
“The thing that I take away as staff is that they’ve always cared about everybody at Dartmouth,” said Executive Vice President Rick Mills. “They genuinely are nice people. They care about Dartmouth. They care about all of you, whether they’re hosting an event at their house, or they’re going to the Employee Service Awards. They show up, they care, and they see people.”
Dartmouth Student Government Vice President Jessica Chiriboga ’24 said Hanlon has made a point of being accessible to students and cited a personal gesture from the Dartmouth president that made an impact on her. Chiriboga had just finished a speech about co-education in front of a crowd last fall and felt like she needed a hug, but her parents were across the country.
“There was nothing more I needed than a hug. And President Hanlon gave me a huge one,” she said. “This is just a small example of how he cares for students on this campus, but is a moment that will truly stick with me forever.”
Humor was also a part of the tribute, with English professor Donald Pease, who started teaching at Dartmouth in 1973, recounting an oft-told tale about differences over an essay from Hanlon, then a first-year student, in his writing class. (Hanlon, who went on to major in math, nonetheless managed to graduate summa cum laude, Pease noted.)
Trustee Elizabeth Mahoney Loughlin ’89 spoke about the leadership of Gentes and Hanlon together. “Theirs is a true partnership and I think that she is so truly involved in every decision that’s made at Dartmouth, and I am personally very grateful for that,” Loughlin said.
Gentes’ own work at Dartmouth and in the community is also significant, Loughlin said, from her commitment to experiential learning through initiatives such as the Stamps Scholars Program, her work with the Centennial Circle of Dartmouth Alumnae, as well as her community service, including leadership roles with WISE, the Lebanon, N.H.-based crisis support organization working to end gender-based violence, the Dartmouth United Way Campaign, and the Montshire Museum.
“What makes Gail so special is her commitment to people,” Loughlin said. “She wants to make sure everyone on campus is seen and recognized.”
Speaking to the gathering after all the tributes and a short film about his time as president, a wet-eyed Hanlon admitted that it was rare for him to be moved to tears. He called out every part of the community to offer his admiration and thanks—students, staff, faculty, alumni, his executive staff, family, friends, mentors, trustees.
“I’m really overwhelmed by two emotions. The first is pride. Pride in what we’ve accomplished together, of course. But also pride in this extended Dartmouth family, in our shared values and our commitment to them,” Hanlon said.
“The second, gratitude. I know that Gail joins me in feeling immense gratitude to have been welcomed to this very special community.”
And the last word, just before the Dartmouth Gospel Choir began to sing, went to Gentes.
“It’s been just amazing how you’ve embraced us. And I want to thank each and every one of you for all the hard work that you do. We see it,” Gentes said. “We are truly honored to be among you and we are awed by you.”