President Philip J. Hanlon ’77, Valedictory to the Graduating Class of 2023

News subtitle

“I know of no stronger community in all of higher education than ours. ”


Ten times, I have had the chance to look out from this Commencement stage at this sweetest of sights:

  • You, our graduates, standing before us ready to unleash your talents and passions to do good in the world. Congratulations to each and every one of you! 
  • Your friends and families with us today, quite rightly beaming with pride. They’ve offered you so much love and support during your time at Dartmouth and throughout your lives. 
  • Our faculty and staff who have fed your curiosity, nurtured your minds and invested so much of themselves in your success.
  • And the 50th Reunion Class seated beside you as you graduate, reminding us of the important role that Dartmouth’s past plays in its future.

More than 50 years ago, in the summer of 1972, I first laid eyes on this sacred place. I was a shy, introverted high school junior from a small town in the Adirondack Mountains. I had no idea of what college was supposed to be. And yet one look at the Green and the majesty of Baker Tower behind it and I knew that this was it. This was where I wanted to spend my next four years. 

I have learned that Dartmouth calls to each of us in different ways. For some, it’s the powerful visual allure of the place, as it was for me. Others of you may have been impressed by a Dartmouth alum speaking passionately about their time on campus. Some of you were drawn by the sense of community you felt during Dimensions. For others, it was the challenge of an Ivy League education or the promise of extracurricular opportunities that lured you in. 

No matter the reasons why we choose to come to Dartmouth, we all receive two special parting gifts as we graduate. 

The first is the gift of the Dartmouth family. I know of no stronger community in all of higher education than ours. Welcome to the cult! Rarely have I met a Dartmouth alum who didn’t say that their best friends in life are their Dartmouth friends. I know mine are. And look no further than Phil Lord and Chris Miller to see how Dartmouth friendships can change your life.

And if you ever reach out for wisdom and advice to another member of the Dartmouth family, even one you’ve never met, chances are they’ll take your call and help however they can. As my good friend and fellow Trustee Jeff Crowe puts it “The Dartmouth Community will never let you down … never!” 

The second gift you take from Dartmouth today is a transformed quality of mind. On a steamy afternoon in September of 2019, we got together in Leede Arena for your first Class Meeting. I explained that you would commit your next four years to learning how to seek the truth, but truth established in a very particular way. You would learn to approach every question with a truly open mind … gather all available evidence that is relevant to your question … apply reason and logic to that evidence to reach an answer. And finally, share and respectfully debate your conclusions with others, especially seeking out those who hold different points of view. 

For the last four years, we have asked you to seek truth in this way as you have honed your intellectual skills.

These are rare gifts – the gift of community and the gift of mind. And, as with all of life’s most precious gifts, they come with responsibilities. 

First, to keep the Dartmouth Fellowship strong. When a Dartmouth student or fellow alum reaches out to you, take that call. Stay involved with the College and offer your time and talents to ensure that our campus remains vibrant and a place of connection. And above all, do what you can to ensure that a Dartmouth education remains accessible to all worthy students, regardless of their life circumstances. 

Second, to use your mind and your voice to seek truth and speak truth to a world that desperately needs it. You are entering the “real world,” a world that is sometimes described as “post-factual” (as if that’s a good thing). A world where too often, opinions dominate and evidence and reason are dismissed. As Iris Murdoch put it, “We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” You can do it. Your Dartmouth education has prepared you for that task … the fantasy is better left to Phil and Chris, anyway.


Today, we are graduating – you and I. I look forward to sleeping later in the morning. I expect you have earlier mornings in your future. But I will forever cherish the time we had together and will be eager to learn of the mark you’ll make in this world. Until then, I’ll be watching and rooting for you, alumnus to alumnus, truth-seeker to truth-seeker, family member to caring family member. 

Best of luck to all of you, and may you always keep Dartmouth close to your hearts. 


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