(Photo by Robert Gill)
Sign Me Up
The first woman to lead Dartmouth issues a visionary call to action.
More than 1,700 people gathered on the Green or watched by livestream on Friday, witnessing history as Dartmouth President Sian Leah Beilock received the Wentworth Bowl—a symbol of Dartmouth’s highest office—from the hands of her predecessor.
The audience rose, cheering, as President Beilock took the podium for her inaugural address.
A visibly emotional Beilock acknowledged the significance of becoming “the 19th president—and proudly the first woman—in a distinguished line known as the Wheelock Succession”—and received another standing ovation.
“This is a moment I want to last forever,” she said, asking the audience’s indulgence as she turned to snap a selfie with the waving members of the audience. (“I got a good one!” she told them.)
Then Beilock launched into the substance of her vision, which she developed after talking with hundreds of faculty, students, staff, and alumni on a listening tour centered on the dual question of what makes Dartmouth great and how to shape its future “in new ways that will drive impact faster and farther than ever before.”
An Ambitious Vision
Beilock made an impassioned case for the necessity and vitality of higher education in general—and Dartmouth’s dual mission of fostering discovery and leadership in particular—at a time when “the complex problems facing the world today demand urgent, sophisticated solutions.”
Finding and implementing these solutions will take more than talented individuals—they require partnership and collaboration, Beilock argued.
“Higher ed is often a place of singular exceptionalism. Too many times in the past, our institutions have failed to look for partners—within our own community and among our peers,” she said. “But the best and fastest way to create new knowledge and translate it into impact is by working together, learning together, solving problems together.”
The new president outlined five areas of focus that aim to systematically speed up and expand the impact of Dartmouth’s mission: a holistic approach to mental health and wellness; the cultivation of brave spaces that foster dialogue across difference; a rededication to building lifelong Dartmouth connections; a commitment to meaningful action to address climate change and sustainability; and intensified investment in breakthrough innovation and impact.
She called on her listeners to become her partners in this work.
Solutions to make the world a better place are out there—we just need to accelerate their development and apply them more broadly. And I have every confidence that we can.
“Solutions to make the world a better place are out there—we just need to accelerate their development and apply them more broadly. And I have every confidence that we can,” she said.
In each area of focus, Beilock previewed major initiatives to be detailed in coming weeks and months. Among the highlights:
Mental Health and Wellness
Innovation and Impact
Building on Dartmouth’s unique relationships with Native and Indigenous communities, Dartmouth will next year launch a Tribal Leadership Academy to “provide a place for experienced and newly elected tribal leaders to convene with one another to share best practices, discuss opportunities and challenges facing sovereign tribal nations, and engage the expertise of fellow participants, Native alumni, and Dartmouth faculty across campus.”
Pomp and Circumstance
Earlier in the ceremony, undergraduate alumna Allie K. Miller, an expert in artificial intelligence and business, spoke about the importance of sustainable leadership—the practice of embracing the future while preserving sustaining values and traditions.
“Sian Leah Beilock is a luminary in the world of STEM, a community builder, a prolific researcher, a data-driven doer, and a thought leader poised to guide us into a future brimming with possibility and promise,” Miller said.
Introducing Beilock on behalf of the Ivy League, Brown University President Christina Hull Paxson offered “heartfelt congratulations,” calling Dartmouth’s new president “exactly the right leader for this moment in Dartmouth’s history.”
“Beilock’s passion for collaboration in higher education, her energy and enthusiasm, and her aspirational vision for growing research and cultivating the next generation of problem solvers will serve this great institution well,” Paxson said.
If the day’s celebrations held a somber note, it was in the absence of Eugene F. “Buddy” Teevens ’79, the Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach, who died earlier this week from injuries related to a bicycle accident in March, and “whose loss we feel so deeply today,” Beilock said.
Speaking for the Ivy League, Paxson extended her condolences, adding: “As Buddy Teevens must have known very well, although the Ivies may collaborate on research and education, we compete fiercely on the playing field. And so I look forward to working with President Beilock, as both a collaborator and as a competitor in the years to come.”
Then Trustee Chair Elizabeth Cahill Lempres ’83, Thayer ’84, transferred the Dartmouth College Charter to Beilock, symbolically installing the new president in office. As Beilock accepted the scroll, the audience once again rose to its feet and cheered.
Delegates from 50 colleges and universities around the country were in attendance at Friday’s ceremony, including both of Dartmouth’s living former presidents, Philip J. Hanlon ’77 and global health leader Jim Yong Kim, the former president of the World Bank.
Mohegan Tribe Council of Elders Vice Chairwoman Beth Regan performed the blessing in English and Mohegan. Earlier in the day, Regan presented Dartmouth and Beilock with a pendant on behalf of the Tribe, whose 18th-century ancestor Samson Occom is one of Dartmouth’s founders.
Mohegan Vice Chairwoman Sarah Harris ’00, a member of Dartmouth’s Native American Visiting Committee, a descendent of Occom, and the first female member of the Mohegan Tribe to graduate from Dartmouth, spoke about her ancestor’s legacy at Dartmouth.
Harris explained the significance of the hand-beaded leather wampum belt that the Tribe presented to then-President Hanlon in April 2022 when Dartmouth formally repatriated Occom’s papers to the Mohegan Tribe, and which she now called on Hanlon to present to President Beilock.
“With the College’s acceptance of the wampum belt, the relationship between the Mohegan Tribe and Dartmouth College began a new chapter, one marked by mutual respect and the promise that we will honor our shared history by being accountable to our ancestors and continuing to further Occom’s dream of an Indian education for Native youth,” Harris said. “The wampum belt is a form of a contract between the tribe and Dartmouth. With the passing of the belt, President Beilock assumes the solemn responsibility to uphold the College’s promise to our Tribe and to continue to further Occom’s legacy.”
And as his predecessor, Kim, did for him, Hanlon solemnly presented Beilock with the Wentworth Bowl, a silver monteith originally gifted in 1773 from John Wentworth, royal governor of New Hampshire, to Dartmouth’s founder and first president, Eleazar Wheelock. The bowl has been part of Dartmouth’s inaugural rituals since 1909. Kim, Hanlon, and Beilock stood with the artifact, embodying three successive presidencies together on a single stage.
“Every member of the Wheelock Succession brings their own unique set of talents and experiences to the job,” Hanlon said. “Quite rightly, today we celebrate this historic moment, the naming of the first woman to be president of Dartmouth.”
The day’s speakers also included Shinobu Kitayama, the Robert B. Zonjonc Collegiate Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan; New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, an ex officio trustee; and Inauguration Advisory Committee co-chair Vijay Govindarajan, the Coxe Distinguished Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business.
Representing the undergraduate student body, Jessica Chiriboga ’24 said, “As a young leader and student body president, I respect that President Beilock and the women who came before us have worked tirelessly to make classrooms and workplaces more equitable. I am grateful for this work that often goes unrecognized, and our community is truly fortunate to have a driven scientist, an empathetic leader, and a devoted woman of Dartmouth to lead our institution forward.”
Representing graduate and professional students, Iara Backes, Guarini ’22, MED ’24, said “When I look around, I am proud to see women in leadership positions, as faculty leaders in their fields, as department heads, and as deans. I am absolutely delighted to add ‘president’ to that list.”
The ceremony featured a variety of musical performances, including a Gospel Choir performance of Greg Kelly’s You’re Awesome, and a Glee Club rendition of Dartmouth Undying. The Glee Club led the audience in singing the Alma Mater. The Majestic Brass Quintet played during the processional and recessional.
A Week of Celebration
The Inauguration ceremony was the culmination of a series of events throughout the week.
On Wednesday, Beilock sat down for a conversation on leadership and learning with trailblazing former PepsiCo chairman and CEO and bestselling author Indra Nooyi. The fireside-style discussion was moderated by Govindarajan.
On Thursday, an academic panel featuring Mary Flanagan, the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities and professor of film and media studies; Professor of Engineering Tillman Gerngross; and Daniella Reichstetter, Tuck ’07, an adjunct professor of business administration at Tuck, discussed Driving Impact Through Dartmouth’s Innovation Ecosystem.
Friday’s festivities began early, with a breakfast at the Hanover Inn that drew more than 80 faculty deans, department chairs, and committee leaders from across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools.
At 11:30, thousands of students, faculty, and staff gathered on Tuck Mall for a community cookout, with live performances by the New York City-based Sing Harlem Choir and the Dartmouth Gospel Choir.
About Sian Leah Beilock
Beilock, a world-renowned cognitive scientist who specializes in factors in the brain that influence performance, took up the leadership of Dartmouth on June 12 after completing her tenure at Barnard College, where she had served as president since 2017.
Before Barnard, President Beilock was executive vice provost and the Stella M. Rowley Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago.
Beilock earned doctoral degrees in psychology and kinesiology from Michigan State University and her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego. The author of two critically acclaimed books and 120 peer-reviewed publications, she is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Psychological Association, a member of the National Academy of Kinesiology and the Council on Foreign Relations, and has received a National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award and a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation.
Hannah Silverstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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(Photo by Robert Gill)