Philip Hanlon, who takes over as president of Dartmouth College in July, says his biggest challenge will be to elevate undergraduate education that inspired him as an underclassman at the school in the 1970s.
Hanlon, provost of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was named yesterday to succeed Jim Yong Kim, who left the Ivy League school in July after less than three years at the helm to lead the World Bank.
“Dartmouth has a long history of really excellent undergraduate teaching; I want to make that even better,” Hanlon, 57, said in an interview. “The most important work that our college and universities do is to prepare leaders to go out in the world. I want to be part of that important work.”
Unlike Kim, who had no affiliation to Dartmouth, Hanlon knows the school as an alumnus. He has a “strong emotional tie” to the college, Steve Mandel, chairman of the board of trustees who graduated in the class behind Hanlon, said in an interview yesterday. At Michigan, Hanlon was involved in faculty recruitment and retention and plans to make that a priority at Dartmouth.
“This is a very competitive marketplace for great faculty,” Hanlon said. “I’ll be looking for what are the real strengths at Dartmouth and how can we build on those.”
Hanlon, who earned an undergraduate degree at Dartmouth in 1977, is a mathematician, with a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. He has been at Michigan, where he teaches freshman calculus, since 1986.
With Kim’s departure, and the announced retirements of Shirley Tilghman at Princeton University and Richard C. Levin at Yale University, three of the most prestigious jobs in higher education had been open at the same time. Earlier this month, Yale named its provost Peter Salovey as president.
While Mandel didn’t know Hanlon during their student days, they have common friends and that helped in the presidential selection process, Mandel said.
“We did some due diligence with some of people who he’s kept up with in his class and my class,” said Mandel, founder of Lone Pine Capital LLC. “It was very easy checking him out through a bunch of mutual friends in terms of his character.”
While his ties to the school will be helpful, Hanlon will have a learning curve to understand the Dartmouth of today rather than the school he attended 35 years ago, Mandel said.
Hanlon said the faculty gave him confidence, and he made lifelong friends at the school. He also married the sister of a fraternity brother.
“My first term was pretty rough,” Hanlon said in an interview. “The faculty and students nurtured me as well as challenged me.”
Raised in the mining community of Gouverneur in upstate New York, Hanlon becomes the 10th Dartmouth alumnus to serve as president, according to the school.
He was appointed provost at Michigan in 2010, succeeding Teresa Sullivan, who left to run the University of Virginia. As provost, he was the chief academic officer and also the top budget executive. He has held administrative leadership positions at Michigan for more than a decade.
Hanlon is on the advisory board of Coursera Inc., a provider of online university courses that has signed up more than 30 schools including Michigan, Caltech and Princeton University. He said another early priority is to determine Dartmouth’s place in the online course arena.
Carol Folt, who has served as interim president, will stay in the role through June 30, when she will return to her previous post as provost, Dartmouth said.
A 16-member search committee spent more than six months in the selection process. Hanlon impressed the group with passion for his alma mater and a vision for how the school can excel, Diana Taylor, vice chair of the committee and his college classmate, said in a Dartmouth statement yesterday.
As a mathematician, Hanlon focuses on probability and combinatorics, the study of finite structures and their significance as they relate to bioinformatics, computer science, and other fields, Dartmouth said in the statement. Hanlon says he plans to continue teaching in the classroom after he becomes president.
Dartmouth’s endowment was valued at $3.49 billion as of June 30. Its 5.8 percent return on investments led the eight- member Ivy League. It is the smallest member, with almost 6,150 students, according to the most recent enrollment figures.
Almuni of Dartmouth, founded in 1769, include Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and his immediate predecessor, Henry Paulson. Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive officer of General Electric Co., is an alumnus and trustee.
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