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Why Dartmouth?

 Alexandra Tanner ’11

Okay I’ll admit it. Dartmouth has not always been my favorite place on earth. I was not one of those children with Dartmouth paraphernalia plastered to their bedroom walls, making bold declarations that I would one day attend Dartmouth just like my [insert respective family member here]. In fact, no one in my family had ever attended Dartmouth until my sister, two and a half years my senior, enrolled in the fall of 2004. Which would make 2003 the first time I’d ever heard of Dartmouth. Or so I thought… It was a crisp winter day circa 1995 and my family was driving Northbound to Montreal for a fun week of snowsuits, skiing, and 0 degree weather. We were driving through Vermont when my father mentioned that there was a “beautiful” college nearby that we could drive through if anyone was interested. To which my sister and I replied, “nah!!” 

Fast forward 10ish years and I am now a thriving 16 year old in my junior year of high school, again in the car with my family headed north, only this time with Dartmouth College as our intended destination. It is the Heptagonal Indoor Championships, hosted by none other than Dartmouth College, and my sister will be competing in the pentathlon. We arrive at our hotel around midnight the Friday before competition begins. It’s pitch black and I stumble out of the car into calf-­‐deep snow. I am not wearing boots. It’s freezing out (literally). What is this place. The next morning we drive over the Ledyard Bridge for my first encounter with Dartmouth College, a trip I will unknowingly make an indefinite number of times over the course of the rest of my life. We arrive at the lot across from Leverone Field House, and as I take in my first glimpses of this massive facility blanketed in white and looking very much like a life-­‐size snow globe, I grudgingly admit to myself, “Okay, this place isn’t so bad.”

I was recruited by coach Sandy Ford-­‐Centonze during the fall of my senior year after meeting with her the summer prior to express my interest in the program. The plan was to make me a 400-­‐meter hurdler, an event I had never tried but was encouraged to by my high school coach. Fall term of 2007 had other plans for me, however. Not even two full weeks into training with the team I was pulled from running with a stress reaction in my left shin, not to be allowed to jog more than 1 minute straight, a grand total of 3 times, with 3-­‐minute walking recovery, until late November. I figured it was all over for me there. How was I ever supposed to make the Spring Break or London trips, let alone the Heps roster if I wasn’t allowed to move until winter? Was I even going to have friends if I wasn’t able to commiserate with my fellow teammates on the intensity of our workouts? Unsurprising to anyone who has ever encountered the Dartmouth track team, of course I made friends. In fact, even though I was the loser freshman that barely anyone had seen run, I was constantly encouraged by both Sandy and my teammates to not lose faith in myself. And when I was finally able to do my first workout with the team right before we were to go home for Winter break, after collapsing inside the finish line following my second-­‐to-­‐last 200, wheezing with a stitch in my side, near tears, and complaining that I was “NEVER” going to catch up with everyone else, Sandy patted my back and walked me to the start line of my last interval. That’s Sandy: always supportive, but tough love.

I picked Dartmouth on a gut feeling. I picked it because I saw how much my sister loved both the school and the team. I picked it because I saw how much the team loved her. I picked it because during my recruiting trip I felt these are people who spend time together not just because they’re teammates, but because they’re best friends. I picked it because this connection I sensed within the team was palpable throughout all of campus.


I love Dartmouth because my team made it my home away from home. I love it because through my best races and my worst, my teammates never waivered in their support. I faced some of my hardest athletic, academic, and personal challenges during my college years, but knowing that I had my team to fall back on always gave me that light at the end of the tunnel.


I’ve seen our team change every year with the exodus of our seniors and the arrival of our freshman. But the bond we all develop towards each other has never altered. A bond and sense of community that permeates our entire campus, giving Dartmouth the feeling that we exist in some sort of bubble, separate from the rest of the world and only understood by “us”. Every day I carry this bond and connection with me, my love for Dartmouth fixed. Our alma mater says it best, “Around the world they keep for her, their old undying faith. They have the still North in their souls, the hill winds in their breath. And the granite of New Hampshire is made partof them ‘til death. And the granite of New Hampshire is made part of them ‘til death”. Alexandra Tanner ‘11


While at Dartmouth, Alex was a 2-­‐time Heptagonal champion and 3-­‐time NCAA Regional qualifier in the 400-­‐meter hurdles. She set the 400-­‐meter hurdle and 60-­‐ meter hurdle school records, and ran on record setting DMR and 4x400m relays.  She majored in Psychological and Brain Sciences and currently works as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital. She hopes to pursue a degree in Clinical Psychology.


Looking back at my College experience, what stands out most in my mind now is how you are surrounded by so much talent in every facet of your life at Dartmouth; coaches, teachers, facilities, fellow students and athletes, but everyone is so down to earth you hardly notice. It is a place where the only limit to how much you can accomplish is based on how hard you want to work, but the unassuming  positive attitude that permeates the campus creates an environment that makes working hard tremendously fun.

I believe it is the humble, eternally interested and supremely skilled population that makes Dartmouth unique and is the main reason undergraduates from across the world arrive a little unsure of their belonging and leave with a new family of deep meaningful relationships and finely tuned skills ready to shape the world.

Sean Furey ’04 was Heptagonal champion and two-time All-American in the javelin throw. In 2009, he was a finalist in the World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, Germany, placing 12th. He was USATF national champion in 2010 and a member of the 2012 Olympic Team. He majored in Engineering Sciences and extended his Dartmouth stay by completing a B.E. in Mechanical Design at the Thayer School of Engineering and the Masters of Engineering Management (M.E.M) program at Thayer and Tuck School of Business. He lives in San Diego, Calif., and currently works part-time as a mechanical engineer while training to make a return to the Olympics in Rio 2016.


In 1958 as a high school senior in New York, I was recruited by several track powerhouse schools across the country, all of them offering lucrative athletic scholarship offers.

While training that winter at a local club, I met a Dartmouth freshman track runner. He asked if I would be interested in applying to Dartmouth. I barely knew what prestige an Ivy League school had, but replied in the affirmative. I received my acceptance to Dartmouth, but found out, to my surprise, that the school did not offer athletic scholarships. However, the school assured me I would probably qualify for a loan and employment in one of the dining halls. So, my decision was easy: accept the offer of a local university, which would handle all of my financial needs.

The news of my decision hit the local papers and my principal, who happened to be a Dartmouth alumnus. He was dumfounded! I was due to get a math award at graduation and these were pretty much his exact words: “If you’re stupid enough to turn down an Ivy League education, then you must not be smart enough to get the award.” I really wanted that award and relented.  So, that’s the basis on how I attended Dartmouth.

Naturally, the decision was wise. It’s not so much “Why Dartmouth?” but “What Dartmouth did for me”:

  • Dartmouth had outstanding athletic facilities and coaches who recognized that academics were our first priority. The team atmosphere was wonderful; not only did my teammates pushed me to be a better runner, but we were a very cohesive unit, and to this day I have maintained friendships with several of them.
  • My Dartmouth experience led to a major company hiring me and giving me some time off to train and eventually make the 1968 Olympic team.
  • The Dartmouth degree (and with probably some help being an Olympian) got me accepted to the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
  • The Stanford MBA and Dartmouth AB were instrumental in getting hired by a California software company as president, offering something called “online security trading”. This company became E*Trade, which I left after they went public and exercised my valuable stock options.

So thank you so much to my high school principal for the insult. He was a little harsh, but a very wise man. And a bit of advice to those of you who are in the same place as I was in 1958 - Choose Dartmouth. It will be one of the wisest decisions you will ever make.

Tom Laris ’62 was IC4A and Heptagonal champion in track and cross country. In 1967 he was second in the Boston marathon, ranked ninth in the world in the 10,000 meters with the fourth fastest time. He was an Olympian in the 10,000 meters in the 1968 games. He majored in history and lives in Los Altos Hills, Calif. He is currently an independent licensed security broker and trader.



Dartmouth (Re)Visited

Striving for excellence while maintaining balance in life, this has been my lifelong goal. I live this each and every day. When looking for the right place to achieve this as an undergraduate, I chose Dartmouth College. Why?

I felt that I would excel academically in smaller class settings with the opportunity to have direct and personal relationships with my professors and instructors. The deep connection of learning through teaching styles, like the Rassias Method for mastering languages and the intimate 8-12 student seminars in my English major, appealed to me.  They gave me models and skills that I use today as a college instructor and business meeting facilitator.

The spirit of nature and connection to the outdoors attracted me to the Dartmouth campus. The tight-knit community of the College and the physical closeness of the campus retained a simplicity and ease to allow me to focus during the undergraduate years. I thought going in, and then confirmed during my four years, that I would have plenty of campus-focused activities and opportunities without the distractions of an urban campus. Attributed to Daniel Webster when arguing for Dartmouth College in a Supreme Court case in 1818: “It is, Sir, as I have said, a small College, And yet, there are those who love it.” I loved that the small College allowed me to focus on my academic and athletic priorities with few distractions.

That same spirit of nature and the outdoors gave me the perfect training ground as a long-distance runner. The Coach Lananna teams of the 1980’s and 90’s mastered the hard-easy Lydiard training methods. These methods could take advantage of Hanover, New Hampshire’s miles of mountain trails and gravel roads connected to the backbone of the Appalachian Trail. A tradition of running success in an established program with a top-notch coaching staff cemented my decision to attend Dartmouth College.

I have “set a watch, lest the old traditions fail.” In recent years, my reconnection to Dartmouth stars Abbey D’Agostino, John Bleday, Lexi Pappas and Matt Miner and the interest of my own high school-age children in running have rekindled my fondness for collegiate cross-country, track and field. I follow the team’s progress weekly.

James  Sapienza, MA, MBA, MHA ’85

Jim is a seven-time All-American, 13-time Heps Champion and set school records from the 1000m to 10,000m during his four years at Dartmouth. He remains the 3,000m, two-mile, 5,000m and three-mile school record holder. Jim majored in English with a minor in Economics and graduated with a special commendation as a Senior Fellow. He lives in Issaquah, Wash., near Seattle and works as a healthcare executive in a large regional healthcare system with expertise in strategic partnerships and Lean management systems. Jim teaches undergraduates at Bellevue College in Washington State. He exercises daily, still preferring mountain trail runs.


Why Dartmouth?

Going to Dartmouth was the best hardest decision for me, especially coming all the way from  California. I remember going on my recruiting visit to Dartmouth and thinking, man, these people have decided to strand themselves in the middle of nowhere-and yet, they're smiling.  I knew what the lure of a city school elsewhere was-the city-but something awesome and magical must be making these Dartmouth students happy... happier, dare I say.

I should also mention that I was in no position to athletically contribute to the Dartmouth cross country and track teams when I first came onto the team.  I gave running a rest for a few years to play soccer, and I knew that it was going to take a special team and special environment to allow me to achieve what I eventually realized athletically at Dartmouth.  I couldn't do a four-mile run with the team at first, I got last in the first invite race, and I almost quit. I almost did, except there was too much keeping me there to give up.

What is so special about the environment at Dartmouth-athletically, socially, academically, everything-ly-is its capacity to give students permission to believe in themselves. I eventually became a creative writer and improvisational comedy performer at Dartmouth. These are crafts, much like running, for which the difference between mediocrity and greatness, between giving up and finding extreme pleasure in the process of seeing goals through fruition, is heavily reliant on the environment.  For me, I needed to be in a place where my coaches, friends, and professors supported me, and, at times, believed in me more than I believed in myself.  In return, I gave my hard work and discipline.  In running, it meant hearing my coach tell me that I am just as good as any girl on the starting line, and for poetry, it meant having my professor asking if I would read at the local book store in town (Me? Read my work? To people? To real people?!).  And she asked me over a home-cooked meal at her house on my birthday.  Dartmouth feels like home, it feels like family.   

During my off-terms, I was lucky enough to have received multiple research awards to perform as an improvisational comedy "park performer" in New York City and take sketch comedy writing and improv classes in Hollywood. I spent my senior year writing a manuscript of poems and co-writing a film that is now being shown and winning awards in film-festivals worldwide.  Now, my dreams of being on Saturday Night Live one day seem within reach.  And I traveled almost straight from graduation to competing in the US Olympic Track Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon-I never imagined that I would find such a wide range of self-discoveries, pleasure, and success in college.  I came to Dartmouth a hopeful girl and left a confident and happy athlete, writer, and performer.

 Oh, yeah, and if I forget-ever- I have a permanent reminder of the Big Green!  A "lonepine" tattoo will forever celebrate the success of our 2012 NCAA All-American Distance Medley Relay for me and my teammates.  The relay team decided that we were not only going to the NCAA Championships (a long shot), but we were going to medal.  I remember traveling to qualifying race after race each weekend, and having the feeling of being "all-in" it with my team.  The race was the best night of my life. I remember looking around on the podium and realizing, finally, that I belonged up there. It encompasses my experience at Dartmouth in general-students come in from all backgrounds bearing impressive achievements, but we leave feeling a mutual sense of pride: we belong, we did it, and we get it- this Dartmouth thing!

Alexi Pappas '12

While at Dartmouth, Alexi set the school record in the 3000m steeplechase and the women's Distance Medley Relay, two events in which she has represented Dartmouth at the 2012 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championship Meets.  She is a three-time All-American and served as team captain for the cross country and track & field teams.  She double-majored in Creative Writing and English, and minored in environmental public policy.  After graduation, Alexi studied creative writing, film, and business as a graduate student at the University of Oregon and ran a fifth year there.  She is pursuing a career in writing and performing and is a twitter enthusiast who can be found at @alexipappas.

 Why Dartmouth?

I have always been very competitive.  When I think back on my days at Dartmouth, I realize how lucky I was to have found a place that fostered, channeled, and balanced my intensity and drive. 

I knew Dartmouth was different the first time I set foot on campus.  The picturesque setting and historic  campus were unlike any of the urban schools I had considered.  The school spirit was obvious everywhere in the sea of green clad students.  The strong academics with an emphasis on a personal, undergraduate education differed from the bigger universities I had considered.   None of the smaller schools I visited had Dartmouth's century old strong Division I athletic tradition.  And the closeness of the community was ever present in the easy smiles and greetings I met everywhere I turned.  I left campus knowing that, for me, this truly was "College."

Those first impressions held true during my time at Dartmouth.  The small class sizes and easily accessible professors fostered my academic achievement.   Personal attention from the coaches, high caliber team mates, and challenging competition channeled my drive and pushed me to reach my full athletic potential.  The tight knit school and team gave me the support and social network I needed as I was maturing and finding my way to adulthood.   And then there were the perfect Dartmouth moments that gave me the balance I needed to offset my drive and intensity.  Tranquil ponds, rivers, and hills would soothe me and take the edge off the pressure.   Baker Tower framed by brilliant fall foliage or covered with pristine snow or bathed in lush green spring air would compel me to stop for a moment and just appreciate the beauty around me. 

For me, the uniqueness of Dartmouth is her combination of strengths:  small but world renowned, emphasis on undergraduates, Division I athletics, close knit community, personal attention, idyllic New England setting.  For me, this combination was what I needed to nurture my competitiveness and set me up for collegiate and life-long success.  I still compete, but now it is in the professional setting of my career in medicine and public health.  And I still get goose bumps when I have the good fortune to return to "the College."

Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, MD, MPH '88

While at Dartmouth, Betsey set the school record holder in the 100 m and 200m dash and was a Heptagonal champion. She majored in Biology with a modified major in Psychology and graduated Magna Cum Laude. She is now living in Raleigh, N.C., and works as a primary care physician and as the Medical Director of a care management program for Medicaid patients.