Roger L. Simon

Dartmouth in the Age of Latte

The first thing I noticed yesterday on returning to Dartmouth after decades was how the restaurants were better. The main street now has Thai and Indian restaurants plus a bar that serves Kobe beef burgers and a cafe with a passable macchiato. How I would have killed for any of those when I was an undergraduate.

Still I didn’t see much difference in the campus itself – it was night – until I started walking around this morning in the clear light of day. (It was about fifty-five degrees, freezing to us Californians, but the locals were about to break out the bikinis.)

The one thing that remained the same was the classic exterior of Baker Library (after I took this, the Green filled with sun-bathing students… brrrr…) :

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The inside of the library had doubled, however, with an addition called the Berry library, which is very high-tech, but tries to fit in with the old Colonial architecture. Integrating old and new styles is difficult for these Ivy League institutions. You can see the attempt here at right where the old exterior brick abuts the modern interior:

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Looking to my right, I saw the post-modern version of the stacks where I spent so many sleepy hours. I think I would be much less sleepy nowadays because my neighbors in the next carrel could be …. women!

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But whatever modern additions, the highlight of the Baker Library … and perhaps the finest works of art in all of Northern New England … are the Orozco murals in the basement of Baker. The Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco migrated to Dartmouth in the Thirties to ply his trade on its library walls. My father (then a student) was one of his assistants. This excerpt always struck me as a grim warning to Ivy types not to be too cocky about their fancy educations.

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That was about as close to Souther climes as I ever got as a student. Of course, Dartmouth – like its sister institutions – is much more multi-culti than in my day. They have their own “Latino & Caribbean House” now, ensconced in one of the typical 18th Century Colonials. Up here in the North, perhaps they should call it “Dreamland.”

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