History of the Center

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences was dedicated in September 1983 to honor Nelson A. Rockefeller ’30 who contributed his wisdom, energy, and resources to Dartmouth College and to the nation from the time of matriculation as a student in 1926 until his death in 1979.

Nelson A. Rockefeller

While an undergraduate at Dartmouth, Rockefeller majored in economics, served as president of the Arts, and spent his senior year in independent study as one of the College's first Senior Fellows. Following his graduation in 1930, he devoted his talents to a wide range of charitable, business, and public concerns which culminated in his serving as a four-term governor of New York, and his appointment as Vice President during the Ford administration.

Throughout his life Rockefeller remained a loyal alumnus of Dartmouth, serving as a trustee of the College, helping to create the College's Great Issues course which focused on public policy issues. He also had an instrumental role in establishing the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts. He was one of only two individuals to be awarded two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College.

"Nelson was a patriot to the core. He was born into a family where public obligation was legendary. He was a vital man, a bolt of energy, a bright comet across the sky. To be on his team was an exhilarating experience. He took ideas and persons and stretched them both." –Lady Bird Johnson

The Building

Designed by Lo-Yi Chan '54 and dedicated in 1983, the Rockefeller Center provides space for classes, study, public presentations, and offices. Funds to build the Center were contributed by members of the Rockefeller family, friends and associates of Nelson Rockefeller, and friends and alumni of Dartmouth College.

Dartmouth President John Kemeny proposed the creation of a multi-disciplinary center in the tradition of the College's Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts and Fairchild Science Center. Kemeny had in mind bringing together the social sciences, economics, government, psychology, the Public Affairs Center and policy studies in order to create an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of vital issues of public interest.

The Center Today

The Rockefeller Center today is seen as a catalyst for teaching, research, and deliberation about public policy and the social sciences. Dedicated to providing an interdisciplinary perspective on policy-related topics, the center fosters a commitment to the ideals of public service and informed public debate exemplified by the man for which the Center is named. The Center endeavors to:

  • Develop undergraduates' potential for leadership
  • Support high-quality research on policy related topics
  • Encourage experiential learning in the policy realm
  • Foster campus dialogue about policy issues
  • Stimulate cross-disciplinary approaches to policy problems
  • Promote understanding of policy issues in the community beyond Dartmouth

The Center pursues these objectives through a variety of programs, including administration of a minor in Public Policy; financial support for student internships and research; grants for faculty research and conferences; interdisciplinary faculty seminars; and lectures and group discussions with distinguished visiting scholars and policymakers.