The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Dartmouth College: A History of Public Service

class of 1930 room

The Class of 1930 Seminar Room, located in the Rockefeller Center, features a wall bearing the names of alumni and alumnae who have held public office.

Public Service Legacy Project

The "History of Public Service" website is a collaborative effort between the Rockefeller Center and the DALI Lab.

Click here to explore the lives of Dartmouth Graduates in Public Office.

For its size, Dartmouth College boasts an impressive number of alumni who have served in national elective office or as state governors, and sometimes both. The Class of 1930 Seminar Room, located in the Rockefeller Center, features a wall bearing the names of these 189 alumni and alumnae under the inscription “…to honor our classmates and those who have preceded, followed, and will follow them in the Dartmouth tradition of accepting the responsibility of public life, we recognize here those who have served in national elective office or as governors.”

Thirty-five years on, as part of Dartmouth’s 250th Anniversary with the fitting theme of “Honoring Our Past, Inspiring Our Future,” the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center in collaboration with the Dartmouth Applied Learning and Innovation (DALI) Lab expanded the Class of 1930’s original idea of commemorating these alumni by creating an online, interactive website. This collaborative, student-led project seeks to make the Dartmouth tradition of service available online as a further source of inspiration. The website embodies the accomplishments of individuals, starting with their time on campus and extending to their public service careers, their aspirations after college, and the spirit of service to society.

“Through the Public Service Legacy Project, we seek to celebrate Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary and the Rockefeller Center’s 35th anniversary by enabling everyone in the Dartmouth community to learn about these alumni, their lives at Dartmouth, and their service to the nation,” explains Andrew Samwick, the Sandra L. and Arthur L. Irving ‘72a, P’10 Professor of Economics and the Director of the Rockefeller Center. “We hope that future generations of students, faculty, and staff will build on this project to continue to recognize and take pride in Dartmouth alumni in public service.”

Elizabeth Celtrick, Senior Assistant Director at the Rockefeller Center, began recruiting researchers for the collaborative research and digital design project during the winter term of 2018. The DALI Lab joined the project that following summer. A year later, over 40 undergraduate students of all majors had contributed to the content and design, utilizing on-campus resources such as the Rauner Library and the DALI Lab.

When Allison Tong ’20 first heard about the project, she was taking a sociology course looking into the history of coeducation at Dartmouth and was interested in continuing to look at how Dartmouth’s past influences current and future students. The Public Service Legacy Project gave her the opportunity to utilize the Rauner Special Collections Library and conduct primary-source research. She completed five alumni profiles, including that of radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens, Class of 1814 (to read more about her research of Stevens, click here), and then transitioned into a data analysis role, providing a view of the bigger picture of the research she, and many others, had conducted.

The visual aspect of the project would not have been possible without the support of the designers and developers of the DALI Lab. Varsha Iyer ’21 served as the Project Manager for the project, and although she had no previous experience with the Rockefeller Center, she specifically chose to manage the project, attracted to the idea of commemorating the alumni and making it more accessible to the public. “Right now with the wall, it is really hard to interact with it, to actually learn about the people and explore,” Iyer said. “When a prospective student, or an alum, or anyone interested in public policy wants to learn about the impact of Dartmouth, we can show them all the cool stuff we can do.”

The scope of the project presented some unique challenges. Iyer spoke of the difficulty of displaying all of the data and seeing the trends, while also humanizing the experience for viewers. It was certainly a project with “breadth and depth,” and the Lab worked hard to ensure that was reflected in the final product.

“A challenge for DALI was designing a site that allows visitors to get a sense of the wide range of political and policy impact Dartmouth alums have had over our 250-year history, while also finding ways to dive into details about each person and their achievements,” explains Computer Science Professor Lorie Loeb, Faculty Director of the DALI Lab. “It was fabulous to have so much data to work with, which has resulted in a dynamic, online presence that highlights the long and strong history of Dartmouth's political impact and public policy achievements.”

The rollcall begins with U.S. Representative Samuel Taggart (F-MA), Class of 1774, and the newest name to be added was U.S. Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV), Class of 1993. Thanks to the hard work of everyone involved in the Public Service Legacy Project, this ever-growing list is now available to the public, and continues to inspire the next generation of leaders in public policy.

Written by Anneliese Thomas '19, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Communication and research contributor to the Public Service Legacy Project.

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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences