Our place in history ...

Monday, April 24, 2006

In memoriam:

This was written several weeks ago when I first received word of his passing. I offer no excuse for why it remains incomplete. But please rest assured, my prayers have been consistently marked by the completeness, eloquence, and purposefulness my texts lack.

- Unai -


My 1998 Dartmouth College diploma is not signed by, President, James O. Freedman. But it should be. I foolishly delayed the satisfaction of one of my quantitative analysis distributive requirements until the spring of my senior year. I slept through the morning midterm—an exam that could not be made up, a test that amounted to 50% of my final grade. The kind-hearted professor afforded me the only option that would allow me to walk with my class on graduation day: After completing all expected coursework for the term, I accepted an incomplete credit, and received a remarkably challenging exam days after my departure from Hanover. I completed it in the window of allotted time. Faxed it back. Received the necessary passing marks. And by July, I was ready to receive my parchment signed by President Freedman. One small problem—Freedman’s term had ended and I was forced to wait until President James Wright assumed his post and the full assembly of Trustees gathered in the fall, before I could adorn my wall with that highly coveted document written in Latin. I always thought I would have the chance to add President Freedman’s signature to my diploma—he seemed so very vibrant and strong.

I am saddened terribly by the loss of this great man. I am without nearby family other than my mother, and therefore I have always looked to my fellow College alumni as kin. My mother wept when I shared the news of his passing. My Dartmouth family sighed with heavy hearts welled-up eyes as well. It only seems strange to persons tied to typical universities or those without any relationship whatsoever to higher education (much less a close-knit liberal arts institution of academic excellence and social camaraderie) that we mourn the loss of a school figurehead so deeply and openly. To those of us with granite in our veins and memories of moose-crossing signs; sensory recollections of contact with the Connecticut River and imprints of the purple, fuchsia, and golden sunrises over Dartmouth Hall so deep into our grey-matter that they are inseparable from the essence of our souls, these tears, sighs, and heavy hearts are forgone conclusions. We truly love the College. And for eleven years many of us came to love the College because of this man.

President Freedman once played John F. Kennedy opposite Dean of the College, M. Lee Pelton, in a stage production paying homage to the icons of the 1960s Civil Rights era. While this dramatic recreation hinted that President Freedman’s career as a thespian, had he had one, would have posed little threat to the legacy of canonic actors like Laurence Olivier. It was demonstrative of the breadth of his passion. James Freedman spoke and wrote and acted so that others might live the dream—the dream restored, revitalized, and re-imagined countless times between 1776 and the present; the dream Langston Hughes demarcated as deferred for too many peoples for too long; the dream the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. transformed into a communitywide, nationwide, worldwide peaceful revolution of love. Mahatma Gandhi remarked, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” President Freedman championed these words—I hope to become over the course of my lifetime what he proved to be in but one of the four years I knew him.

Congregation Kehillath Israel, Brookline, Massachusetts
March 23, 2006
Sheba, Deborah, and Jared - we share your loss and mourn with you. Susan and I offer our deepest condolences to you and to all of your family. The lives of each of us in this room are diminished by the loss of a friend - but we remember warmly how much we each were enriched by knowing Jim Freedman as a friend. That warmth can never be lost.
A few years ago, Jim Freedman said to a Boston Globe interviewer that his great regret was that due to his illness, his grandchildren would not know him. Isaac, Jacob, Sasha, and Noah: we resolve you will know him. Let me record for you….
Susan and I have known Jim and Sheba Freedman for 19 years - good and full years, but also years that tested him regularly. The cruel accumulation of physical assaults upon his body never diminished his spirit or his mind. He met the repeated challenges with grace and with courage and did so in ways that inspired all who were privileged to be in his good company.
James O. Freedman was a man of many parts - husband, father, and grandfather, a son of New Hampshire, law professor, university president, academic spokesman and leader, lover of books, public intellectual, sports enthusiast, a special friend who was so proud of his Jewish heritage. Each of these he embraced to the fullest. He excelled in living a good and generous life, always comfortable with who he was.
When I first met him in 1987 what stood out was his wisdom, the power of his intellect and the range of his learning. He read so widely. He was curious to know more about many things. And he came to know more. But knowing things was not enough - reflecting upon them, learning from them, relating them to life's problems and questions, sharing the wisdom derived from this process, these things were the purpose of education at its best and they shaped the intellectual meaning of his life. He was always a teacher, always patient and wise.
As Dartmouth's fifteenth president, he focused consistently on raising even more the intellectual sights and expectations of the College. He encouraged the creation of new academic programs, affirmed and strengthened the College's commitment to diversity, oversaw major construction projects, and completed a successful capital campaign.
His passion for learning, for liberal learning, for discovery, these things always shaped his administration. Dartmouth's distinguished reputation today stands as a tribute to his vision.
We learned from his ideas, from his passionate defense of the liberal arts, from his unflinching support of academic freedom. He willingly fought for the ideas he believed in, and he challenged us to strive for the best. He did not flinch from controversy nor did he step back from challenge.
I had the good fortune to serve as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and as Provost with Jim, and, when he took a sabbatical in 1995, as acting president. Jim was the sort of colleague you could spend hours with talking over the day-to-day issues of campus and of the world. He loved to talk about books, about the day's news, about baseball, and he had an ear finely tuned to the academic rumor network! Many sought his advice and counsel. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a laugh that would lighten the heaviest of subjects. We spent many hours together - hours that I will never forget and will always cherish.
If his wisdom and intellect shaped his approach to life, for the last dozen years his courage marked his life and together these qualities made a strong teacher the stronger and made his great passion for liberal learning the greater. As he said at Dartmouth's 1994 commencement, just completing his chemotherapy, his first chemotherapy, "although liberal education isn't perfect, it is the best preparation there is for life and its exigencies. It does enable us to make sense of the events that either break over us, like a wave, or quietly envelop us before we know it, like a drifting fog."
At that time none could have imagined that our friend would have so many subsequent opportunities to test this preparation; none of us could have handled these repeated assaults with so much dignity and such understated courage.
The Anti-Defamation League recognized him twice, with their William O. Douglas First Amendment Freedom Award and with the David Rose Civil Rights Award. The testimonials that led to these tributes said so much about a teacher who taught and who lived the value of liberal learning in making the world the better.
A few years ago we talked about his dealing with what then must have been the fifth or sixth recurrence of his cancer. I asked him about his spirits and he acknowledged that sometimes he felt terribly depressed and discouraged. But he said that he coped with these feelings by reminding himself that if in 1994 someone could have promised him ten more years, time to finish two books, to meet and to hold his grandchildren, Isaac, Jacob, Sasha, and Noah, to enjoy old friends and to make new ones, he would have felt blessed. But, he observed, those ten years had gone quickly, too quickly, so that perhaps with ten more years he would feel doubly blessed!
He lived to see the Red Sox win the World Series. And many here will know his passion for this team. He could recite details from Red Sox history that would challenge the best historians and he loved speculating on trades or moves. He was quite capable of second guessing managers - and he laughed when I told him that even in this world of specialization the two things that most Americans thought they could do better than the person doing the job was manage a baseball team and run a college or university.
Along with his native intellect, his exceptional wisdom, his demonstrated courage, there was another defining quality, increasingly important to Jim - he was Jewish. I recall a conversation a few years ago when I said to him that while of course I did not know him before 1987, I thought that his Jewish heritage and values had become even more powerful forces in his life over the last ten or fifteen years. He agreed that this was true, and it was something from which he took great comfort.
He grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, the son of a high school teacher and an accountant, and a member of a small Jewish community. As a child he developed his passion for ideas, and books, and the life of the mind and he understood early that so much of identity was tied to his being rooted in this Jewish community.
Jim once wrote, "Growing up … I often wondered … what it meant to be a Jew. I gradually came to understand that a devotion to learning was at the center of Jewish identity. My parents were both readers. Our house abounded with books and conversations about ideas. And so, as I matured, my search for my most authentic self was ineluctably linked to my identity as an intellectual, and that identity was inextricably linked to my sense of myself as a Jew."
In his distinguished service for the American Jewish Committee, recognized by them with their National Distinguished Leadership Award, that secular sense of self became a profound sense of responsibility, a passion to protect and to enhance Jewish life.
When Susan and I last visited Jim a month ago at Massachusetts General Hospital, he was as eager as always to know news and to share views of the world. Pitchers and catchers had reported but we all recognized that he might not see another opening day.
He was nonetheless so pleased when he told us that Princeton University Press was publishing the book that he had been working on for the last several years, one that would provide reflections on his family, his community, and his education. And through the bandages and patches and tubes he positively beamed when he said that he was dedicating the book to Sheba. Left unsaid, but surely recognized by those in that room - and all in this temple today - is the reciprocity of this dedication, a recognition by Jim of how Sheba Freedman has dedicated so much of her life to protecting the quality of his life. Sheba, you inspire us all.
Eudora Welty, one of Jim Freedman’s favorite writers, once wrote, "Integrity can be neither lost nor concealed nor faked nor quenched nor artificially come by nor outlived, nor, I believe, in the long run, denied."
Here we attest and shout out that Jim Freedman was truly a man of integrity. Everything he did, he did truthfully and with integrity. Quietly, he encouraged us to do the same. It is with sadness, for sure, that I stand here today. But it is also with deep pride and affection for all that Jim Freedman accomplished and meant to us.
In the 2003 Globe interview in which he reflected upon his mortality, Jim Freedman hoped that his grandchildren would know of him that "I thought it was valuable to try to nurture some values to help people live better." Isaac, Jacob, Sasha, and Noah, your grandfather did that. And those lessons endure.
He liked the line from The Education of Henry Adams, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Today we honor a man whose ideas can have no end and whose values must have no end - and we celebrate our good fortune in having known him.



A memorial service for James O. Freedman, President Emeritus of Dartmouth, will be held Monday, May 15 at 2 p.m. in Rollins Chapel, with a reception to follow in the Top of the Hop. All are welcome to attend.
Mr. Freedman was Dartmouth's 15th president, from 1987 to 1998. He died on March 21 at his home in Cambridge, Mass., after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was 70 years old. A native of Manchester, N.H., he graduated from Harvard College cum laude in 1957, and from Yale University Law School in 1962. After a clerkship with then-U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Thurgood Marshall, Mr. Freedman became an associate for the New York law firm of Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison.
His career in academic leadership began in 1979 when he was named dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 1982 he was appointed president of the University of Iowa, leading that institution for five years. He joined the Wheelock Succession of Dartmouth presidents in 1987. Mr. Freedman's administration was marked by numerous academic initiatives, including the first overhaul of the curriculum in over 70 years; the most successful capital campaign in Dartmouth's history, "The Will to Excel"; the achievement of gender parity in the student body; and an increase in the number of women among tenured and tenure-track faculty that established Dartmouth as a leader in the Ivy League. During his presidency, the College's endowment surpassed the $1 billion mark and its valued policy of need-blind admissions continued.
At Mr. Freedman's March 23 funeral at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline, Mass., President Wright said, "His passion for learning, for liberal learning, for discovery, these things always shaped his administration. Dartmouth's distinguished reputation today stands as a tribute to his vision."
Mr. Freedman was the author of three books, Crisis and Legitimacy: The Administrative Process and American Government (1978), Idealism and Liberal Education (1996), and Liberal Education and the Public Interest (2003). His memoirs are forthcoming from Princeton University Press. During his tenure and in the years since, Mr. Freedman was an impassioned voice in a range of forums and a respected advocate for liberal education, equal opportunity and affirmative action, and for the need for university leaders to find their voices in the public sphere.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the Bathsheba A. Freedman Scholarship Fund at Dartmouth, Dartmouth College Gift Recording Office, Hanover, NH 03755; the oncology department at the Massachusetts General Hospital in care of the Development Office, 165 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02114; or the American Jewish Committee, 165 East 56th St., New York, N.Y. 10022.


400 attend Colors' rally against injustice
By James M. Hunnicutt, News Editor
Published on Monday, February 5, 1996

Standing below a banner reading, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," about 400 people braved the frigid cold for two hours Friday afternoon outside the Parkhurst administration building to rally against injustice.
More than 40 students, faculty members, administrators and community members spoke before the crowd -- often very emotionally -- and condemned the recent spate of hate-speech incidents.
In the past three weeks, two Asian-American men in Little Hall and two Asian-American women living off-campus found racial slurs, such as "chink," written on the doors of their residences.
Last term, unknown assailants threw dirt at the window of a woman living in Lord Hall, who had hung a Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance flag in the window. Other students in the Gold Coast found homophobic slurs, such as "Kill the faggots," written on their doors bearing "Gay friendly space" stickers.
Last summer, an allegedly racist and sexist poem was read aloud during a meeting at Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
President of the College James Freedman, Dean of the College Lee Pelton and several members of Colors, a new campus group comprised of the presidents and vice presidents of seven campus minority organizations, stood on the steps of Parkhurst and addressed the crowd in turn.
In an electric voice that elicited much cheering from the audience Unai Montes-Irueste '98 said, "We're going to have the institution change and the system change."
Montes-Irueste, a member of the Student Assembly, encouraged students to sign a petition he wrote requesting the College to make all students pass a course about race relations in order to graduate.
Montes-Irueste finished his speech by saying, "If you are cold, get closer together because that's what it's all about."
Freedman encouraged students to continue to protest hate speech.
"Hate has no place at Dartmouth. We want to love one another and treat one another with ... respect," Freedman said.
"Let's pluck a rose of sweetness and harmony out of ... thorns of intolerance and bigotry," he said


Student rally mourns Calif. Proposition 209
By Beth Duncan And Erik Tanouye
Published on Thursday, November 21, 1996

A group of students, faculty members and administrators, including Dean of the College Lee Pelton, denounced Proposition 209 to an audience that was at times as large as 200 people in front of the Collis Center yesterday.
The "speak out" started at noon after about 50 students conducted a mock funeral procession marching around the campus carrying a coffin that had "Here lies affirmative action" painted on its side before arriving in front of Collis.
A group calling itself the Dartmouth Coalition for Equal Access and Opportunity planned the event, which started with presentations by speakers followed by an open microphone.
Pelton said he was speaking "as one who has proudly benefited from the American principle to act affirmatively."
"Proposition 209 is neither social nor is it just. It targets the most vulnerable people in our society," Pelton said.
"Dartmouth College's commitment to affirmative action, despite the forces of opposition elsewhere, is unswerving, clear and as rock solid as the granite that graces the New Hampshire hillside," Pelton said.
Unai Montes-Irueste '98 read an e-mail message from College President James Freedman who was out of town yesterday.
"I want to say, clearly and unambiguously, that Dartmouth is and will remain strongly committed to affirmative action in its hiring and to the pursuit of multifaceted diversity among its students," Freedman's message said.


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