This article by David Corriveau was published by the Valley News on Feb. 6.
HANOVER — What’s in a no-name?
It depends on who you ask about Dartmouth College’s plan to rededicate a recently renovated building that houses the graduate-studies and linguistics programs, a cafe and other amenities as Anonymous Hall.
In an announcement on its website this week, Dartmouth described the impending change to what has long been known as Dana Hall as honoring the request of the $28 million project’s unnamed, “generous lead donor” to “recognize generations of alumni who have aspired to support Dartmouth through deeds large and small, known and unknown.”
In some quarters, it fell flat.
“I think this represents a new level of vacuousness,” emeritus professor Edward M. Bradley, who co-teaches a course called “From Jupiter to Jesus” at Dana for the Department of Classical Studies, said on Thursday. “Everyone here is responding with astonishment, accompanied by guffawing at the inanity of this gesture. When the students learned of this, they couldn’t believe it.”
Two sophomores majoring in computer science only learned of it late Thursday afternoon.
“I feel like it’s a first,” Suraj Srivats, from Los Angeles, said on his way out of the building, which has one small sign with the new name over the back entrance. “I didn’t know they were going to name it anything different.”
Nor did a young woman waiting to talk with her professor in his office on the third floor.
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“I thought it was Dana Hall,” the woman said, while declining to identify herself. “You can put me as ‘anonymous.’ That would be fitting.”
Alumna Karen Liot Hill sees the change as a way to recognize everyone involved with the college.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Hill, a member of the class of 2000 who is a Lebanon city councilor and Grafton County treasurer. “It seems like a way of recognizing people who believe deeply in the college’s mission of educating and inspiring the leaders of today and tomorrow, without looking for individual recognition. That seems to be fairly altruistic and laudable.”
In the college’s announcement, Board of Trustees chairwoman and 1981 graduate Laurel Richie describes the name change as part of the college’s Call to Lead campaign to raise $3 billion and to recognize “the extraordinary generosity of one alumnus recognizing the generosity of all alumni in the creation of a new learning environment for the ages.”
The building began life, according to the college website, as the Dana Biomedical Library, constructed in 1963 and 1964 with a grant from the Charles A. Dana Foundation. The library moved to another building in 2013, and the college began renovating Dana in 2018, stripping it to its girders and concrete frame.
While some exterior work remains to be done on the new incarnation — solar panels above a rooftop terrace — the 33,000-square-foot complex has been occupied since the start of the winter term, the college said. New occupants include the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, the linguistics program, workspaces and a commons area for graduate students, faculty offices and a cafe operated by Dartmouth Dining Services.
The hall also is the temporary home of the college’s Russian language department, part of the computer-science department and the classroom where Bradley teaches with professor Roger Ulrich three times a week.
“It’s a lovely building,” Bradley said. “Really lovely. Very handsomely appointed. The cafe has very good coffee and food.”
And a lot of gallows humor is brewing: In an email that Bradley received Thursday morning, a faculty colleague quoted another as declaring “our new tag line: ‘Come make a name for yourself at Anonymous Hall.’ ”
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