Support the news

Harvard Official To Be Dartmouth President

The next president of Dartmouth College is a doctor and humanitarian known as a leader in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases will become.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim's selection was announced by the Ivy League school Monday in Hanover, N.H. Kim, 49, will take over July 1 from James Wright, who previously announced his plans to step down.

Kim, a former director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS department, is chairman of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He also helped found Partners in Health, which supports health programs in poor communities worldwide.

Kim has tackled some difficult problems over the past 20 years, he said in a phone interview. He said he had to decide between continuing that work, or to switch gears and "take a position that will allow you to train, educate and inspire thousands of young people who will be equipped to take on those problems."

He called being chosen to lead Dartmouth "the greatest honor and privilege" of his life, and praised the school's ability to reinvent itself while remaining true to its mission. Its faculty is the rare sort that excels both at teaching and research, he said, and its alumni are the most loyal and enthusiastic he's ever seen.

"My first priority, as someone who did not graduate from Dartmouth College, will be to understand what the highest aspirations are for Dartmouth itself. It's going to be very important for me just to find out what's going on and really understand what the culture is. I'm an anthropologist - I'm a medical doctor, but also an anthropologist - and that's what we do," he said.

One of Kim's top challenges will be steering Dartmouth through rough economic times. Last month, the college laid off 60 administrative workers and said it will cut its budget $72 million over two years in response to a sharp decline in its endowment.

Kim said the college has taken the right approach by deciding what it wants to accomplish and then making cuts accordingly.

"But of course I'm going to have to be focused on maintaining our position in economic times that could get even worse," he said.

Kim was born in Korea and moved to the United States with his family at age 5. He grew up in Iowa and earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University, a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and a doctorate in anthropology from Harvard University. He and his wife, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Boston, have two sons, an 8-year-old and one born Saturday.

He said he draws inspiration from former Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey, who told students in 1945: "The world's troubles are your troubles."

"I hope to build on that great legacy," he said. "I'm still focused on doing great things in the world, but now, the primary way I'll be doing that will be to equip others to be successful in taking on the world's troubles."

Wright, 69, announced a year ago that he would step down to spend time working to help wounded veterans go to college and to re-immerse himself in his academic field - American political history. Wright, who came to Dartmouth as a professor in 1969, led Dartmouth's efforts to enhance academic life, expand the faculty, increase student diversity, build and renovate campus facilities and revamp financial aid.

Under his leadership, the college's endowment grew from $1.6 billion to $3.8 billion, though in the last half of 2008 the endowment fell to $3 billion.

This program aired on March 2, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

+Join the discussion
TwitterfacebookEmail

Support the news