President-elect Philip Hanlon '77 and I both arrived on the Dartmouth campus in the fall of 1973. He was a freshman and I was a freshly minted mathematics PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. [Former College] President John Kemeny had introduced an innovative program of courses in finite mathematics, known also as combinatorics. My dissertation had been in the field of combinatorics and graph theory, and the two faculty members in that area, mathematics professors Kenneth Bogart and Robert Norman, had kindly let me begin my teaching with a course in combinatorics for freshmen and sophomores.
Fortunately for me there was an extraordinarily gifted student in the class, and though the subject was completely new to him, he picked up the subject matter and soon was helping other students (and me) with the course material. Yes, the student was one Mr. Philip Hanlon. Though he never took another course with me, I was pleased to hear of his progress as a very strong mathematics major and then his move to a leading graduate school, the California Institute of Technology. I was also impressed to hear that Hanlon went on to complete a PhD at Caltech in abstract algebra under the guidance of the distinguished mathematician Olga Taussky-Todd. During an instructorship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a fellowship again at Caltech, Hanlon's research developed into a newly emerging field of algebraic combinatorics, combining his PhD area with that of discrete, or finite, mathematics, now studied for its own sake as well as its applications to computer science.
By this point, I thought that our mathematical lives had diverged my interests remained more in topological aspects of combinatorics and graph theory, while at the University of Michigan, Hanlon built up a distinguished career as a researcher and teacher, supervising 16 PhD students and writing over 50 papers with many co-authors in diverse areas. Then, to my surprise, in 1990 I received a call from Hanlon. He had received a grant from the National Science Foundation to bring in scholars to teach a first-year course with him in discovery-method combinatorics in the honors program at Michigan. Selected students participated in small seminars with (real!) professors and Hanlon developed one of the most innovative, stimulating and engaging seminars in discrete mathematics for these classes. He had written a course pack that included fresh material, a computer lab component and all work to be developed in a cooperative setting that stressed the mathematics writing as well as problem solving. My husband Stanley Wagon GR'75 and I spent a most engaging semester in Ann Arbor, Mich. working and teaching with the Hanlon Course Pack. This ever-changing book and course continues to grow as different faculty at Michigan and other schools teach the seminar. Several of us have used the material and its variations at my college, Macalester College, for similar first-year courses.
I am very fortunate to have met and worked with Hanlon, from mathematical, pedagogical and administrative perspectives. I know that the Dartmouth community will also be most fortunate to have him lead the College as president. Hanlon is not only a mathematician and a scientist, but also someone who looks for interactions between disciplines and communication between diverse college constituents. He understands deeply the importance of a strong, vibrant, liberal arts college. I send best wishes to him and his family and to the entire Dartmouth community for an excellent choice of a leader who will work toward innovation with respect for the traditions of your fine institution.