The Great Class of Dartmouth 1966
The Road Continues...

Recollections of Dean Thaddeus Seymour from the Class of 1966

— complied by Larry Geiger

Overview

Thad was bigger than life to each and yet he wa humble, friendly, never threatening, and someone who always remembered that in addition to job number one - learning, job number two was to find some fun doing job one. What I have found even more remarkable is that this giant person of so much authority and stature was only 34 years old when we were freshmen. A mere kid by today’s standards!

— Rick Reiss

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I got to know, and saw, Thad quite a bit during my four-year stint. He was a steadfast and loyal supporter of the Glee, Stomp and Perloo Society, Hanover’s first (and I suspect last) coffee house and often came by for the concerts and appearances.

I remember most vividly, having been called into his office for yet another infraction, asking him what was the most difficult part of his job. I’ll never forget his answer, more or less: “I always have to remember that although I may have heard the story umpteen times (and here he gave the example of the Dartmouth guy who gets a Smithie pregnant) that for the person telling the story, this is their first time. I always had to rewind my counsel and remember that.”

On a more personal level, when I was awarded (to my great surprise, and doubtless his) a Senior Fellowship, I was ski bumming in Aspen. I don’t know how he did it, but he tracked me down to the dismal lodge where I was camping out, called me on the phone, and the conversation began, “I don’t know what they were drinking, but the Senior Fellowship Committee has awarded you etc. etc.” He went on to inform me that he had checked my transcript and noticed I hadn’t fulfilled the science requirement. Then he turned to my Dartmouth application and noticed I was a devoted bird watcher. So, he put this together and enrolled me, in absentia, in “Ornithology 101”, which he informed me “was a course no one in the history of the College has ever flunked.”

At our 25th reunion (he was there, right?), he told me that as far as he could remember, I was the only one of the ’66 fellows who had entered and pursued a career even remotely connected with their fellowship.

Many more, but those are the ones that really stick - especially that phone call. Thad was someone who looked beyond your grades (and mine were certainly nothing special) and read you as a person. And he was always right on the money.

— David Godine

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Freshman Year

I recall, a week or so after arriving at Dartmouth our Freshman year, having to fill out an eligibility form in order to play intercollegiate athletics. I’m sure that I was not alone. However, in my case, during the previous summer, I had received money for coaching tennis even though I was a virtual novice. When asked to coach, I recall having taken several books from the Winchester Public Library to learn about alternative service grips. Nonetheless, under the ECAC rules at the time, I was rendered ineligible. Thad reckoned that this was deeply unreasonable, conveying sufficient confidence that he would “fix it” to allay my instinct to leave Dartmouth. He did fix it, reminding me over the next several years of the “Jefferson Case.”

Then, as a senior and captain of the squash team, I recall visiting his office toward the end of the winter term to convey a consensus of the team that Dartmouth needed a new squash coach. The following Monday, after the season had ended, the coach called us into a court to explain that he was leaving the College. As with countless others, the memory of Thad, the Dean and the man, “shall not grow old.”

— Gary Jefferson

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I first met Thad at the end of our Freshman fall term. In order to meet my goals, I needed to take 4 courses in our Winter term. The rules at that time required a student to have over a B average for the prior 2 terms to be permitted a 4th course. Since we had only been there for ONE term, I had to meet with “THE DEAN” to get special permission. Despite my intimidation, I was able to plead my case and got the permission. Eventually I got 4 A's that term and Thad called me back to his office to express his personal congrats. I had loved him ever since.

Later, as a photographer for the D, I had multiple opportunities to meet and photo him. What a great guy.

— Bill Ramos

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Middle Years

I remember sophomore year there was a carnival at Leverone. My roommate, Ken Berger, and I went over to engage in the festivities. Ken wanted a prize from the bell ringing stand. It was manned by Dean Thad, all decked out in his barker attire. He was showing everybody how easy it was to ring the bell by doing it with a one arm swing and hit. He was awesome! Ken gave it a try but failed. I gave it a try and won him his prize. I did use 2 arms.

— Gerry LaMontagne

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Instead of punishing us for our annual snowball fight, Dean Thad was on the front line helping both sides carry on the fight (which was better assurance than punishment, that we would not get too far out of line!).....and, as I recall, he had a pretty good arm!

— Tom Brady

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It was, I believe, my junior year and I was called into Dean Seymour’s office to discuss my rather unsatisfactory academic performance. He was eager to help me out, and asked what courses I had chosen for the upcoming quarter. I described my first two selections (I believe we referred to them as “gut courses”) and he expressed approval, or at least satisfaction that they were indeed good for a guy in academic difficulty.

My third course selection was Technology 20, “The History of Technology”, taught in the Thayer School. Needless to say he tried to talk me out of this course. I explained to him that my fraternity brothers had assured me it was truly easy, at which time he asked “What was that course number again? The guy coming in next needs it even more than you do!” Yes, Dean Thad was a supporter of us all.

— Walter Knoepfel

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“Dad Thad” lived across from the Choate Road dorms. That made him de facto Dorm Father of Brown Hall. When it was time to bring an end to a water fight or other hooliganism, he would ring our first floor pay phone (recall?). We would pick up, knowing who it would be, and hear his fatherly voice inform us once again to cool down and clean up. This happened many, many times. I had the feeling that he filled this role over and above his official responsibilities, as a great Dean would, simply because he chanced to live right next door.

One year I was elected to the IDC, over my more qualified roommate Dr. Howard Weiner, by merely one vote (the result of electioneering and voter fraud). Before I could say no, the IDC “appointed” me rock-n-roll manager for Homecoming and Green Key weekends. I had to arrange those Saturday late-night dances at the Hop (recall?). I printed posters, recruited ticket sellers, created WDCR ads, worked with the Hop, and of course hired the bands. This meant dealing with their NYC agents and making sure the bands showed up, got fed, set up, and behaved.

One Sunday morning of Green Key, the dorm phone rang about 6am. It was for me. It was Dad Thad. “Greg, I’m sorry to bother you so early, but the band just called me at home, saying they want to come over and get paid. I feel sure that’s not the arrangement, so would you please take it from here? Thank you.” The band had partied the rest of the night in Lower Valley bars, was about to drive back to NYC, and thought they’d try to cut out their agent. I learned some contract law and revered Dad Thad. He wrote me a real nice letter that got me into law school, and I got a chance to thank him again when he came to our reunion.

— Greg McGregor

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Senior Year

My clearest memory of a 1:1 exchange with Dean Thad arose early in the Winter Term of our senior year. I had more or less come apart that fall and did such a dismal job of it that I was invited to the Academic Probation program. The Dean gave me the better part of an hour to get used to the situation and led me to understand that this kind of thing isn’t unknown during the quickly approaching finale to an academic way of life. His courtly attention and way of enthusing me for the range of possibilities for what comes next carried me though an enjoyable year and prepared me to roll with the “Greetings” letter that was shortly to arrive from my draft board.

— Bill Cooper

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The incident I remember most about Thad relates to a pair of my shoes. It occurred on a Thursday afternoon before Green Key weekend our senior year.

I was the treasurer of my fraternity, AD, and as the “senior officer present” that afternoon (I think our president was on his way to Boston) I had the duty of trying to resolve a bit of a dispute between the Administration and our band of brothers. (As is well known, I think there was even a movie, we occasionally were targeted from time to time for unwarranted claims of violating one or more College regulations on a whole host of issues.)

It seems that one of our alleged infractions had come to the attention of the good Dean earlier that day, and word went out that we were going to go into some sort of disciplinary purgatory that would have “shut us down” for Green Key. (And we had a great band already contracted for Saturday night!)

I made a panicked call from the pay phone in the back hall of the House and the good Dean granted me an audience in his office to plead my case. I had to be there in 15 minutes, so I really had no time to change into clothes that might have been more appropriate - I think we were engaged in some sort of sporting activity on the front lawn of the House when word of the impending closure reached me.

These “inappropriate” clothes included a pair of White Bucks that I had purchased in Filene’s Basement several years previously. (Needless to say they were no longer white and had not been white for a long, long time.) Why on earth I had ever purchased them God only knows - but I assure you that the main reason was that they were cheap.

So - after trotting across the Green -as I entered Parkhurst Hall - that was the first moment that I thought about my dress. However, I plunged forward anyway and Thad was very welcoming. After the usual back and forth of trying to explain away the fact that we “just might” have had the tap at the bar in the basement of AD on past the allotted time - Thad finally put an end to the discussions and said to me that he didn’t buy my excuses or explanations.

As I squirmed in my seat - I adopted my fallback position. Accept the fact that we screwed up and try to avoid being shut over Green Key. A smile came over Thad’s face - we have all seen it - a broad ear to ear grin as he pushed back in his chair and you knew he was on to something. I thought - was this good - or perhaps bad? I had admitted we were at fault and had no concurrent deal from him.

It was then that “my moment” with Thad occurred. He said: “Barker you know you guys are in trouble - why can’t you boys behave - surprise me sometime! But l have to say that you are wearing the absolute best pair of “dirty” bucks I have ever seen. Anyone who has the nerve to wear those things into my office deserves to be listened to. Here’s what I’ll do - - - ,” and he went on to delineate how our punishment would be meted out over the coming weeks, but we could remain in operation over Green Key!

I have carried that meeting with Dean Seymour with me my whole life. Those shoes followed me through law school, marriage and the Marine Corps. Somewhere along the line they finally disappeared but not my fondness for Thad.

— Joe Barker

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When Alpha Theta was judged “Most Colorful” entry in the 1966 Green Key Chariot Races. (The chariot was a bathtub mounted on through-hull axle with wooden wheels, with egg launchers to ward off competitors.) Dean Thad awarded the house a keg of beer. But don’t tell President Hanlon; these days he’d surely revoke the award, and maybe posthumously “defrock” the late Dean.

— Robin Carpenter

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* * * * * * * * I read with sadness the passing of a great dean, a student friend, always bigger than life. As I approached graduation as a Classics major, I sensed that getting into med school was about as likely as visualizing Haley’s comet. So, I made an appointment with THE DEAN, went in, and explained my precarious future, numbed by an insatiable wish to become a physician. As I poured out my story-- then on the waiting list at The New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry-- he listened, then said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

At about that moment, I looked behind the Dean and hot damn, there was picture of myself and “Thad” that Chris Knight had shot when the dean had joined the Ledyard Canoe Club for a “feed.” We both laughed, I went my way feeling I had been heard. I did get accepted...but I think it was because they got my name mixed up with someone else, certainly more qualified.

— Peter J. Dorsen

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I have two great memories of the man.

The first was at our graduation. I was seated on Baker lawn close the aisle down the middle of the chairs. I was enjoying a potent “Orange Blossom”, pondering my future and waiting for the rest of my life to start. A shadow loomed: Thad. He gently took the drink from me.

Later I crossed the stage and went up to him to get my diploma, hopefully. He grinned, handed it to me and said, “I decided to give you a real one.”

Years later he came to one of our reunions, mingled with us and gave a great talk. Recall that we read Paradise Lost by Milton in English 1, a class which Thad taught.

At the reunion he was talking with a small group of us about the challenges of being the president at small college, Rollins. I caught his eye and quoted Lucifer. “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” He was delighted that I remembered a bit that captured his situation. We had a great laugh.

— Bob Gilbert

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Post Grad

In my second year of medical school at Dartmouth Peter Tuxen and I made a film for the traditional year two class show. In the film, which included each classmate in the cast, we staged a bank robbery (for students on financial aid) using the White River Junction bank and a Keystone cops-like silent film approach in which the cops chased the robbers whose escape vehicle was Thad Seymour’s old 1920’s vintage Packard convertible. He was as gracious as ever about using his locally famous car and we got to have a few private moments with him. This is my lasting memory of him.

— Gene Nattie

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