Bjong Wolf Yeigh and the Wheelock Succession

Baker Tower, a landmark of Dartmouth College, founded in 1769

I ran into Dr. Andrew Gutow my Dartmouth classmate, the hand surgeon, at my Dad’s club Saturday and he planted an idea in me that has been growing like a wand of cotton candy, in my head.

He said that our classmate his fraternity brother Dr. Bjong Wolf Yeigh is president of a university in New York and could be considered as the possible successor to Dr. Jim Kim, who is most likely leaving Dartmouth to become president of The World Bank.

I barely remembered Yeigh; I thought I recalled that he went to high school with  or was from the same home town, Arlington, Virginia as my one-time roommate James Boyd Hunter, and referring to my Aegis yearbook bears that much out.

The search engines reveal that since leaving Dartmouth, Yeigh has:

- earned a masters’ in mechanical engineering from Stanford;

- served in the U.S. Navy, honorably discharged as a lieutenant, saw action in the first Gulf War, as a tactical or intelligence officer on an aircraft carrier, The Saratoga, and did training with fighter jets at “TOP GUN” in Miramar;

– got a PhD in civil engineering from Princeton. Did course work or certificate work at Woodrow Wilson Center there;

- was a dean of engineering at St. Louis University, and at Oklahoma State in Stillwater;

-worked at The World Bank;

- was a provost at Yale;

-and finally, or ultimately, was tapped by State University of New York to head its IT institute of technology and one other campus –in a consolidation, in 2009.

So in terms of how to replace Dr. Jim Kim, the spunky world health expert, physician and administrator, Wolf Yeigh has an uncanny similarity; he’s done a lot of what Kim has, plus he’s an alum, plus he’s a War hero, plus he was or is president of a university, two of them, already; and he was in a Dartmouth fraternity, in this case Tri-Kap.

I rang my friend and roommate Brian Gaul to bounce this idea off of him. My suggestion is that our class, on the basis of having just completed our 25th reunion, has some organizational capacity and clout to campaign for one of our own in the hunt,

Terry Davis, Brian Gaul ’86 of Washington, DC, and Brad Holt ’86 of Greenwich, CT, a retired Naval officer –and a gentleman — at Tom Dent Cabin, at our 25th reunion, June, 2011.

in addition to the normal “search committee.”

What I like about Yeigh’s story, if I get it, is how much he continued to improve himself after leaving Dartmouth. If he was not, let’s say, one of the top 50 likely people to be president of the College someday, from our class he certainly took to heart the continual growth concept from liberal arts and moved himself up the ranks. Or he was perhaps slightly overlooked, as an undergrad.

If Yeigh can get the Korean vote, the DC vote, the Fighter Jock and Army/Navy vote (Brad Holt, Jack Bocock, Philip Burrow, John Fendig, Will Ogden and more), had a Alumni presence in St. Louis and circulated even minimally at Reunion — Gutow says he was there — maybe the class can and should rally and plead his case.

Since he was in Tri-Kap, my next question is: can he sing?

edit to add: to obviate some of the confusion, Bjong Yeigh is a Korean name, Wolf is an Anglo first name by which he prefers to be called. At Dartmouth he was known as Byung Ye — “Yeigh” as in “play” or “player” versus “Ye” as in “plea”, maybe we were getting it wrong, too many of us were. Maybe its like the fact that U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was known in our day on campus as Tina Rutnik. We can work with it. I say “yeah” as in “yes” to Yeigh.

This is a little off topic but I was thinking that I have met four of the 17 Presidents of Dartmouth in the “Wheelock Succession“. David McLaughlin, who welcomed us to campus and I interviewed a couple times briefly for The Dartmouth, James Freedman, Jim Wright; I don’t recall meeting John Kemeny, although I at least probably recognized him on campus at events. I met John Sloan Dickey around Halloween, 1985, at Dick’s House, where he had 24-hour care for some months at the end of his life. We watched together on tv the final game of the World Series, when young Bret Saberhagen was MVP, although President Dickey was not in a state where he could acknowledge people trying to communicate with him. I have not met Kim but saw him speak at reunion; in fact, by coincidence, I greeted Andy Gutow there in the Spaulding lobby right after the Kim speech, for the first time in 25 or 27 years.

This obituary for John Sloan Dickey seems to indicate that he lived for as many as six years at the campus infirmary, until his death in 1991. He presided over The College for 25 years, from World War II to 1970.

edit to add: Joseph Asch ’79 writes a similar article about Bjong Yeigh and Hanover, and mentions and links to me, at Dartblog.

edit to add, April 17, 2012: updates: 1) Kim is confirmed to head World Bank; 2) Dartmouth names Carol Folt a science professor as interim President of College; and 3) Yeigh flies to Wichita to interview as one of five finalists for the head job at Wichita State University, which is in Kansas. Not a Shocker. Also, for what it’s worth, although I did not circulate my essay among classmates, this is my most-read entry, of the 350 or so “Plastic Alto” posts, so far this year and in the top 12 all-time, or since Fall, 2010. The most popular post is still the one about Paul J. Cohen the Fields Prize winner and Evan O’Dorney the young man who won the Westinghouse Intel Prize and unbraided an anchor for CNN after winning a spelling bee. That followed by posts about Kent Lockhart, Alden Van Buskirk, Occupy, The Varsity Theatre revival initiative TLPW456, another wacky acronym ICOBOPA which is a related music initiative having to do with a flash mob of buskers, and Emily Palen an SF-based busker (which I think is because it was my thirtieth post and I labeled it XXX like a Super Bowl, but also I fear pops up when people search for porn). I still think of “Plastic Alto” blog as more a note book for my ideas than a conversation with readers. I posted something about Jim Yardley that he wanted kept confidential — I quoted from our emails — and then took it down at his request although at the time there was only one view, maybe just him.

Anyhow, back to topic good luck to Bjong Wolf in New York, Kansas and everywhere. And good luck to Professor Folt in the Wheelock Succession. And good luck to Kim at World Bank.

Carol Folt I read has been at the College since 1983 — so maybe I’ve met her, too — and is Provost as well as having won teacher of the year award, and was a finalist when Kim was selected. Which goes to show why running one of the great institutions in U.S. is not like Fantasy Football or something where chance meetings in golf club grills carry much weight. How many other sets of alums met in similar ways and, even soberly, wanted to nominate a bro or classmate? Probably at least another ten or so, right?

edit to add, six months later:

November 29, 2012
Dear members of the Dartmouth community,
I am delighted to let you know that Philip J. Hanlon ’77, PhD, will be the next president of Dartmouth. Phil is a world-class academic, an accomplished administrative leader, and a passionate scholar-teacher. He now serves as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, where he is the Donald J. Lewis Professor of Mathematics.
My fellow trustees and I are pleased to say that the presidential search process yielded a terrific leader. The community’s input was instrumental in identifying the many strengths we sought in our 18th president. Phil embodies those strengths, and we have been inspired by the exceptional qualities he will bring to the presidency. We could not be happier to welcome him home to Dartmouth.
Phil’s impressive experience as provost of the University of Michigan—with 95 departments in the top 10 nationally and $1.27 billion in annual research spending, second among all universities—means that Dartmouth will be in very capable hands. Phil truly understands how great scholarship and research are essential to an undergraduate learning experience that produces leaders who can shape and change a world that is increasingly complex, diverse, and interdisciplinary. This insight, combined with his personal integrity, his strength of purpose, and his deep love for Dartmouth, made him the unanimous choice of the Board as we build upon the strong groundwork laid by the strategic planning process, chart an ambitious academic future, and look toward our 250th anniversary in 2019.
On January 11, soon after the start of winter term, we will hold a welcome celebration on campus for Phil and his wife, Gail Gentes. Phil will take office on July 1. Carol L. Folt, to whom we are indebted for her tremendous leadership during this transitional year, will continue to serve as interim president until June 30, when she will resume her role as provost.
Dartmouth is truly at the heart of Phil’s remarkable life story. Having grown up in Gouverneur, a small mining community in upstate New York, he credits his experiences at Dartmouth with shaping him both professionally and personally. As he explains, he gained confidence in his mathematical abilities through the guidance and patience of a number of professors at Dartmouth, and formed lifelong friendships and bonds. In fact, Phil’s wife is the sister of one of his classmates, Bill Gentes ’77.
A University of Michigan faculty member since 1986, Phil has held administrative leadership positions for more than a decade. As provost, he is the chief academic officer and chief budgetary officer of the university and is responsible for sustaining its academic excellence in teaching, research, and creative endeavors. Previously, as vice provost, Phil was instrumental in putting in place measures to ensure that higher education remains affordable regardless of income. He also led campus-wide initiatives on multidisciplinary learning and team teaching at the undergraduate level and established new policies and processes designed to make more effective use of space and facilities.
Phil is also a passionate teacher with an unshakeable conviction in the power of a broad liberal arts education. He believes it is our role to produce citizen leaders with the creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, cultural awareness, and flexibility to make a difference in today’s world. He continues to teach first-year calculus at Michigan, where he has been honored with an Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship, the university’s highest recognition of faculty whose commitment to undergraduate teaching has had a demonstrable impact on the intellectual development and lives of their students. Phil plans to continue to teach at Dartmouth, based on his strong belief that great universities are distinguished by their focus on preparing the next generation of leaders for a lifetime of impact and learning.(from Stephen Mandel trustee letter to alumni, and my classmate Brian Moore rang me within minutes of each receiving)

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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2 Responses to Bjong Wolf Yeigh and the Wheelock Succession

  1. markweiss86 says:

    edit to add in the form of self-commenting: president of trustees Mandel wrote back thanking me for my input, I sent him the link; outgoing class president Jeff Weiss, who teaches at Tuck and West Point, wrote to say he chaired a nominating committee for Trustee and that it is typical for them to get lists of candidates from their sources but no need to campaign or get a buzz going; and Captain Brad Holt wrote to correct me that he is still active every once in a while and in fact is active this week in Lisbon. Christy Hale of our class newsletter says she may reprint my article nonetheless…

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