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Live In Wheelock? Get A Free Ride To Dartmouth, Which Used To Own The Town

Herb Swanson
Noah Manning, Dartmouth class of 2017, greets Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon and his wife Gail Gentes at Wheelock Town Hall.

A young man from the Northeast Kingdom village of Wheelock is making history at Dartmouth College. He’s only the ninth Wheelock resident since 1830 to benefit from a remarkable fact. 

Wheelock used to be owned by Dartmouth.

Over two centuries ago, the brand new college needed start-up money. So it asked neighboring legislatures for help. Instead of cash, Vermont handed over the charter for 23,000 acres of land, including the town of Wheelock. As landlord, Dartmouth collected rents and logged forests. In 1830, President Nathan Lord reciprocated with free tuition for all qualified Wheelock applicants. 

This week, the newest Wheelock scholar, Lyndon Institute graduate Noah Manning, invited current Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon to Wheelock to accept thanks. Surprising some, Hanlon and his wife Gail Gentes made the trip, touring the Institute and stopping by Wheelock Town Hall.

Arriving at Wheelock's basement offices, President Hanlon assured Noah Manning and a few town officials that Dartmouth — whose endowment now tops $3 billion — no longer needs a hand out from Vermont.

Credit Daderot / Wikimedia
Dartmouth College Land Grant plaque in Wheelock, VT, explains the town's unique connection to the college.

“Well, we’re in a more secure financial position, but as I said we appreciate very much still that the people of Wheelock were willing to support us and that they believed in education and the power of education from early on,” Hanlon said.

Manning said he is proud to take his place in a long line of Wheelock scholars.

“As someone who wants to go into medicine, two of our scholars before me became physicians, and that’s an amazing thing to know—that like these men I started on this path in the same place,” Manning told Hanlon.

Credit Herb Swanson / swanpix.com
Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon, left, and his wife Gail Gentes meet with Wheelock resident Noah Manning '17, selectmen Steve Amos and Jay Ramsay, and Town Clerk Doug Reid. On the wall to their left hangs a copy of the document chartering the town to Dartmouth College when it needed financial assistance soon after its founding.

But this prominent son of Wheelock didn’t bring Dartmouth's leader all the way to the Northeast Kingdom merely to thank him. Manning also arranged a summit with Wheelock's leaders.  They talked with Hanlon about future town-gown alliances,  perhaps relating  to rural medicine or municipal administration.

Town Clerk Doug Reid ended the meeting by proposing more brainstorming sessions.

“I know that you have all kinds of time on your hands, nothing to do,” Reid began, drowned out by laughter.  Hanlon would be welcome back in Wheelock any time, he added. Then he fished for an invitation to visit Dartmouth and dig more deeply into the records of this unusual relationship.

"We appreciate very much still that the people of Wheelock were willing to support us and that they believed in education and the power of education from early on." - Dartmouth College president Philip Hanlon

“That would be fine,” Hanlon said.

Before saying goodbye, the group of diplomats trudged upstairs to inspect a copy of the original document chartering Wheelock to Dartmouth. Sadly, the plaque in front of the building commemorating the relationship is temporarily missing, felled by a giant pine tree.

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