Environmental Studies Established

It was one of the first such programs in the country. 

The Environmental Studies Program began in 1970, the year of the first Earth Day and the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency. The following is an excerpt from an article by Robert B. Graham ’40 published in the June 1970 issue of Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. 

Our society has suddenly recognized that man’s actives are altering his environment on an unprecedented scale and in shockingly unexpected ways. The need to understand, to anticipate and to exert some measure of control over this environmental alteration is one of the great challenges and obligations of the present day. The problems demand new ways of thinking and of asking questions before they will held to constructive solutions. It is clear that education must play a central role in sensitizing more people to the dimensions of the problem and in providing them with the multidisciplinary capabilities for solving them.


Student crews picking up trash at Dartmouth during the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.
With these words, Chemistry Professor James F. Hornig, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, began a report in March describing a proposed Program of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College.

To a College historically concerned with natural conservation reaching back 200 years to Eleazar Wheelock’s preoccupation with the Indians, it did not take the appropriate faculty body long to act. Within the month, the program was approved by the executive committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and was announced by Provost Leonard M. Rieser on the eve of Dartmouth’s campus-wide participation in “Earth Day,” April 22.

The enabling authorization capped two tears of careful study by a faculty-student planning committee commissioned to consider how Dartmouth might best prepare its students from now on to bring their future leadership to bear on this central problem of the last third of the Twentieth Century.

Earth Day 1970

Earth Day 1970
Robert Deyle ’72, left, and Dwight Sargent ’72 with pesticides picked up on Earth Day through an event coordinated by the Dartmouth Outing Club.
Just as the problems of the environment cut a wide swath across the center of the vital concerns of man and society, so the Environmental Studies Program will be highly interdisciplinary in structure. For its faculty, the program will draw from such departments as Biological Sciences, Earth Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Economics, Chemistry, Geography, and Political Science, in an unprecedented integration of specialized fields of knowledge all focused on the relationship of man and his environment.

“The time has come for a unified approach to the problems of environment,” explained William A. Reiners, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences who chaired the ad hoc interdisciplinary study committee which hammered out the program.

Read more from Dartmouth Alumni Magazine

Photos, top, courtesy of Dartmouth Library.