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David McLaughlin Dies; Led Dartmouth College

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 28, 2004; Page B05

David T. McLaughlin, 72, who jumped from the corporate boardroom to the presidency of Dartmouth College and led the Ivy League school through a tumultuous period in the 1980s, died Aug. 25 while on a fishing trip in Alaska.

No cause of death was announced, but the Dartmouth College newspaper reported that he had a history of heart trouble.

David T. McLaughlin presided over a tumultuous period at the college.

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Mr. McLaughlin, who had served on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees since 1971, was named college president in 1981. From the beginning, he faced criticism from faculty and students, many of whom were suspicious of someone with no academic experience.

Despite raising teaching salaries by 43 percent, Mr. McLaughlin was often at odds with the Dartmouth faculty. In 1986, the faculty issued a report accusing him of acting too independently.

The campus was also divided by tensions among the students. In late 1985, liberal student groups built a "shantytown" on the central green of the college campus to protest the university's investment in companies doing business in South Africa. Conservative students attacked the shanties with sledgehammers in the middle of the night, leading to a campus revolt. About 100 students outraged by the vandalism later occupied Mr. McLaughlin's office, forcing the cancellation of classes.

Mr. McLaughlin resigned in 1987. But the turmoil of his tenure masked several notable achievements at the prestigious college in Hanover, N.H. Three dormitories and an athletic complex were built, the engineering school was expanded, and the college endowment grew from $220 million to $520 million.

The current Dartmouth president, James Wright, said Mr. McLaughlin's greatest contribution may have been his decision to move the college's medical center to Lebanon, N.H., opening space for new dormitories and academic buildings on the main campus.

Mr. McLaughlin also curtailed the excesses of the college's fraternities, which had made Dartmouth the notorious inspiration for the movie "Animal House."

Mr. McLaughlin, a native of Michigan, was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth's Class of 1954 and was named the student with "the greatest promise."

He played three varsity sports and, as a star end on the football team, set several school receiving records that still stand. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but enrolled in Dartmouth's graduate school of business instead, receiving a master's degree in business administration in 1955.

He was an Air Force pilot from 1955 to 1957 before rising through the corporate ranks of Champion Paper Inc. From 1970 to 1981, he was president, chairman and chief executive of Toro Co., a manufacturer of lawn mowers and other equipment.

From 1988 to 1997, Mr. McLaughlin was president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a Washington foundation dedicated to improving leadership. He was also chief executive of Orion Safety Products, an Easton, Md., company that makes highway flares, from 1988 to 2000. He was on the board of governors of the American Red Cross from 1998 to 2001, when he became chairman.

Mr. McLaughlin had five honorary degrees, was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and served on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies. He lived in Newbury, N.H.

Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Judith McLaughlin; four children; and 13 grandchildren.

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