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- Apr 13, 2021
- 16 halftones.
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James Freedman, the fifteenth president of Dartmouth College, began life in a struggling middle-class Jewish family in a provincial industrial New Hampshire town. By the time of his death from cancer in March 2006, he was one of the most celebrated educational leaders of his generation, perhaps of the twentieth century. Finding the Words is Freedman’s account of the first twenty-seven years of this astonishing trajectory in a life made difficult by depression, but sustained throughout by a love of books and learning, a life that would transform the culture of American higher education.
His mother’s fierce and bruising ambition instilled in him an overwhelming drive to leave his mark upon the world. His father, a revered high-school English teacher who was timid outside the classroom, introduced him to the rich world of literature — and also passed on to him his doubts and insecurities. Freedman retraces his intellectual formation as a student, educator, scholar, and leader, from his early?obsession with book collecting through his undergraduate years at Harvard and his professional training at Yale Law School. This same passion for language and ideas defined Freedman’s leadership at Dartmouth, where he deftly countered lingering anti-Semitism, fought entrenched interests to open the way for women and minorities, reformed and revitalized the curriculum, and boldly reconceived the school’s campus.
This moving and inspiring book vividly depicts the formative years of a man nourished by lifelong learning, whose rise from humble beginnings to heights of achievement will serve as a model for generations to come.