If there's one thing that sets Dartmouth faculty apart, it's their support for students. And that commitment doesn't end when graduates walk across the stage at Commencement.
Even among this unusually devoted group, though, some professors stand out—which is why in 2017, Dartmouth Alumni Council's Lifelong Learning Committee created the Professor John Rassias Award for Faculty Commitment to Lifelong Learning.
Inspired by its namesake's unmatched loyalty to alumni, the award recognizes faculty members who go above and beyond to remain connected to Dartmouth graduates. Each year, Alumni Council members may nominate or solicit nominations for current and recently retired professors. The Lifelong Learning Committee then reviews nominations and selects a faculty member to celebrate.
This May, the Rassias Award was presented to recipients from 2019, 2020, and 2021—to three deserving faculty members at the first spring Alumni Council meeting held since the start of the pandemic.
2019 Award Recipient: Ross Virginia, Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science, Department of Environmental Studies
A Dartmouth faculty member for 30 years, Ross Virginia has taken alumni to the ends of the earth—literally.
As a prominent researcher in the polar regions, Virginia spends much of his time in remote regions like Greenland and the Antarctic. In 2020, just before the world shut down, he led a Dartmouth Alumni Travel trip to Antarctica, bringing student researchers along to share the life-changing experience. He's also facilitated several alumni trips to Greenland and the Arctic.
"Nothing makes me happier than going to interesting and special places with students and alumni," shares Virginia, who will return to the southernmost continent with alumni in January 2023.
In addition to his travel, Virginia has also been generous with his time and knowledge, frequently speaking to Dartmouth graduates at Reunions and class gatherings.
The Rassias Award is particularly significant for Virginia, who recalls meeting and being inspired by John Rassias early in his teaching career. "I thought, John Rassias is a legend; I should just try to be like him," he said, laughing. "Well, clearly, there was only one of him, and I learned right off the bat that I needed to find my own way."
2020 Award Recipient: Michael Mastanduno, Nelson A. Rockefeller Professor of Government
As two-time dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, an award-winning professor, and an in-demand international relationships expert, few would blame Michael Mastanduno if he had time for little else.
But despite his many commitments, Mastanduno has been steadfast in his dedication to Dartmouth alumni over his years at the College.
He's led 11 Dartmouth Alumni Travel expeditions over 25 years, lending his critical insights on the post-Cold War order to participants on trips to locations as far afield as Cuba and the Yangtze River.
Mastanduno has also proven an invaluable resource to the Alumni Council, frequently weighing in on administrative matters central to the College.
During the 2020 election, he hosted The Ballot, a podcast examining the 2020 election, on which he interviewed notable Dartmouth alumni, including journalists Jake Tapper '91 and David Herszenhorn '94, Senator Angus King '66, and Congresswoman Annie Kuster '78.
2021 Award Recipient: Lisa Baldez, Professor of Government and Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies
In a fitting tribute to her work with Dartmouth alumni, Lisa Baldez accepted her award from Washington, D.C., where she is leading a term-long program with Dartmouth students — a significant feature of which is meetings with "many, many illustrious Dartmouth alums."
Baldez, an internationally-known expert on the ways in which formal institutional rules impact gender equality, has been a regular feature at Dartmouth alumni events for many years. She has been a frequent speaker at events like Alumni Council meetings, Class Officers Weekend, and Family Fellows Weekend, as well as high-profile events like Dartmouth's Presidential Summit, Women's Leadership Summit, and the launch of the Call to Lead campaign.
She has lent her knowledge of Latin American politics to alumni travelers on trips to Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, and the Amazon River and shared her thoughts on thorny subjects like the 2020 election and the future of work through virtual presentations to the entire College community.
Baldez, who shared fond memories of knowing both John Rassias and his family, said she hopes to live up to his "energy and passion" and remarked that "It's been an honor to work with so many alumni during my time at Dartmouth. I'm very grateful to the Alumni Affairs Committee for valuing these important connections."