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Gouverneur native named president of Dartmouth

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GOUVERNEUR — No one who knew Gouverneur native Philip J. Hanlon as a youngster growing up in Gouverneur was surprised by Thursday’s announcement that he was named the next president of Dartmouth College.

“I knew he was going to go a ways,” said Frank P. Langevin, whose son, Gregory L., was friends with Mr. Hanlon. “I’m sure he earned it.”

Mr. Hanlon, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, where he is the Donald J. Lewis professor of mathematics, will become Dartmouth’s president July 1.

Mr. Hanlon, the son of Dr. George H. and Erlene “Peggy” Patton Hanlon, graduated from Dartmouth in 1977 as a mathematician. As a teenager in Gouverneur, he kept his brain busy.

“He carried a yellow pad with him all the time,” said former Mayor Dorothy L. Vorce, who worked for Mr. Hanlon’s father for 27 years. “He worked all the time.”

When Dr. Hanlon and his wife went out of town, Philip Hanlon would often stay with Mrs. Vorce.

“He slept in my son’s top bunk. We took him camping with us,” said Mrs. Vorce, who attended Mr. Hanlon’s wedding to his wife, Gail Gentes. “When you work for someone 27 years, they’re almost like your family.”

Mrs. Vorce remembers Mr. Hanlon as a quiet, unassuming man who was good to his father, a surgeon at E.J. Noble Hospital for 35 years before his retirement in 1986. Dr. Hanlon died in 2009. His wife died in 1981. Another son, Greg, died before his father.

John C. Mossing, Dexter, was Mr. Hanlon’s basketball coach at Gouverneur Central School.

“He was just a great kid,” Mr. Mossing said “You’d like your whole team to be like him. He would do whatever you asked.”

The people Mr. Hanlon knew as adults remember him as agreeable and respectful. His friends said he was well-rounded.

“He was funny, bright, always a fun guy to be around,” Greg Langevin said. “He was always at the top of his class.”

Dayle B. Burgess, assistant to St. Lawrence University President William L. Fox, said one of her first memories of Mr. Hanlon, three years her senior, was his starring role as Santa Claus in a second-grade play at East Side Elementary School while her older sister, Lynne J. Brown, was Mrs. Claus.

“He had a tremendous wit and sense of humor. He was a little quirky,” Mrs. Burgess said. “He was always good to me. He never teased me.”

As a small town, Gouverneur gave Mr. Hanlon the chance to try a lot of things, said Ms. Brown, the publisher of the Washington Blade, a newspaper in Washington, D.C.

He was a soccer player, played the trombone, was a National Merit scholar, and always did well in math and science.

“He academically outperformed almost all of us,” she said. “It’s not shabby to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth. This makes me giddy happy for him.”

Regardless of Mr. Hanlon’s talents, he never made others feel small, said Kevin P. O’Shaughnessy, another friend who now lives in Tennessee but has stayed in touch with Mr. Hanlon.

“We always knew he was the smart guy, but he never rubbed it in. He was always a stand-up guy,” said Mr. O’Shaughnessy, a retired commander in the Navy. “He was a good friend and a great golfer and a really good poker player because he knew the odds.”

Mr. O’Shaughnessy said Dartmouth and Mr. Hanlon should be good for each other.

“He has a fondness for the place. He’s got all the credentials. As a mathematician, there’s not too many better. He has management experience at the University of Michigan,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said. “Dartmouth’s got the right guy. I’m sure he and the university will continue to do great things.”

After his graduation from Dartmouth, Mr. Hanlon earned a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology and was an instructor of applied mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bantrell fellow in mathematics at Caltech before joining the University of Michigan as a tenured associate professor.

Among his honors, he has a Sloan Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Henry Russel Award and the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award. He is the author or co-author of more than 60 peer-reviewed mathematical research articles and studies.

He has held visiting positions at various academic institutions in Europe and the U.S.

As a mathematician, Mr. Hanlon focuses on probability and combinatorics, the study of finite structures and their significance as they relate to bioinformatics, computer science and other fields.

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