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Former annual fund director walks the talk

Barbara Blough, shown here with the inaugural issue of The Dartmouth Medical School Alumni Magazine, was the School's first director of alumni affairs. The founder of the annual fund, she remains a loyal donor to the Medical School.

By Kate Villars

When Barbara Blough started working for the Medical School in 1975, there was no annual fund, no Dartmouth Medicine magazine, no class reunion program, and no alumni council. But when she retired 15 years later, Blough had launched all of these, leaving the School with a vibrant alumni program that continues today.

Blough's involvement did not end upon her retirement. She and her late husband, Foster, remained loyal donors to the Medical School and dedicated volunteers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. And just as, years earlier, she had been recalled to active duty in the Navy when the Korean War broke out, she answered the call to serve as vice chair of the Medical School's Bicentennial Celebration in 1997. Now Blough has extended her legacy by establishing a charitable gift annuity that will provide unrestricted support to the Geisel School of Medicine.

In the right place at the right time
In the mid-1970s, Dartmouth Medical School faced serious financial difficulties. Blough, who had moved to Hanover with Foster and their two young children in 1963, was initially hired as a proposal writer and soon found herself handling alumni correspondence for Dean James Strickler. She was a natural choice to become the Medical School's first director of alumni affairs.

"The alumni were wonderful," recalls Blough of her efforts to establish the School's annual fund. "When they learned that the Medical School needed their help, they responded beautifully. The alumni had such warm feelings towards the School because they felt this place had been the making of them as good physicians. They wanted the Medical School to survive and they were very agreeable when I would call to ask if they would help."

Blough enlisted the support of class agents among the alumni to encourage giving by their peers and asked John Moran ('55) to serve as the annual fund's first chair. Giving to the annual fund totaled almost $44,000 in its first year and grew rapidly in the years that followed.

At the same time, Blough began publication of an alumni newsletter that over the years has grown into this magazine, now with a circulation of about 40,000. With Moran, she went on to establish the alumni council, whose bylaws, she proudly notes, were reviewed by Judge David Souter, a future Supreme Court justice. She also instituted a class reunion program for the first time. These efforts were met with an enthusiastic response: by the time Blough retired in 1990, 300 alumni were volunteering as class agents, class secretaries, alumni council members, reunion chairs, and more.

Continuing commitment
Blough was keenly aware of the importance of unrestricted annual fund giving to the Medical School, and like any good fundraiser, she knew that it's easier to encourage others to give if you walk the talk. Thus began what has been almost 40 years of giving to the annual fund, as well as to Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

The charitable gift annuity that Blough established with the Geisel School earlier this year will provide her with a predictable stream of income during her lifetime, after which the remainder will be available—unrestricted—to support the School's needs. Says Blough, "Having asked for money all those years from the alumni, who were so wonderful to me, it just seems to me it's the right thing to do."

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Geisel School of Medicine at DartmouthDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College