Fun facts about Dartmouth College, David Harbour’s alma mater

david harbour
David Harbour graduated with majors in drama and Italian from Dartmouth College in 1997. Source: Roy Rochlin/AFP

David Harbour has become a household name. He’s best known for his heartfelt performance as Jim Hopper, the disillusioned small-town police chief in “Stranger Things”. His wild success in the series has led to leading roles in “Hellboy” and “Black Widow” even amidst an impressive backlog of films, ranging from “Brokeback Mountain”, “Quantum of Solace”, and “The Green Hornet”. 

Despite this, it was a slow and steady climb up the ladder of Hollywood for Harbour. He was a regular on Broadway and TV shows such as “Law & Order” and played a stream of supporting characters in big-budget films. 

“I thought something like [his current success] was going to happen, but that it would happen a lot sooner,” he was quoted saying by Alumni Spotlight. “As time has gone on, I’ve figured out that things don’t come along until you’re ready for them. That’s when things have come to me — when I really want them and when I really need them.”

Harbour got his start at the prestigious Dartmouth College. There, he was often found performing in stage productions of Shakespearean classics. He cites a guest lecture from playwright Tony Kushner — who wrote “Angels in America” — as the catalyst to giving him the confidence to pursue his dreams. He eventually graduated with majors in drama and Italian. 

Why, then, did David Harbour choose Dartmouth to pursue his education? We delve into what you should know about the college, student traditions, and more.

Dartmouth College is part of the Ivy League

No article about Dartmouth would be complete without addressing its distinguished reputation. The college is part of the Ivy League — a collection of eight prestigious universities in the US. They’re particularly known for their research excellence and strong career prospects, spanning the likes of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania — which David Harbour’s fellow co-star Noah Schnapp will be attending this September. 

Dartmouth is one of the hardest universities to get into with an acceptance rate of just over nine percent, speaking highly of Harbour’s intelligence as well as talent. 

It has one of the best theatre departments in the US

Dartmouth’s established name has invited countless opportunities and appearances for students, including “A Tribute to Pixar” in 2013. Source: Jude Domski/AFP

There’s a reason why Harbour chose to attend Dartmouth — and it has all to do with the college’s thriving theatre department. The department offers a set of comprehensive major and minor programmes, coaching students in the skills and knowledge they’ll need to thrive on and off-stage. It also offers a Modified Major for students wishing to blend their theatre studies with a related field. 

Outside of academics, Dartmouth’s theatre department is always buzzing with opportunities for students to showcase their talent. It hosts a faculty or guest-directed and designed production every fall and winter term, as well as student-driven performances each term. 

Its established name means that Dartmouth students are exposed to countless other opportunities to develop their artistry as well, from workshops held by successful actors and alumni — David Harbour himself has been known to make the occasional appearance — to hosting festivals and masterclasses on theatrical collaboration and the creative process every summer. 

It’s giving out scholarship grants in lieu of student loans

In a historic move, Dartmouth has joined the ranks of only six other colleges to remove student loans from all undergraduate students. Instead, these will be replaced with need-blind “expanded scholarship grants”, serving to help students from all financial backgrounds realise their academic dreams. 

“Thanks to this extraordinary investment by our community, students can prepare for lives of impact with fewer constraints,” Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon said in a statement. “Eliminating loans from financial aid packages will allow Dartmouth undergraduates to seek their purpose and passion in the broadest possible range of career possibilities.”

International students will not be left out of this initiative, either, regardless of their country of origin. 

It has a set of wacky, student-led college traditions

If you’ve ever seen a classic American college movie, you’d be familiar with tales of students taking part in years-long traditions and practices as part of their integration into the community. At Dartmouth, this is far from fiction. 

The university has been around for a long time; it was first founded in 1769. This speaks to a long history, which has translated to countless college traditions — many of which are still in practice today. 

One of these is held during Homecoming, where the freshman class builds a bonfire and runs circles around it according to their graduation year while upperclassmen cheer them on. The class of 2025, for example, would have to run 25 laps. 

Another is the “Polar Bear Swim”, where hundreds of students jump into the icy Occom Pond water during the Winter Carnival. “It’s a Winter Carnival tradition,” said a Dartmouth student. “We have to do it.”