Meet the New Board Chairman

Peter Dolan’s thoughts on fitness, the future and the value of a Tufts degree

Peter Dolan

Peter R. Dolan, A78, A08P, has come a long way from organizing luaus for his fraternity. This fall, Dolan is taking the helm of the Tufts Board of Trustees, succeeding James A. Stern, E72, A07P, who stepped down from his role following the board meeting on Nov. 2. (See “Punching Above Our Weight.”)

Dolan has been a Tufts stalwart for three decades. Elected to the board in 2001, he has served on eight board committees and chaired the administration and finance, audit and presidential search committees. He has sat on the executive committee since 2003 and was elected a vice chairman of the board in 2008. A donor to a variety of Tufts schools and programs, Dolan chairs ChildObesity180, an initiative at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy aimed at reversing the childhood obesity trend through a multisector approach. He has helped to raise some $16 million for the initiative.

Professionally, Dolan has been a leader at General Foods, Bristol-Myers Squibb (where he served as CEO from 2001 to 2006), Gemin X and Vitality Health, a health and wellness company where he is a director. Dolan is an advisory board member of Valence Life Sciences. He has also served on the boards of the Partnership for a Healthier America, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College (from which he holds an M.B.A.) and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Recently, he shared some reflections with Tufts Now.

Tufts Now: What are some of your favorite memories of your undergraduate years?
My fraternity had an annual tradition of putting on a Hawaiian luau, complete with waterfall, sand (aka sawdust) and a pig roast. It was a highlight of the year and a party that everyone looked forward to. I was also president of the fraternity and learned a lot about what didn’t work when trying to get others to follow your lead.

Your older son graduated from Tufts in 2008. Did becoming a Tufts parent make you see the university any differently?
It’s always useful to look through a different lens. I don’t know that I thought too much about return on investment when I was a student, but you certainly do as a parent. You ask, “What courses are you taking, how does that all fit together and what’s your plan after graduating?”

In your role as a volunteer, what do you want most for Tufts’ future?
We are all thinking about the best way to improve the Tufts value proposition. And that applies to both students and alumni. How can we give every great student we admit a transformational experience? How can we engender even more alumni loyalty?

With this exceptional student body, we need to make sure all of them take advantage of what Tufts has to offer. I went to a senior dinner this year and asked students what they would be doing. Too many of them said, “I haven’t figured it out yet.” You know what? Your parents spent a lot of money for you to go here, and that’s probably not as acceptable an answer today as it might have been in an easier employment market of 10 or 20 years ago. Graduate school, a bridge to graduate school plans, a job—whatever is right for you. That’s what I mean about improving the value proposition. I would like to see us spend more time making the experience transformational for a larger percentage of the student body.

Given your work with a wellness company and initiatives such as ChildObesity180, you seem very health-conscious. What’s your biggest vice?
Five Guys Burgers are hard to pass up. When I go to Friedman School meetings, they don’t offer that, as you might imagine. I never drank coffee, and I have now been weaned off the single Coke I used to drink every day.

Is yours a fitness-oriented family?
Yes, which is a little ironic. When I was at Tufts, we had very good intramural teams, but I would have struggled to run a mile. Today, the four of us can lay claim to 12 marathons, three Hawaii Ironman competitions (my wife, Katie, has done it twice), dozens of 100-mile bike rides and numerous shorter triathlons. When the younger of my two sons was doing a semester abroad in Barcelona, he decided to train for the 2009 Boston Marathon and run for the Tufts Marathon Team. That quickly escalated to both of my sons, Katie and me all toeing the starting line together in Hopkinton and raising money for the Friedman School as part of the Tufts team.

What is most gratifying about your work with the Tufts Board of Trustees?
We have a terrific and committed board that functions exceptionally well. Our top priorities are to ensure that we have the best institutional leadership, to be a useful sounding board based on our collective experiences, to support the president and to exercise our fiduciary responsibility. The most gratifying aspect is that even with that serious agenda, they are fun to be with.

Heather Stephenson can be reached at

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