One might describe the Dahlberg brothers (Albert '60 and James '62) as a "Haverford family," but that doesn't do justice to the whole story. Indeed, both of them attended the College (as did Jim's daughter Lina '01) but the family connections that influenced their respective paths in life go well beyond simply graduating from the same school.
The Dahlbergs, who grew up near the University of Chicago campus, were both interested in academics, particularly the sciences, not unlike their father who was an anthropologist at the University of Chicago. When it came time for Al to choose a college, a friend told him about Haverford. Al went to visit, saw the beautiful campus, met with Archibald Macintosh and was impressed by the rigorous academic program along with the accessibility to the faculty and their willingness to be engaged with the students. He admits that another selling point was the food fight in the dining hall at lunch on the day he visited the campus. "I quickly learned that Haverford was neither stuffy nor elitist," Al says. This was a place where he could learn and have fun. The decision was made.
As a pre-med student Al majored in biology. The academic program was challenging and exciting. The students worked closely with Professors Ariel Lowey, Mel Santer and Irving Finger, all of whom "were involved in cutting edge science." Al was inspired by the opportunity to work as an undergraduate student one-on-one in a professor's laboratory and he continues that tradition today in his own laboratory at Brown University.
When not working hard in the lab, Al began seeing his childhood friend Pamela Voth. Their fathers worked together at the University of Chicago, and the families were close friends. Pam attended Earlham College but she did travel to Haverford by train where she and Al had their first date for the Senior Dance. Pam stayed at the home of President Hugh Borton but she joined Al in the dining hall for meals. No food fights broke out on this visit but Al did warn her about the traditional teasing she was bound to receive from his fellow Fords upon entering the dining hall—in the form of their singing "Here she comes, Miss America." Because Pam was forewarned, the trauma was minimal and did not dissuade her from accepting his proposal several years later.
Pam was not the only one to pay a visit to Al from Chicago. His younger brother Jim also came out for a weekend during Al's sophomore year. Two years younger, Jim was starting his own college search. But he didn't have to search for long. "I always wanted to do quantitative science, and when Al was a sophomore living in Lloyd, I went and spent a weekend visiting him. That really sold me."
At Haverford, Jim's path echoed that of his older brother. "Al told me about some of the things he was learning, and I thought it was something I would like too," he explains. Jim enrolled in Mel Santer's introductory biology class and was just as excited by it as Al had been. Jim remembers, "The enthusiasm he had in his lectures… he would make close eye contact with you, reciting why some experiment was done and what the result was, and we'd critique it with him." Professor Ariel Lowey also had a great influence on both Jim and Al, and he was the faculty advisor for their senior theses.
Jim fondly remembers talking with his roommates about life and philosophy. He also increased his appreciation of Haverford's strong Quaker tradition by regularly attending the Friends meeting and through the influence of the Honor Code. The Honor Code would stay with both Al and Jim, as it does for most Fords, well beyond their time on campus; having now worked at other colleges and universities they both noted how unique and special the Honor Code is.
Both Al and Jim kept in touch with Mel after college. Al even did research and co-authored a book with him. "Mel is family," he says. He often talks by phone with Mel and for many years they had an annual meeting where they brought their students together to talk about their current research projects.
For the Dahlberg brothers, post-Haverford life began at the University of Chicago—Al in medical school and Jim in graduate school. Eventually they both found themselves doing post-doctoral work in Europe, where family ties continued to bind and propel them forward. Jim went to Cambridge, England and Geneva, Switzerland, and Al went to Aarhus, Denmark, where he worked with, among others, a researcher from Copenhagen, named Elsebet Lund. By the time that Al was in Denmark, Jim was on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Although Jim met Elsebet while visiting Al, he and Elsebet did not become partners (at home and in the lab) until several years later. But Al can take credit for introducing them. "It was meant to be," Elsebet says.
Jim and Elsebet still reside in Madison, Wisconsin. They both have emeritus status at the University, but continue to run a small research laboratory at the School of Medicine and Public Health, and Jim has recently assumed a position as interim executive director of a privately funded nonprofit biomedical research institute that is affiliated with the University. Their daughters, Maria and Lina, are also scientists. Lina, who graduated from Haverford in 2001 and followed in her father's and uncle's footsteps as a biology major under the mentorship of now-Emeritus Professor Mel Santer and Professor Rob Fairman, brought the Haverford family connection to the Dahlberg family into a second generation. Elsebet says of her daughter, "Haverford was really the formative experience for everything she's done since." Maria, their other daughter, studied physics at Vassar and Penn State and now works at the National Academy of Sciences.
In 1972, Al and Pam moved to Providence, Rhode Island where Al joined the faculty at Brown University following three years in Bethesda, Maryland (at the National Institutes of Health) and two years in Denmark (University of Aarhus). They have three children—Albert, Krista and Paul—and six grandchildren. Pam, Al and family are members of Providence Monthly Meeting and have been Quakers since they joined the Bethesda Monthly Meeting in the late 1960s (which met each Sunday in the gymnasium at Sidwell Friends School). Those were active years of vigils and marches in DC.
At Alumni Weekend 2012, when Jim celebrated his 50th Reunion, he was one of two alums, with Stephen J. Lippard '62, who were awarded The Haverford Award for Service to Humanity. At the awards ceremony, he accepted the honor (awarded in part for the assays he developed that are now used in the diagnosis of certain cancers) by saying, "Many things that I have done since leaving Haverford were built on my experiences here. I want to thank the faculty for preparing me for the world."
Both Al and Jim remember their 50th Reunions at Haverford as a wonderful time to catch up with former classmates and see how the campus had changed in various ways. Jim reflects, "It was great to come back and see a lot of my friends. It's interesting—you can almost pick up the conversation where you left off 50 years ago." Al had a similar experience. At his Reunion, "it was wonderful to see all my old classmates and see what they had done. The only downside of it was I wish I had kept in closer contact because they have all lived interesting lives and, as Pam commented, they all seemed to be very much at peace with where they were in their lives."
Reunion also prompted them to reflect on their time at Haverford and the role it has continued to play in their lives. While they had been contributors to Haverford in the past, their respective milestone reunions inspired Al and Pam and Jim and Elsebet to make special gifts to the College.
In anticipation of Jim's 50th Reunion, in 2011, he and Elsebet contributed funds from his Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to Haverford, tax-free. Tax-deferred retirement assets, when passed to heirs, are subject to both income and estate tax, but as a charitable gift, 100 percent of the funds could be used for education, their primary charitable interest, in this case, for Haverford. Their gift went directly to Haverford's Annual Fund, which at the time was a purely unrestricted fund. (Today, donors may select one of six areas of support for their gifts, including academic enrichment, financial aid and athletics.) Jim and Elsebet say that by making this gift at this time, they are able to see the impact of their generosity. For Elsebet, it was an opportunity to show appreciation for the education her husband and daughter received. "We want to give back to that—to the next generation."
Al and Pam took a different approach in considering the type of gift they would make to the College, settling on a charitable gift annuity (CGA). Like the gift that Jim and Elsebet made, there would be a benefit to both the donors and the College, only the latter would be deferred. With their CGA, the remaining principal of the gift will support Haverford after Al and Pam receive income from the CGA for the rest of their lives. With a higher interest rate than they could find at any bank, this was a very appealing option, especially with the immediate income tax deduction they received at the time the gift was made. Most importantly, though, it allowed them to give back to Haverford. "Al's heart has always been at Haverford, so it was an easy decision to make," says Pam. "Haverford doesn't have as wide a base of support as some other organizations, so we know it will have a greater impact at Haverford than elsewhere." They have since established a second CGA.
These meaningful gifts made by both Dahlberg families ensure that they and Haverford will remain connected well into the future as the impact of those gifts continues to benefit current and future generations of Haverford students and faculty. Al and Jim look forward to an ongoing relationship with the College that influenced their lives so deeply. Al stays in touch with his roommates and looks forward to both personal connections and continuing professional ones at Haverford. Jim also hopes that he'll have a chance to be not just a Haverford alumnus and parent but a Haverford grandparent one day. And with so many family ties between the Dahlbergs and the College already, it's not hard to imagine that he will get his wish. The brothers and their wives will also continue to support the College financially. "I'd like others to enjoy the opportunities that I had," Jim says. Al echoes the sentiment, "Haverford is a gem and we want it to be there for generations to come."