Bonfires, Bikes and Belonging

Gifts to the Dartmouth College Fund help make great things happen for our students. Here is one of their stories.

DAVID RINGEL ’19, of Glencoe, Illinois, had a busy first year. A geography major, he was involved with the Dartmouth Outing Club, Ledyard Canoe Club, Woodsmen’s Team, and Dartmouth EMS. David was also active with the Sustainability Project, where he interned with Dartmouth Bikes, and he chaired the Bonfire Committee. 

To be honest, I didn’t quite understand what being bonfire chair entailed. I worked harder in those two days than I’ve ever worked, but it was cool to meet so many people. There was an absolutely amazing moment on the first evening. We had just finished hammering the last nail of the day, the sunset was beautiful, and the bells started playing “Alma Mater.” I was so proud to be part of an incredible tradition.

Fast forward to the night of the bonfire. As I entered the inner circle to help light the fire, a torrential rainstorm rolled in. For a moment I wasn’t sure if we were going to continue. A gentleman from the Class of 1969 lit a torch, handed it to me, and said, “Young man, are you ready to accept this Dartmouth tradition?” We got the signal to light the bonfire, but with all the rain it didn’t catch immediately. I was freaking out, thinking, “This is awful! It’s not lighting!” Then the flames took off, and everybody started yelling and running in circles. 

Sustainability is important to me because I want the next generation to enjoy nature as I do, and part of that is not wasting resources. Dartmouth Bikes rescues bicycles that have sat outside for the winter—a lot of rusty chains and flat tires. We tag bikes that appear to be abandoned, and if a bike is still there two weeks later, we bring it to our shop. We spend another couple of weeks trying to contact the owner. If we can’t, we repair the bike and then either sell it or rent it out. You can recognize our rentals with their green handlebars. It’s cool to see people riding them and to know we gave those bikes a new life.

One story sums up why I love Dartmouth. I was at the Skiway, with friends, on the lift, heading up the mountain. For some reason, we started talking about Supreme Court cases. We discussed Griswold v. Connecticut and other cases, and we were interested in each other’s perspectives. At the top of the hill someone said, “OK, time to ski. We’ll resume this conversation later.” That’s Dartmouth. You have the beautiful outdoors and, at any moment, you can find yourself engaged in an amazing academic experience.