Oh The Places They’re Going!

At first, I thought it was a prank.

Yesterday I received an email announcing that Dartmouth had named its Medical School—one of the oldest med schools in the country—the Geisel Medical School. For many people that name means nothing. But most people around Hanover have heard that name before. Theodore Geisel, Dartmouth Class of 1925, was the real-life name for Dr. Seuss. Dartmouth just re-christened its graduate school in medicine, The Doctor Seuss Medical School.

As I said, at first, I thought it was some kind of hoax or a late April Fool’s Day trick. But after checking the news outlets and Dartmouth’s own web site, it seems to be true. In recognition of the significant financial contributions the Geisel family has made to the institution over the years, the school is honoring them in this way. Wow.

The mind reels with the implications. Will the bursar’s office have Grinch signs over it? Will unlucky patients be operated on by Thing 1 and Thing 2? And will the ENT—ears, nose, throat—doctors be populated by the elephant Horton and his relatives—the one who heard the Who? Will hospital volunteers wear Cat-in-the-Hat jumpers?

Image and branding are important in business. New Coke was a disaster, but at least management knew how to reverse course. When Bill Gates introduced Windows 98 during a press conference and it promptly displayed the Blue Screen of Death and crashed, it established the system’s reputation as a buggy, error-prone program. What image does the Dr. Seuss Medical School bring to mind for you?

Ted Geisel was a creative, generous man with an amazing literary legacy. But I’m afraid that his eponymous med school will be a marketing mistake.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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