Youngest trustee aims to offer support, guidance
By Sasha Slayton
Published on Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Nathaniel Fick ’99 — the youngest member of Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees, a U.S. Marine captain and the CEO of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that develops national security and defense policies — wrote in his 2006 book that he felt he had been born too late into a world lacking opportunities “for a young man who wanted to wear armor and slay dragons.” Since serving as a Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11, Fick has recounted his experiences in an autobiography and has dedicated himself to improving the Dartmouth community since his June election as a trustee.
Fick said he appreciates working closely with other alumni on the Board to make positive decisions for the College, particularly given the impact that Dartmouth has had on the trustees’ lives and educations.
“We want to make sure that the College is as good or better for the next generation as it was for us,” he said.
Prior to becoming a member of the Board, Fick served on the Rockefeller Center’s Board of Visitors, contributing as a regular speaker and session leader for the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows Program, which teaches students leadership skills, economics professor and Rockefeller Center Director Andrew Samwick said.
Fick, a Maryland native who later earned both an MBA and MPA from Harvard University, competed on the cycling and Nordic skiing teams during his time at Dartmouth, which reflects his “will to drive himself to do what he perceives needs to be done,” John Nagl, a friend and colleague at the Center for a New American Security, said.
He demonstrated extensive mental and physical capabilities as a student and expressed an interest in a variety of different paths while at Dartmouth, classics professor Jeremy Rutter said.
“He took the Foreign Service exam and the Marine Officer Candidate School exam in the same week,” Rutter said.
Fick ultimately chose to complete Officer Candidate School the following summer and recounted his time as a Marine officer in his autobiography, “One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer.” The decision to recount his experiences as a lieutenant followed the death of his replacement captain Brent Morel, for which he felt largely responsible, Fick said. Fick also felt compelled by the lack of first-hand accounts of fighting in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.
“We had heard from politicians, journalists and generals, but we hadn’t heard from people fighting the war,” Fick said. “So that became my incentive — to try and tell that story.”
When he initially began writing, Fick set a goal of 500 new words each day and revisions for the previous day’s work. He completed the project after a year and a half of writing.
Fick attributes his ability to lead the 45 members of his platoon partially to lessons learned at Dartmouth, including the skill of putting goals in historical, geographical and human contexts.
“People will follow you through the gates of hell if you are able to articulate to them why you need them to do something,” Fick said. “I think in explaining why, I was able to expand their understanding and help them take more risks, so they didn’t think they were doing crazy things in a vacuum. I don’t think I would have been able to do that without my Dartmouth education.”
Fick’s natural leadership skills compel others to follow him, Nagl said.
“When I was offered the position of president of the CNAS, my condition was that Nate be given the position of CEO,” Nagl said. “There were people who thought he was too young and not experienced enough, but it was one of the best judgments I ever made. He was right for that job.”
In addition to numerous commitments that include directing the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Fick devotes time to communicating with and mentoring current students.
War and Peace fellow Utkarsh Agarwal ’13 said Fick has provided excellent support to fellows interested in serving in the military and to the program as a whole.
“He is an excellent conversationalist, and it’s always wonderful talking to him,” Agarwal said. “Nate’s path from Dartmouth to the Marines and Harvard and now at CNAS has been interesting, and I can only imagine that he wants to delve deeper into the policy side of things in D.C.”