Padres CEO Sandy Alderson favored by Dartmouth president for board

William Buckley favors University of Virginia law professor Stephen Smith

— His boss John Moores has long been San Diego's preeminent behind-the-scenes political boss, and now Padres CEO Sandy Alderson is stepping out of the shadows with his own high-dollar campaign, including a custom-designed website, sandyalderson.com, and a slick direct-mail piece touting his candidacy. But Alderson isn't running for mere local office; he's seeking to become an alumni trustee at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College. "Sandy has business and life experiences that uniquely qualify him to be a Trustee," says a recent mailer bearing a Petco Park return address and a photo of him wearing a ballpark security pass. "He has had a long and successful career in Major League Baseball, where he has managed in a large, complex and highly scrutinized environment."

Alderson's candidacy comes at a time of heated ideological strife at the Ivy League college, with a group of largely right-of-center and Libertarian alumni claiming that the school's administration under President James Wright has spurned undergraduate education in favor of raising research money, failed to nurture athletics, and come down too hard on fraternity antics, for which the school was made famous by the alumni-written 1978 movie National Lampoon's Animal House. Alderson, class of '69, is one of the establishment candidates, nominated by the administration-friendly alumni council. His key opponent is conservative University of Virginia law professor Stephen Smith, class of '88, who qualified by submitting more than 500 signatures of alumni dissidents. Two other alumni-council-backed candidates are also in the running. The position is especially important because if Smith wins, he would join three other outsiders already on the board and potentially tip the balance of power away from Wright. At least a hundred thousand dollars have poured into the contest from wealthy donors of both persuasions.

Last week Smith's cause was championed by conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., who called Alderson a "clubby alumnus" with "a hyper-active career as a baseball executive, not the worst way to gain favorable attention from patrons of the sport, who include the formidable George F. Will, Princeton Ph.D. and a man of sovereign judgment in most matters." By contrast, said Buckley, Smith "grew up with a single mother in a municipal slum, worked his way up the slippery education ladder and became a student at Dartmouth." Besides that, "He is a practicing Christian, a Catholic with five sons, and add to the above that he is a black American." For his part, Alderson denies he is in Wright's pocket but wants to cut the debate. "Dartmouth's national reputation has been harmed by the manner in which its internal disagreements have been argued publicly. We need less divisiveness and more collaboration." Reached by phone earlier this week, an assistant in Alderson's office at Petco Park said he was traveling abroad and unavailable for comment. Voting ends May 15.

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