The View from T-Hall

The Greatest Gifts

Thomspon Hall

My family and I have been shaped and blessed by great universities. My husband, Randy, and I grew up together at the University of Utah. We were married after our freshman year and a brief stint in the Army Reserves for Randy, and we studied side by side through two bachelor's degrees, a J.D., an M.A. and a Ph.D.

Our four daughters grew up knowing that the university was a special and exciting place. It seemed we never quit going to school. My father-in-law, Bret, used to ask us, "When are you kids going to be finished?!" When our youngest daughter, Allyson, was six months old, I returned to the university, taking a night class because that was when a babysitter was available, and Randy could fix dinner for the kids. I still remember waiting at a stop light on Foothill Boulevard and 14th South in Salt Lake City on my way home late one February night in a driving snowstorm and thinking how lucky I was, how no one should love anything as much as I loved this--reading, debating, questioning, growing.

Had we not lived near a great university with a commitment to the traditional and nontraditional citizen/students of the state, had we not been nurtured and encouraged by faculty members and friends who imagined things for us that our parents did not have the experience or knowledge to imagine, had we not benefited from this gift, we would have lived very different lives. The university brought our family closer together and provided a chance for us to grow in unexpected ways. When I was studying for my doctoral qualifying examinations, for example, I posted a sign on the bedroom door that read, "You have a father. Ask him." And they did! They still do.

My life has been shaped further as a teacher and scholar. Several of my friends and mentors like to remind me that the best job at the university is as a member of the faculty. I had a faculty position while Randy was a prosecuting attorney, and he occasionally pointed out to me the major differences in quality of life between the art, music, culture and intellectual discourse with which I worked at the university and the stress and frequent sorrow of criminal court. Being a professor is a gift.

I later learned that in university administration I could work to promote and advance the work of other professors, students and staff members. You can help people solve problems and enable them to achieve their goals. You can remove a few stones in the road. You can hang around with incredibly smart people who know a lot and learn from them about fields you will never have the time or talent to pursue on your own. Being a dean was a gift.

During my tenure as provost, Claremont Graduate University offered me the chance to test this belief that one can advance broad goals, removing obstacles blocking progress for the university. The small size and strong focus of CGU taught me to make decisions and deal with difficult issues affecting an entire institution in a deeply personal context. You have to say "no" to a lot of people as a provost, but you also say "yes." Yes to quality, yes to planning that marshals our combined efforts to accomplish more than any of us alone have dreamed, yes to building together. My time at Claremont Graduate University was a gift.

I now join you, who have loved UNH for many years, have devoted your efforts and your treasure to support its programs and its mission, and have sent your children to learn and grow here. Great universities like the University of New Hampshire are a gift--a gift we give to ourselves. By supporting and working for the university, we can give and receive at the same time. Despite its traditions and great history, the university needs our continued intense efforts and support to assure its vitality and growth as it faces new challenges. There is much to be done. I want you to know that I will work with you, and with all my heart, to build on the tremendous achievements of the past and advance the promise of the future for the University of New Hampshire. It is a gift to be asked to join you. ~

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