Flying Start
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Huddleston freely admits that he has a big job ahead of him at UNH. "One of the things that keeps me awake at night are two rising lines on a graph," he says. "One is the moderately upward trend that shows what the median family income is going to look like in the next 10 to 15 years. The other line rises much more sharply, projecting the cost of higher education." The gap between the two, he notes, is stunning. "We need to provide substantially more endowed student aid to hold down the differential between those two lines on the graph." Part of the solution, he says, is to create "a whole new culture of philanthropy" among alumni and within New Hampshire. It's a culture, he notes, that has not been part of the history of any land-grant institution.

Huddleston also describes himself as a pragmatist. "I tend to look for market-based solutions," he says. "We need to engage with the private sector. We need to get beyond the ivory tower." When he talks about solutions, though, it's not just numbers that Huddleston feels the need to change. He wants to change the way people think. He cites an example: At Ohio Wesleyan, a "tuition free forward" day was instituted. This was a symbolic day near the end of March, determined by the accounting office, after which tuition no longer covered the cost of the college education. The point was that the education of every enrolled student was partially supported by private donations. "Students need to recognize that they are here in part because of the generosity of others."

DOWN TO THE SEA: Paul Pelletier, captain of the R/V Gulf Challenger, and Mark Huddleston head for the Isles of Shoals.

As he looks to the future, Huddleston also stresses the significance of the university's role as a research institution. "We've got some signature research enterprises here," he says, "as well as others that should be developed." And he believes athletics is an integral part of the UNH experience. "Part of my mission is to make sure athleticsa’Äîintercollegiate, club, intramural, recreational’Äîstays as robust as possible."

The quality of the work culture itself, Huddleston feels, is, perhaps, one of the simplest measures of success. "I think it's really important that people be happy at work, that they be justly compensated, and that they feel they're being treated fairly." He cites again his research on top executives. "One man said that one of his marks of success was that he heard people in his office laughing every day. I hope that by the time I'm done here, I'll help to ensure that UNH is a real employer of choice because it's such a wonderful place to work."

On a late-summer day, the phone rings at the house in Lee, N.H., where Huddleston and his family are renting until renovations are complete on the president's residence on campus. Giles, age 12, answers with a question about goldfish crackers. "Can you pick some up?" he asks, before handing the phone to his mom, Emma Bricker. There's a pause. "I don't have anything thawed," she says. "Can you pick up some of those shish-ka-bob things?" And so the UNH president gets his assignment and detours for groceries on the way home.

WELCOME: Huddleston greets a new student and his parents on freshman Move-in Day in September.

Before long, Huddleston walks through the front door, arms full of bags. He greets his kids, kisses his wife, deposits the groceries—and the goldfish crackers—on the counter, and feeds the three dogs. For the moment, it seems, he's just dad coming home from work. But the job is all-consuming, Bricker says. Huddleston's mind is always working, even when he's not.

Bricker is candid about her role as a president's wife, admitting she still finds the notion surprising. "I would never have imagined myself in this role," she says. Growing up on a farm, she learned to shoot and developed a lifelong passion for plants. She also took flying lessons, becoming proficient by the time she was 16. Recently someone she met at UNH asked if she was on her way to the beach. "I always look like I'm on my way to the beach," she says, laughing. "I just am who I am," she says. "I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal."

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