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Bird's Eye View
Like Benjamin Thompson, UNH's first benefactor, the Hubbard family has a vision that every worthy New Hampshire student should have access to a top-quality education.
By Suki Casanave '86G

An excerpt from the new book, From the Ground Up: The Story of the University of New Hampshire Foundation, by Suki Casanave '86G with the UNH Foundation Directors Emeriti History Committee.

It all began with three brothers and their chickens. The university's greatest benefactors--Oliver '21, Austin '25, and Leslie Hubbard '27--grew up in a hardworking family on a small New Hampshire farm. When they returned home after graduating from UNH, they got busy applying what they'd learned to their business.

For more than half a century they worked together, breeding the now-famous chicken known as the "New Hampshire Red" and transforming what had begun as a one-henhouse operation into a huge corporation. Concentrating on research and development, the brothers applied advanced poultry genetics and modern management techniques to develop superior breeding stock that provided more meat and egg protein efficiently and at lower cost. By 1974, when the business was acquired by pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Hubbard Farms had become a worldwide success, operating in more than 50 countries.

Along the way, the Hubbards, who believed deeply in the importance of public higher education, shared the fruits of their success with a host of organizations, including their alma mater. "We've always felt there was no reason for anyone from New Hampshire to go outside the state for the best education," Leslie Hubbard once said. "We wanted to make sure the same was true for generations to come."

With a series of generous gifts through the years, the Hubbard family has funded both scholarships and new programs at UNH, strengthening the university's reputation for excellence on all fronts--teaching, research, and public service. "The mark of the Hubbard family," says former UNH President Joan Leitzel, "can be seen everywhere you look at UNH." A partial list of Hubbard generosity might begin with the Austin Hubbard Endowed Scholarship, established with $3 million in 1996. The gift helps students with financial need--and reflects the Hubbard family's desire to make sure that all students, no matter what their financial situation, have access to a quality education. "That was a very big thing for him," notes Charles DeGrandpre, a foundation board member and attorney who has worked with the Hubbards throughout the years, "making sure that the money was going to a deserving student who had a legitimate need."

A gift of $10 million in 1996 from Oliver created the Fund for Sustainable Living Education, the first program of its kind in the country. The fund supports a multidisciplinary program in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture that teaches sustainable living based on sound science and emphasizes the connection among human beings, their communities, and the natural world.

Three more gifts from Oliver Hubbard that came in 1999 and 2000 included $2.5 million for the Hubbard Brothers Endowed Chair in the Biological Sciences, $2.5 million for the Biological Sciences Endowment, and $3 million for the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies, which is devoted to understanding the structure and function of genomes from across the spectrum of life.

In 1998, a gift of $2.3 million from Leslie Hubbard and his wife Iola created the Climate Change Research Center, where scientists work to understand and predict changes in New England's climate, weather, and air quality. "This was a project very close to Les's heart," says DeGrandpre. "The environment and preserving nature was a real passion for Les."

The generosity of Leslie Hubbard also established the Marine Program Endowment in 1996 with a gift of more than $8 million, providing research opportunities at the Ocean Process Analysis Laboratory and helping to build the 50-foot research vessel "Gulf Challenger." Hubbard gifts also have helped fund the construction of the Jere A. Chase Ocean Engineering Building, a state-of-the-art facility that houses the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, and allowed for the completion of the new Environmental Technology Building.

In 2002, Leslie Hubbard also provided the $2 million gift that launched the Joan and James Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education, in honor of the university's 17th president and her late husband James, who had died in 1998 while serving on the faculty of the mathematics department. And of course, it was Leslie whose generosity provided the $2 million in start-up funding that helped launch the foundation itself.

"I've never seen such a remarkable family commitment to philanthropy," says DeGrandpre. "Each brother had different interests, but overlying it all was a concern for poverty and with access to education for ordinary Americans." Their only fault, DeGrandpre says, jesting, was their humility. "They didn't want the credit. But I knew their example would impel others to give."

"I've never seen such a remarkable family commitment to philanthropy," says DeGrandpre. "Each brother had different interests, but overlying it all was a concern for poverty and with access to education for ordinary Americans." Their only fault, DeGrandpre says, jesting, was their humility. "They didn't want the credit. But I knew their example would impel others to give."

In recent years, foundation board member John Hubbard '50, son of Austin, has continued the family tradition. His decision to give to the Dimond Library begins with a confession: "I hardly set foot in the library during my four years at UNH," he says, chuckling. "But in recent years I had been in often and seen the poor condition of the building--especially that horrible orange carpeting! Carol and I agreed a gift to the library would help an awful lot of other people." That $1 million gift helped to complete the library renovation project in 1999 and provided a beautiful, peaceful setting in which to study and read--encouraging plenty of students, no doubt, to spend more time in the library.

In the midst of all this giving--more than $50 million total--the Hubbard family always maintained its quintessential New England style of philanthropy: unassuming, quiet, and often anonymous. "All three brothers were reticent," says John Hubbard, a modest man himself. "They didn't want a lot of honors and attention." It wasn't until 2000, when John and other living family members agreed, at the university's request, to establish an award of recognition with the Hubbard name on it, that more people became aware of the indelible mark the family has had on the university. Presented periodically, the Hubbard Family Award for Service to Philanthropy recognizes outstanding donors who have helped to advance public higher education at the university. The goal, of course, is to thank those who have given and inspire others to follow, in their own way, the Hubbard example. "The Hubbards have always understood that UNH plays a pivotal role in the region's growth and prosperity," says Young Dawkins, former president of the UNH Foundation. "They have set the standard for philanthropy at the university, and it is fitting that we name our highest honor after this exemplary family."

The Hubbard award recognizes service, as well as financial support, honoring a family legacy that includes gifts of time and talent, as well as remarkable financial support. Austin Hubbard served on the USNH Board of Trustees from 1940 to 1962. His son John was a founding member of the UNH Foundation and remains its longest serving member. "It hasn't been all peaches and cream," John Hubbard says of the challenges faced during the foundation's first two decades. But he is characteristically matter-of-fact about the growing pains that accompany a start-up idea. He comes, after all, from a family that understands hard work--from a family who knows that success takes time and that, someday, the fruits of work well done can have a far-reaching impact for good on the lives of others.

A man of few words, John Hubbard is straightforward about the foundation's role in UNH's future. "I don't see state support getting any better," he says, noting that UNH gets only 14 percent of its budget from the state. "We need a foundation to actively raise funds to support UNH programs." Thanks to the UNH Foundation, the Hubbard family legacy will continue at the university, without fanfare, as quiet, unassuming--and effective--as ever. ~

From the Ground Up was a project of the UNH Foundation directors emeriti to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the UNH Foundation to foster private support for New Hampshire's flagship public university. The book was published by Xlibris in 2009. To order a copy, visit alumni.unh.edu/marketplace or financingpublicuniversities.com.

Return to UNH Magazine Fall '09 Features