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"Make sure the boys go to college," he said. And she did.

Irene Peters
Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services
H. Irene Peters '66, '73G, '78G celebrates the creation of the John and H. Irene Peters Professorship in Education with, from left, Michael Middleton, associate professor of education; Ken Fuld, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; and President Mark Huddleston.

John Peters had only one request when he woke, struggling for breath, in the middle of the night: Make sure the boys go to college. It was Oct. 7, 1962, and his wife, Irene, was by his side when he died of a heart attack at the age of 48. His words stayed with her, an inspiration, in the years to come.

Douglas and Brian, 14 and 8 at the time, would indeed go on to college, both at UNH. But first, another Peters blazed the trail for them—Irene herself, who enrolled almost immediately after her husband's death, a college freshman at the age of 39.

In July, Brian '77, his wife Ann-Frances Peters Perry '78, and their son, Matthew, established the John and H. Irene Peters Professorship in Education to honor Brian's father and to celebrate his mother's 90th birthday. The endowed professorship supports the teaching, research, service, and other activities of a distinguished faculty member awarded the title. Michael Middleton, associate professor of education, is the first to hold the honor.

"UNH is much more than the common thread of my family's story," says Brian, an attorney in Philadelphia. Douglas '71 is an attorney in Detroit. "Rather, UNH is the very foundation upon and around which my family's life was reconstructed and built, and which today sustains our immediate and extended family in the lives we are very privileged to lead."

Brian was in third grade when his father died. Douglas was a high school freshman. A part-time registered operating room nurse, Irene began attending evening classes to pursue her bachelor's degree in psychology.

Several years later, Douglas joined Irene at UNH. She went on to earn a master's degree in education, again at night, while working full time with the New Hampshire Department of Education. She received her third UNH degree, a certificate of advanced graduate study, a year after Brian completed his undergraduate studies.

During his mother's early years as an undergraduate, Brian would often accompany her to campus, spending time in the Dimond Library, Murkland, or Hamilton Smith while she was in class. "I was intrigued by Dimond Library," he says.

Peters knew he wanted to attend UNH, but his high school grades and SAT scores did not necessarily support his application. Fortunately, the director of admissions at the time, Gene Savage, met with Peters and told him he "showed promise," noting his extra-curricular activities.

"I was accepted at UNH a month later. It was, and remains, one of the happiest days of my life," he says.

Peters recalls the way classics professor Richard Derosiers taught him how to think critically. From English professors Andy Merton '67 and Don Murray '48, Peters says he learned how to cherish and respect words. And from political science professors Susan White, Robert Dishman, and Robert Craig, he learned how to apply theory to facts and facts to theory.

"My father's dying wish started a lifecycle of desiring, embracing, and truly loving learning and education," Peters says. And his mother's return to school as a young widow yielded much more than an education. "She became emblematic of life and learning, and is her sons' and grandson's lodestar."

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