The View from T-Hall

Deeply Rooted

Thomspon Hall

From my first visit to the University of New Hampshire, it was clear that the essential elements of a distinguished university were in place here: a remarkable faculty, responsive students, outstanding programs and a beautiful setting.Undergraduate education was clearly a high priority, and there was a deep tradition of excellence and strong common values.

Back in Nebraska, I stared at UNH budget spreadsheets and tried to figure out how such a high-quality institution could operate on such small budgets. I confess I presumed that certain revenues were kept off budget. I was wrong.

It was not until I was actually working at UNH that I discovered how this university had managed to do so much with so little. UNH has succeeded by cultivating an unusual culture of entrepreneurship. Students' creative abilities and capacities for innovation are honed here. Our Mask and Dagger students wanted to take their production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on a tour of university campuses in Korea, and they found a way to do it. Our adaptive recreation program, Northeast Passage, took hikers who have severe physical limitations to the Gale Head hut in the White Mountains. Faculty members find commercial applications for their research. It is no wonder that UNH now has an Entrepreneurial Campus and the Hamel Center for the Management of Technology and Innovation. This is an innovative place.

The university could not have been so successful at turning good ideas into reality if it were not for the exceptional commitment of the faculty and staff. When we decided that the university needed more efficient budgeting processes, a steering committee and seven working groups spent three years developing the new model. Our new academic plan, now in the early stages of implementation, engaged the entire campus for more than two years. When we decided to switch to a new information-management system, requiring special training and long hours for a large number of our employees, everyone pitched in to make the transition a success.

Nothing that has been accomplished at UNH over the past six years would have been possible without the help of many people who have worked to make this a better, stronger university. I would particularly like to thank:

  • The faculty, which is made up of outstanding scholars deeply committed to their students and who know how to combine the best of liberal arts colleges and the best of land-grant research universities in a single institution with a single faculty.
  • The staff, especially those who always get me to the airport on time, plow snow from my driveway, clean the president's house and fix beautiful dinners for me to serve.
  • The talented team of professionals and senior administrators who work with me on a daily basis.
  • The students, who always make it clear why I love this job.
  • The Cooperative Extension educators who share UNH's resources throughout the state.
  • The parents of our students, who entrust us with their most precious asset.
  • The trustees and system office employees, who have supported some pretty bold changes at UNH, and all of the talented individuals who serve on our boards and advisory committees.
  • My own family members, who always stayed close while generously giving me this time to be at a distance from them.
  • Those in earlier generations who shaped this institution masterfully.
  • Our graduates, who faithfully guarantee that the standards of UNH will stay high.

A university is always a work in progress. Each period brings its own opportunities and challenges. What I know now that I could not have known six years ago is that UNH is a deeply rooted institution. The pine trees that grow in the granite of New Hampshire are good symbols for our university. UNH will continue to be an example to the nation of the very best in public higher education.

I can't conclude my final column for UNH Magazine without mentioning one more thing: just how much fun it is to be here. I will long remember my lunches at Stillings Dining Hall and the time students showed me how to mix Rice Krispies with marshmallow sauce and chocolate. I will remember the annual three-day trips across New Hampshire with new faculty members in a bus not quite mountain-worthy, the hockey games that bring the campus and extended community together, our students' exciting performances in music, theater and dance.

It has been a great joy as well as a great privilege to serve as president of this exceptional institution. ~
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