The View from T-Hall

Dream Catchers

Bookmark and Share

Spring at the University of New Hampshire is a season of celebration—from the moment our seniors return from winter break for their last semester, to the extravaganza of student research projects presented at the largest such conference in the nation; to the midnight flash dance in front of Dimond on the day before finals, to Honors Convocation and Commencement Day; and, finally, to Reunion Weekend—these and many more are milestones in the lives of our students, their families and our alumni.

Another such celebration has occurred for the past 76 years, and while I typically write in this space about the future of the university, from the financial challenges to the aspirations we share, I want to devote some space to our past and how it instructs and inspires us, influencing who and what we will become.

In early April, we honored Steve Taylor '62 with the prestigious Pettee Medal, a distinction that is shared by an astronaut, inventors, renowned researchers, artists, authors and U.S. senators, among others. Steve is a familiar face at UNH. He has helped us build our dairy science program, served for many years on the Board of Trustees and chaired presidential search committees. I daresay everyone in the Granite State knows Steve as the man who served as New Hampshire's agriculture commissioner, and editor of the "Weekly Market Bulletin," for more than two decades—as well as the author of the "Top 100 Things You Should Do to Know the Real New Hampshire." (For a pdf, visit In Meriden, Steve is also known for his family and farm. The Taylor farm, which produces milk, cheese and maple syrup—2,100 gallons this year, from the 5,200 sugar maples he and his family tapped—is a fixture in New Hampshire's Upper Valley. And he has been the town moderator for a long, long time.

Steve cut his teeth at UNH. At the ceremony, Steve credited his success in life to the opportunities and people at UNH who helped to define his future—professors like Sam Rosen, Tom Williams and Bob Dishman. He also mentioned a stint as sports editor at The New Hampshire, which led to the position of editor-in-chief his senior year, which led to his first reporting job at the Portsmouth Herald. And UNH continued to be part of his life. Cooperative Extension guided him and his family as the farm operation grew; his wife, Gretchen Schnare Taylor '62, and sons James '87 and William '89 all graduated from UNH.

FAMILIAR FACE: Steve Taylor '62, left, with Alumni Association executive director Steve Donovan.

Robert Frost said once, "Hell is a half-filled auditorium." Let me assure you, there were no worries about that in the Huddleston Ballroom, which was filled to capacity with Steve's family, friends, former colleagues and business and community leaders from all over New Hampshire. And what struck me was how most in the audience not only resonated with Steve, but how their presence resonated with this place. Former UNH President Joan Leitzel was welcomed back with open arms; Joanne Fairchild, the widow of former COLSA Dean Tom Fairchild '59, attended and was recognized with a round of applause. Former New Hampshire Gov. Walter Peterson '46, whom the UNH Foundation will honor next fall with its highest recognition, the Hubbard Award, was a magnet before and after the ceremony began.

The story behind the Pettee Medal itself is a story of a person dedicated to public service on behalf of the university. Dean Charles Holmes Pettee was committed to the mission of a public land-grant college: teaching, research and service. The service we still provide today to citizens and communities around the state is a direct result of the research that is conducted here. Many challenges face us going forward, but I take solace in the thought that everyone who was present at the Pettee Medal ceremony has been involved in this great institution's past. They believed, as I believe today, that the challenges we faced then and face now were not and are not insurmountable, and that we continue to fulfill the dreams of Dean Pettee and everyone who followed him. It is my hope that someday in the future, a packed house will applaud a Pettee Medal recipient in a new performing arts center, and will realize that the university's dreams have been fulfilled because of the good and careful work that was accomplished in the past. ~

blog comments powered by Disqus