Alumni News

Man With a Mission

Demonstrating his iBot "mobility system," Dean Kamen told the Pettee Medal audience, "We need to give kids options instead of profound distractions."

Dean Kamen is a man with work to do. Which is why he wears jeans and a work shirt all the time. Well, not all the time, admits the New Hampshire inventor and entrepreneur who was awarded the Alumni Association's 2004 Pettee Medal. "Not when I'm sleeping and not in the pool."

For Kamen, who holds more than 200 patents, the award ceremony (yes, he was wearing jeans and a work shirt) was but a brief pause in a life driven by intensity and persistence. "He'll get after you until he gets what he wants," said friend Fred Kfoury '64, who spoke at the ceremony. "He's so persuasive, you can't say no."

Kamen is also a man with a mission. An urgent one. His motto: "If it's not important, don't do it. If it is important, don't complain about it, just do it. And don't give up." Taking his own advice, he has dedicated his life to improving life for others. While still in college, he designed the first wearable infusion pump. Other visionary inventions followed, including the first insulin pump for diabetics and a portable dialysis machine.

In the MUB's Granite State Room, Kamen climbed to the stage atop one of his most impressive inventions, the iBOT, a "mobility system" that can maneuver stairs, navigate rough terrain and raise the user to eye level with a standing person. Why, wondered Kamen, should wheelchair users be relegated to a life of restricted mobility and waist-level vision? The iBOT is his answer. In the back of the room, two Segways, his most famous invention, were available for audience members to take a spin.

One of Kamen's proudest accomplishments, though, is the least tangible. Founded in 1989, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a sort of educational Olympics devoted to motivating young people to pursue science and engineering careers. FIRST teams students with professional engineers and scientists, who serve as mentors in an annual robotic competition, and for younger students, in a FIRST Lego League. FIRST now holds a national robotics championship at Disney World, and last year more than 50,000 young people and 14,000 mentors participated worldwide.

"People do make a difference," Kamen insisted, stressing that FIRST is about more than just science and technology. "It's about changing lives by putting kids to work with caring adults." It was more difficult than he expected to get FIRST off the ground, Kamen admitted, but that never stopped him before. It was important. So he did it.

In the Spotlight

A New Chapter in Her Life
D.C. lawyer Amanda Wood '97 makes time for UNH fun

Those who knew Amanda Wood '97 at UNH probably aren't surprised the former track athlete still spends her days, nights and weekends running. And we're not just talking laps around a track.

Wood juggles her day job as an assistant general counsel for the General Services Administration with heading up the Washington, D.C., chapter of the UNH Alumni Association, plus some 20 or more miles of jogging every week.

When Wood, 29, began looking for her first job as a lawyer, she knew she wanted to work in government. "I'm kind of a political junkie," says Wood, who volunteered with political campaigns during college and interned with Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine). Wood now defends the government in disputes with contractors before a government board of appeals. She also provides legal advice to officials involved in contracts. Some of her first investigations involved Enron, Arthur Andersen and WorldCom.

Shortly after arriving in D.C., Wood and one of her best UNH friends decided they missed the camaraderie of college life and wanted to get together with other alums to watch UNH men's ice hockey games. She contacted the Washington, D.C., alumni chapter and before she knew it, there was talk of leadership vacancies. Wood agreed to become president with the assistance of Fred Olsen '97, vice president; Kristin Conaboy '97, secretary; and Carl Batchelder '51, treasurer.

Wood's ideas for the chapter include more monthly events like happy hours while continuing the annual traditions of a chapter dinner and January skating party at the Smithsonian Mall. One of the things she likes about chapter leadership is that the chapter—some 2,000-plus alumni—gets to decide its own agenda. "It's basically whatever we want to do," she says. "It's open to wherever we want to take it."

While Wood is enjoying the metropolitan life as much as she can, she does miss New England. "There's just something about it," she says. "There's no place like it in the world."

New Directory

A new directory with home and business information for more than 100,000 UNH alumni is being compiled by the UNH Alumni Association in conjunction with PCI, "the data company."

To make sure you're included, you may fill out the form online at (to log on, use your alumni identification number, which is on the mailing label of this magazine), complete a paper questionnaire that was mailed to you, or call (800) 982-1589. There is no charge to be listed in the directory.

The questionnaire contains an e-mail permission question, and checking "Yes" means your e-mail address will be viewable on the alumni-only section of the alumni Web site, Wildcat World, at

A reservation form to order the book version, the CD version, or both, is included with the questionnaire and online form, and offered by phone. Alumni dues-paying members receive a $10 discount on the purchase price.

For more information about the directory, call (603) 862-2040 or (800) 891-1195, or e-mail the UNH Alumni Office at


Nominate an alum for one of the UNH Alumni Association's four annual awards: the Pettee Medal, the Alumni Meritorious Service Award, the Profile of Service Award and the Young Alumnus/Alumna Achievement Award. Names of nominees and class years, if known, may be sent to or submitted on Wildcat World's nomination page at Nominations can also be mailed to the Nominating Committee, Elliott Alumni Center, 9 Edgewood Road, Durham, NH 03824.

blog comments powered by Disqus