UNH students, staff members, friends and local families alike came together on Friday to kick off UNH’s 150th birthday celebration, which began with the annual Homecoming parade. The section of Main Street in front of Thompson Hall (T-Hall) lawn was blocked off from traffic as various UNH clubs, businesses, fraternities, sororities and dorms showed off their floats, all while tossing candy and t-shirts to the crowd lining the street.
To one side of the street, in the “Fish Bowl” in front of Scott Hall, was UNH’s Fall Fair. This carnival-styled event ran from 3–7 p.m., with face painting, bouncy houses and other family friendly activities.
Across the street, on the picturesque T-Hall lawn, UNH Hospitality Services provided free dinner, desert and beverages to all event attendees. The menu consisted of buffalo chicken and pulled pork sandwiches, vegan chili and vegan butternut squash pasta, along with “Wildcat ‘Blue’ Berry” donut holes.
All of this led up the main event of the day, Hear Us Roar, the launch party for Celebrate 150: The Campaign for UNH. Held in the Whittemore Center, the event began at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m. The event was open to the public, and free t-shirts were given out upon entrance.
The event began with Dr. Nancy Kinner, a professor of environmental sciences, stepping up to the podium to give a brief introduction to what was to come for the night. She then introduced the Afternotes, a women’s a Capella group made up of alumni from one of UNH’s a Capella groups, the Notables. The group sang three songs, the first being Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).”
Following the performance by the Afternotes, Kinner came back on stage to share her UNH story. After receiving her A.B. in ecology and systematics in 1976 at Cornell University, Kinner came to UNH to earn her M.S. in civil engineering in 1980, and later got her Ph.D. in engineering in 1983. Kinner then told the audience the story of how she came to love UNH because of how she genuinely felt like she had an identity there rather than just being another number in a university’s system. Kinner finished her speech by conducting the well-known UNH chant by initially shouting, “It’s a great day to be a Wildcat!” to which the crowd replied, “Every day’s a great day to be a Wildcat!” and punched the air with a loud “UH!”
Kinner went on to introduce UNH’s Wind Symphony, who were seated on a separate stage to Kinner’s right. The symphony consisted of approximately 45 instrumentalists and was conducted by Andrew Boysen Jr., who led them in their performance of “Old Ben’s Farm.”
Peter Wilkinson, a 2015 UNH graduate with a degree in environmental conservation and sustainability, took the stage next. Just like Kinner, Wilkinson chose not to leave UNH upon graduating. He now works for Residential Life as a hall director. As a student, Wilkinson loved sharing his UNH pride with fellow Wildcats, which is how he became the first president of the ‘Cat Pack, the student organization whose goal is to “unify the UNH campus by increasing a level of school spirit,” according to their webpage.
Wilkinson could always be spotted front and center at sporting events and pep rallies with his ‘Cat Pack, leading chants enthusiastically, normally with his face painted white and blue. During his speech, he gave three words to describe his UNH story. The first was “home” and the second, for obvious reasons, was “pride.”
“I’ve always asked the question, ‘If you don’t take pride in your institution, then what’s the point of going there in the first place?’” Wilkinson said. The third and last word he listed was “belonging.”
Once Wilkinson finished, event attendees stood as the Afternotes joined the Wind Symphony on stage to perform UNH’s alma mater.
A five-minute video was then played on the video board, which was added to the Whitttemore Center last year. The video was a reel of photographs taken from university archives depicting life on campus, then and now, accompanied by commentary from various UNH faculty members. The video brought a great sense of pride and nostalgia over the crowd as the black and white photos ran alongside the colored ones.
Finally, UNH’s 19th President, Mark Huddleston, came up to the microphone. Huddleston’s speech lasted about 10 minutes, commemorating the success of the last 150 years and taking a look into the next 150. “Let us pledge tonight…[that] the greatness of UNH will not stop with our generation… Let us pledge that we forever equip our students well for the world of work that awaits after they leave us,” Huddleston said. Cheers and applause broke out as Huddleston ended his speech by saying, “Thank you everyone, thank you for believing in the University of New Hampshire.”
Wilkinson then led the crowd, with the help of the ‘Cat Pack and Huddleston, in the “I believe” chant. Attendees all stood up and jumped with their arms around one another, while chanting “I believe in UNH” over and over again.
The marching band then came out in front of the stage to perform for the crowd. Afterward, attendees filed onto the dance floor while the band Night Life performed covers of some of today’s more popular hits. Attendees of the event danced as a photo booth and refreshments were provided to the side of the dance floor. Huddleston was even seen grooving to the music. At one point, about halfway through the show, a Congo line broke out. The event was a suitable way to celebrate UNH, which has become, as Wilkinson said, a home-away-from-home for so many.