UNH Legend, Paul from Hoco: His Unique and Compelling Life Story

While Paul is a simple man, there is much more to the HoCo receptionist than what meets the eye.

Stefanie Kistler, Staff Writer

DURHAM, NH- One of the first things that hungry UNH student’s see upon entering Holloway Commons (HoCo) dining hall are the friendly faces of the HoCo receptionists; one of those is Paul Brosseau, a 79-year-old man who greets students with a smile and a ‘Hello!’ every day.  Most students know Paul, or at least know his face–but what is his story?

Paul was born in February of 1943 to a rather poor family. He grew up in Newmarket, New Hampshire on a farm and spent his younger years working hard and supporting his family.

“It was a day-to-day struggle,” he shared, describing the hard work and tough times his family went through. He said he never had many dreams growing up, that he was too busy worrying about what would happen tomorrow and the near future.

Although Paul has what some may call a challenging upbringing, he remains with a positive outlook on life.

“I think positive all the time. I look forward to meeting new people and experiencing new things,” he said.

In 1959 Paul quit school at age 16 to get a full-time job to further support his family. One year later, he joined the Navy. After four years in the Navy and attaining his General Education Development (GED), he joined the Merchant Marines and sailed on oil tankers across the world’s oceans.

 While on leave from The Merchant Marines, Paul got married and started a family. Paul has four children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He says they love each other very much, even if they don’t stay in constant contact.

“I raised my family to be very independent, like me. We do not communicate daily. But when there is a need, we come together very quickly”

After returning from sailing with the Merchant Marines, he went on to get his degree in Business Studies from Southern New Hampshire University. Degree in hand, he began working for local businesses. Paul says he often had two jobs throughout his life–another result of his hardworking upbringing.

Paul started working for UNH off and on in 2002 while still working at Tyco Electronics in Newington, NH as a manager. In 2015, at age 72, Paul retired from Tyco and decided to start working at UNH full-time.

“People ask me why I still work at my age, and I tell them I don’t work. I go to UNH and have fun and end up getting paid for it.”

As a full time UNH employee for seven years, Paul says he has built many connections with students. He discussed the many students he has helped move between dorms, or even hosted in his own home.

“I once had a student who I met when he was a freshman call me up one winter during a power outage. He wanted to know if he could spend the weekend because he was freezing. That weekend ended up being five years, and he graduated with his doctorate in physics.”

This wasn’t the first or last student that Paul has supported through a difficult time. Andy Yang, a second year UNH student, lived with Paul for a time when COVID-19 hit and Yang’s family moved far away. Andy was trying to find a place to live at that time, when Paul offered to take him in.

“Living with him was great,” Yang shared. “He is very selfless and outgoing, and would make sure I was eating healthy and staying safe.”

Yang first met Paul in 2015, but didn’t get to know him until the summer of 2018, when Yang decided to attend UNH. He reminisced on the times he would go biking with Paul, as he showed Yang the different locations and buildings. 

Yang says that to him, Paul is like family.

“He reaches out to remind me he’s there whenever I need him. He has really helped me so much.”

Paul himself says that UNH students have impacted his life in a major way. He talked about how he still stays in contact with many of the students who he’s met or supported over the years and that he reaches out sometimes to check up on them.

“Being part of their lives and communicating with them keeps me young. That’s a big impact at my age.”

As someone who started studying at UNH in the 2000s, Paul has been a witness to many interesting events. One event he remembered quite clearly was when some students put a full-sized couch in the middle of main street and lit it on fire. He described the event with amused disapproval.

“It was a football game. I think that the wrong team won. Nowadays students are much more sensible,” said Paul.

Paul has observed that young students nationwide seem to have better heads on their shoulders.

“I think it’s just a cultural shift,” he said, when asked why he thinks that students have changed.  Another contributing factor, he believes, is the COVID-19 pandemic that struck in 2020.

“Everybody has become a lot more respectful of other people’s rights and space and other things like that. It’s snapping back to normal, but the effects the pandemic has had will remain.”

When he’s not at work, Paul spends his time learning. He is currently a student at Great Bay Community college studying psychology. Some may be confused by his being in school at his age, but Paul says he is ‘redefining retirement’.

Paul still strives for adventure nowadays and refuses to fall into the quiet life many of his generation do. He enjoys the peace of the countryside, but also likes to fill his schedule with anything from schooling and work to hiking and kayaking.

“I’ve hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I did a couple hikes on The Great Wall. I’ve flown into Tibet to visit the Dalai Lama Palace. I spent a few weeks on a rubber raft going down the Colorado and explored The Grand Canyon. I’ve done many things.”

He shared that his love for travel stems from his love for learning and admiration of other cultures. Although he has visited many beautiful and historical places, Paul admitted that he wants to remain in Newmarket for the rest of his life.

“The nature of New Hampshire is beautiful. The state also cares about its people. I just think it’s a very healthy place to live. I’ve never called anywhere else my home.”

While Paul is a simple man, there is much more to the HoCo receptionist than what meets the eye. He has seen the world and lived an incredibly rich life. He is  a sailor, a traveler, a husband, a father and a student of the world. He has had a huge impact on many students with his selfless nature and willingness to help those in need. Paul lives a very full and interesting life, and still holds on to an energy and spark that so many strive to have.

When asked what his one piece of advice for students would be, his answer came out quick and with a soft smile:

“Follow your dreams and passion. Do not grow old with regret.”