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UNH President James Dean to retire in 2024

Dean, who has served as president since 2018, will wrap up a forty-year career in academics at the end of June.
President James Dean. Courtesy of the Union Leader.

University of New Hampshire President James Dean will retire at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, the university announced Wednesday morning. 

“UNH is positioned for a bright future,” he said in a press release. “It is also poised for new leadership, and the time is right for me to pass the baton.” 

Dean, 67, spent much of his forty-year career at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and has been at UNH since 2018. His retirement will be officially effective on June 30, 2024, and the University System of New Hampshire, comprised of UNH, Keene State, Plymouth State and Granite State College, is currently discussing next steps to fill Dean’s shoes, according to the press release.

During his run at UNH, Dean oversaw improved graduation rates, increased “high-impact educational opportunities,” like internships for students, and a repeated stretch of being named a top 10 value school by U.S. News & World Report, the press release said.

The university also maintained the R1 Carnegie Classification for being a top-tier research institution throughout his time, securing multiple “record-setting” contracts from agencies like NASA, NOAA and the National Science Foundation.

“The university system community is grateful for Jim’s cooperative and steadfast leadership during his tenure in two incredibly demanding roles and we wish him and his wife Jan many years of happy, well-earned retirement with their family,” said Alex Walker, chair of the University System Board of Trustees, which Dean has been interim chancellor of since 2022. 

But his tenure was not all rosy. Most notably, he was heavily criticized for his response to campus-wide sexual assault protests in Fall 2021. After a protest erupted in front of his house one night, he requested an apology for what he called “disrespectful behavior” during the demonstration. Without that, he would not meet with the newly created Sexual Violence Action Committee, a student group focused on addressing sexual violence at UNH, to address sexual assault issues.

“President Dean should be meeting and communicating with students as it is the exact position he signed up for,” then-UNH sophomore Isabella Luca wrote in an op-ed published in the Manchester Ink Link shortly after the protest. “Delaying this and asking for an apology from an unrelated group of students is unacceptable and shows us that finding solutions isn’t his top priority.”

The USNH board of trustees will soon announce plans for a “future governance model” of the university system, which will inform the process for finding Dean’s replacement, the release said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the date of the campus-wide sexual assault protests.

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