SOTU: President Huddleston talks 150 years of UNH, successes and growing class sizes

Bret Belden

The State of the University address often tends to revolve around the biggest milestones overcome and achievements accomplished by UNH within the last 12  months.

But this year’s address, according to university President Mark Huddleston, was different because this year marks UNH’s 150th anniversary as a public institution of higher education. Huddleston spoke about the events both across campus and the state that are being planned to celebrate UNH’s sesquicentennial. He highlighted the importance of this landmark as “more than a celebration.”

“Ours is a history with purpose and impact,” Huddleston said.

Huddleston reflected on the past 150 years and described the current state of the university as “thriving.” He listed some recent successes of the university, including an increase in private donations and the two largest incoming classes ever to come to UNH.   

According to Huddleston, a comprehensive study was done with the Gallup organization on the long-term outcomes for UNH alumni. It found that not only do UNH graduates outperform their peers in employment, but they are also 60 percent more likely to thrive in the four areas that Gallup uses to define a person’s quality of life. These include a sense of purpose, community engagement, social well-being, and physical well-being.

“The next time someone asks you if college is worth it, you’ve got a really good answer,” Huddleston said. “UNH is certainly worth it.”

Huddleston went on to detail five points that would set UNH on the right course to ensure the next 150 years are even better.

Bill Janelle, associate vice president for facilities and operations, was particularly struck by this plan.

“The five points that the president provided have the ability to be a clear direction for all of us as to which way we’re headed,” Janelle said.

Huddleston concluded with a revelation that 2016 will unveil UNH’s largest fundraising effort in its entire history. This campaign, which is set to launch at the same time as the 150th anniversary celebration this fall, will be called “Celebrate 150: The Campaign for UNH.” 

Cameron Cook, student body president, also spoke of his “excitement” when Huddleston revealed the plans for the celebration of the sesquicentennial that will take place during Homecoming weekend this fall.

Cook thought Huddleston was “very impressive” during the town hall meeting which took place after his formal remarks. Huddleston took questions from the audience, e-mail, and via Twitter.

“He had a variety of different questions thrown at him,” Cook said. “They were difficult questions, and they were the ones where you have to tip-toe a little bit because they’re difficult and politically-charged.”

Not all students were as satisfied by some answers that Huddleston gave during the meeting.

Griffin Sinclair-Wingate, a junior, asked Huddleston whether he would be willing to freeze administrative salaries and cut administrative bonuses to lower student tuition. In response, Huddleston spoke of his commitment to pay people hired by the university at 50th percentile of the labor market.

“I was disappointed by his answer,” Sinclair-Wingate said.

Sinclair-Wingate also said that it was good that Huddleston thought students should have a say in how the endowment should be invested, referring to another question he asked about whether students should have a voice in where the money from the endowment should go to.

Other audience members were impressed by the overall speech delivered before the town meeting.

Sam Mukasa, dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Science said it was a “well-delivered speech.”

“I thought it emphasized the right things considered that 2016 is going to be UNH’s sesquicentennial,” Mukasa said. “It felt very upbeat.”

Huddleston himself was pleased with the attendance of the event and the questions he received.

“There were a lot of questions which is good,” Huddleston said. “It’s a sign that people are not only paying attention but they’re engaged and interested so I thought it went very well.”