B ob Blanchard’s “altruistic streak” can best be explained by a story he heard from fellow UNH plant pathologist Avery Rich.

“Avery told a story about sitting down to Sunday dinner many years ago when there was a knock on the door. It was a farmer from down the road holding a dead plant, needing advice. He said to Avery, ‘I know you’re in the middle of Sunday dinnah, but this is what I’m paying you for.’”

That’s how Blanchard has always viewed his public service at UNH. “I believe we should make UNH better in the eyes of those we’re serving.”

The greatest number of people who have benefited from Blanchard’s help likely are thousands of UNH students, for his service was not limited to students in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture as associate dean for almost 13 years, but to students across the disciplines, from athletes to undergraduates living in residence halls.

Blanchard worked tirelessly with associate deans from the other schools and colleges to improve the academic landscape at UNH. The group revamped a myriad of activities, from students’ first experience at UNH to their last moment, making First-Year Orientation focus more strongly on academics to making Commencement more personal for graduates and their families.

“I can think of no other colleague who shares his grasp of this campus and holds so dear the precious vision of this place,” says Ted Kirkpatrick, who served as associate dean of liberal arts when Blanchard served, from 1984 to 1995.

As a member of the Academic Standards and Advising Committee, Blanchard was involved in the review of hundreds of petitions from students seeking variances in academic policy, usually related to “predicaments.”

“Many of those cases were difficult,” Blanchard acknowledges. “The most rewarding involved students who were suspended, went home kicking and screaming, but when they came back, indicated that the suspension was the best thing that could have happened to them.

“It wasn’t always pleasant dealing with students who forgot why they were here, but it was all worthwhile when they succeeded, hopefully from accepting a few words of advice from someone who really cared about them.”

One was his own daughter. “I’ll never forget that day when her grade report showed up on my desk with the others who were on shaky academic ground,” he says. “But she got the same letter that everyone else got, only I signed it ‘Dean Dad.’”

Blanchard made that decision based on an experience he had had as a kid, when his father, who drove a school bus part-time, kicked his son, Blanchard’s brother, off the bus for roughhousing.

“We were about two miles from home, and my brother wouldn’t stop fooling around, so my father pulled off the road, opened the door, and told my brother ‘Walk home.’ That left a big impression on me,” he says, “and an even bigger impression on my brother. Neither of us ever fooled around on the bus again. So I did that for my daughter, hoping it would have the same effect.”

It did. Four years later, Dean Dad handed a diploma to a young woman at Commencement who was graduating with a 3.5 G.P.A. “Thanks, Dad,” she said.

Blanchard’s public service extends to all corners of the state, from serving on the board of directors of the New Hampshire Science Teachers Association to fielding a phone call from an anxious mother who suspected her child had eaten a poisonous mushroom. With a Ph.D. in mycology, Blanchard is one of only a few people in the Granite State who is trained to identify poisonous mushrooms.

He also works with high school teachers around the state to facilitate students’ transition from high school to college. “I believe it’s important to have conversations with teachers about the University’s expectations versus high school preparation, not just for academic content but for the enormous social change of going to college.”

And he likes to work with younger students as well. “I’m one of the few guys a kid will meet who will say to him or her, ‘If you want to grow fungi in a petri dish, just let me know.’”

— Kim Billings, UNH News Bureau


More Faculty Excellence






Excellence in Public Service, Robert O. Blanchard

Robert O. Blanchard with Deerfield Community School students Tommy Glover and Tory Billings, Pawtuckaway State Park

Robert O. Blanchard, professor of plant biology, College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, with Deerfield Community School students Tommy Glover and Tory Billings, Pawtuckaway State Park, Nottingham, N.H.


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