F rom the fourth floor board room of Citizens Bank in downtown Manchester, Professor of History Jack Resch can see a panorama of the city stretching westward. For Resch, the view is multilayered, although he conceives of it as one big picture. Nearby are his home, his place of work—the University of New Hampshire at Manchester—and many of the nonprofit and civic organizations that he has served for decades. Just blocks away are the downtown YMCA, Manchester’s new Mill Yard Museum, and Child and Family Services of New Hampshire.


To the north is Concord, the state’s capital and home of the New Hampshire Humanities Council. As a longtime board member of the council, Resch has helped bring to the state such programs as the “Philanthropy” series and the lecture/discussion series, “Choices for the 21st Century.”

To the west is Peterborough, the site of Resch’s historical research for his most recent book, Suffering Soldiers, that leading historian Charles Royster called “an important [and] original study.”

On this June afternoon at Citizens Bank, Resch, a gifted and seasoned public historian and teacher, will facilitate a discussion on the history and traditions of American philanthropy. The program is sponsored by the bank and the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

In this the “Golden Age of Philanthropy,” the need to understand these issues has never been more critical. A recent study estimates that charities could gain up to $25 trillion in bequests during the next 50 years.

Present today are 35 distinguished guests who represent the leadership of 20 nonprofit state organizations that deliver essential social and cultural services to the state. Resch knows that for this audience, understanding the historical strengths of American philanthropy is pragmatic.

Completely at ease, Resch surveys the board room. He begins: “What is the difference between charity and philanthropy?”

“Charity is giving to alleviate suffering,” according to one participant.

“It’s a religious obligation,” suggests another.

“Philanthropy, on the other hand,” someone comments, “is giving to promote change or reform.”

Resch clearly enjoys this give and take and guides it skillfully through references which include works by John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts; Alexis de Tocqueville; and Andrew Carnegie.

“de Tocqueville’s fear for American democracy,” says Resch to the guests, “was individualism or self love. He reasoned that when democracy becomes atomized, it loses empathy and community. de Tocqueville thought that America would lose its soul if it should lose its enthusiasm to create civic associations.”

In a vivid analogy, Resch describes the random but pervasive work of nonprofits in this country. “What we have in this country might be seen as a great Jackson Pollack painting of communities,” says Resch.

His description illuminates a vital component of democratic empowerment: a spontaneous, heartfelt belief that one can make a difference. As the guests leave, they talk with each other about the discussion, their organizations, and what they need to do next.

And for Resch, too, these values are key. Charles Bickford, former director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council, recalls Resch’s work for the council’s first-ever fund-raising campaign. “We exceeded our goal,” says Bickford, “and the campaign was just for programming. Usually those dollars are very hard to get. As a board member, Jack brings a wonderful sense of humor and a scholar’s focus and attention to the work at hand.”

Recently, Resch volunteered as the historical consultant and contributor for Child and Family Service’s published history, No Higher Calling, an account of its 150 years of service.

“Jack’s historical understanding also carried forth into present day organizational issues,” says Mike Ostrowski, president of the statewide agency that serves abused and neglected children. “He has the talent to challenge your thinking while being supportive of your effort.”

—Carrie Sherman, University Publications

 

More Faculty Excellence

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Affairs Award for Excellence in Public Service, John P. Resch

John P. Resch with Bill Sirak at Citizens Bank in Manchester

John P. Resch, professor of history, University of New Hampshire at Manchester, with Bill Sirak, bank vice president and trust administration officer, Citizens Bank, Manchester, N.H.

 

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