Hubbard Family Award for Service to Philanthropy

Mark W. Huddleston

Hubbard Family Award for Service to Philanthropy
The Honorable Walter and Dorothy Peterson
October 1, 2010

Thank you, Frank, and thank you all for inviting me to join you here today.

It takes a tough philanthropist to raise a tender chicken?

It is, as always, a privilege to be among this University’s most loyal and generous friends and events such as this are a very powerful and very tangible reminder of the great responsibility with which I have been entrusted as the president of the University of New Hampshire. As I look around the room and see in attendance today former UNH Presidents Joan Leitzel, Gene Mills, Bonnie Newman, and, indeed, Walter Peterson, I am also reminded that my place in this institution is finite, and that the success of my tenure will be determined by whether I am able to leave this University better than I found it. “Leave the woodpile higher than you found it,” is a phrase I believe will resonate with at least one of you, and indeed you all left the woodpile higher than you found it —much higher, in fact. I hope I will be able to do the same.

As you know, I have spent a great deal of the past year sharing our plan for how to create a better and more sustainable—in every sense of the word—UNH. Philanthropy has an important role in that plan, as philanthropy always has been important to higher education. It is philanthropy that makes possible scholarships for deserving students who might not otherwise be able to afford a college education. It is philanthropy that allows our talented faculty to stretch their wings and develop innovative classes and programs. It is philanthropy that helps close the ever-more daunting gap between the cost of providing a world-class education and the amount we are able to reasonably charge for it.

Private support is important to colleges everywhere, of course, but nowhere is it more so than here in New Hampshire, where we hold the dubious distinction, among all U.S. public universities, of receiving the least amount of support from our state. “Dare to be 49th” has been our rallying cry for more years than I’d like to count. It is a testament to Yankee ingenuity, and thanks in great part to all of you, that we are able to parlay our limited resources into outstanding results and offer top-notch programs that attract top-notch students year after year.

Today, we are here to honor two people who have inspired, guided and lifted us in the face of this challenge, two people who understand the importance of philanthropy to higher education. It is my pleasure to be here honoring Walter and Dorothy Peterson.

One of the first things you learn about Walter and Dorothy is that they go “way back” with everyone—through Walter’s careers in politics and higher education and Dorothy’s often quiet involvement with a range of causes, their positive influence has touched many of this state’s people and places, from the New Hampshire community college system to Franklin Pierce College and to their local Peterborough community. 

Part of knowing everyone is offering yourself up as fodder for a wealth of stories that others will tell about you—and I expect we will hear any number of stories about Walter and Dorothy today. One that I heard very recently is likely among the least colorful of these, but it’s one that sticks with me, and it’s one I’d like to share with you now. It has to do with how Walter and Dorothy decide to give to UNH. In the context of today’s celebration, Walter was asked this questio —“what inspires you to give to UNH?”—and his response was, “Well, I get an appeal letter in the mail, and I read it. And then I open up my checkbook.”

It’s as simple as that. Note to self . . . send more appeals . . .

Now, that might not seem like a profound story, but to me what it reveals is profound, indeed: the sensibility that informs Walter and Dorothy Peterson’s decision to give. They give because they want to, but also because they feel they should. Philanthropy not as largesse, but as duty. To reiterate a quote I have used before in the context of philanthropy, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” That’s Aristotle, and while chances are he wasn’t writing about Water and Dorothy Peterson, he very easily could have been.

Equally as interesting to me as why the Petersons give to UNH is where the Petersons give to UNH. Frankly, they give everywhere, which might just mean that we do a good job of covering all the bases with those appeal letters. But if you take a close look at the Petersons’ record of giving, an interesting pattern emerges. More than any other areas, Walter and Dorothy give to the library, to the Hamel Rec Center, and to athletics. Not to specific scholarships that might benefit one student or another—though we certainly need and appreciate these—but to broad programmatic areas that benefit a great number of students, both athletically and academically. Walter and Dorothy’s gifts are the kind that make the academic ideal of mens sana in corpore sano—a sound mind in a sound body—possible for many at UNH.

In just a minute I will hand the floor back over to Frank Noonan to continue our program, but before I do I’d like to take a moment to recognize all of the past recipients of the Hubbard Award.

2001          K.V. Dey
2002          Lew Feldstein
2003          Fred Whittemore
2004          Arnie and Della Hanson
2005          the David and Rosamond Putnam Family
2006          Forrest McKerley
2007          Mel and Mary Jo Rines
2008          Ed Fish
2009          David Steelman and Ginny Theo-Steelman

At this tenth celebration of the Hubbard Family Award for Service to Philanthropy it gives me great pleasure to recognize those of you who have joined us today, our friends who are no longer with us, and those who were not able to be here in person, and to welcome Walter and Dorothy Peterson into your fine company.

Thank you, Walter and Dorothy, and thank you all.