76th Pettee Medal award ceremony
April 6, 2010
Good morning. It is my great pleasure to be here for the 76th awarding of the Pettee Medal, and to offer congratulations and best wishes on behalf of the University of New Hampshire and the University System to Stephen H. Taylor, class of 1962.
Not too long ago, I was told that when Steve learned he was receiving this award, his response was: “thank you very much, but why me? I’m just a farmer.” To me, that response — genuinely unassuming and self-deprecating — says more about the reasons Steve was selected than anything on the considerable list of accomplishments I could share with you.
Because anyone who has spent any time in New Hampshire knows there is no such thing as being “just a farmer.” Farming takes an almost unparalleled level of commitment: work days that begin before sunup, work weeks that don’t end when the calendar turns to Saturday. There are no such things as farm holidays, no administrative curtailments for inclement weather. The cows still need to be milked and fed and to have their stalls cleaned, and it’s my understanding that, particularly at this time of year, the maple trees have a few demands of their own that won’t wait for time that might be more to your liking. The biggest rewards rarely come in the financial realm. Instead, they are the rewards of tending the land, shepherding a family business to success in a challenging and changing industry, and leaving this state — or at least a small piece of it — better than you found it.
To be sure, Steve has logged some impressive accomplishments. Steve Donovan just mentioned the most visible of those, and the one most directly tied to Steve Taylor’s work as “just a farmer,” his twenty-five years of service to the state as commissioner of the department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food. During his tenure there he oversaw the development of the NH Organic Certification program, several years before any federal program existed and well before “eating organic” became a popular concept. An accomplished and widely published journalist, Steve also made his mark as founding director for the New Hampshire Humanities Council, a successful vehicle for obtaining federal grants in the Granite State. In the mid 1990s, Steve served as a founding board member of Leadership New Hampshire, which educates citizens and supports their participation in leadership roles in the state. Today, he continues to work on the farm he established with Gretchen in 1970, and still finds time to sit on several not-for-profit boards and to serve as a roving lecturer for the Humanities Council.
The University Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Pettee Medal is awarded — and this is a quote — “to a current or former New Hampshire resident in recognition of outstanding accomplishment or distinguished service in any form to the state, the nation, or the world. “ Reading this description, Steve, I think the question of “why you” pretty much answers itself. You have spent a lifetime in service to the state of New Hampshire, and you have served most admirably.
Congratulations and thank you for all you have done for this University, and for the Granite State.