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Presidential Award of Excellence


Patrick Messer

Associate Director
Research Computing Center

“And, the work is really rewarding. I love to come to work. And, I know I will make a contribution every day.”

Patrick Messer maintains balance in a busy life by commuting to work by bicycle. In addition to avoiding the hassles of parking on campus, his daily rides have given him enough miles to prepare for a triathlon.

Computer programmers have this image: young people strung-out on caffeine, bleary eyes glued to monitors, crunching the all-important code.

Patrick Messer, associate director of the Research Computing Center, eschews the late-night sessions hopped-up on Mountain Dew, preferring his caffeine as most of us do - in a good cup of coffee from Vinny's.

A collegial problem-solver, he and his team handled the programming behind what ultimately became Chaoticom and worked with voice-activated and GIS tracking software in the state's police cruisers. Today, they're looking at e-commerce initiatives in a public safety management project for the Department of Justice, and a crash report management system for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Patrick has been at UNH since 1981, when he transferred in as an undergraduate in civil engineering, and never left. Initially working in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences after graduate school, he moved to Research Computing in 1987, where Bill Lenharth, still his supervisor, had an eye for talent.

Patrick says he also tries to identify good programmers early in their careers, often as early as the freshman year. "All of the new people in the past five to eight years have been students," he says. "By the time they are ready to leave, they are incredibly productive. We say, 'Hey, we need to keep this person.'"

His team members, now they often do fit the programmer mold - lunch trips to Best Buy to check out the latest gadgets, weekend experiments programming Linux into a PDA.

"The programmers on staff are phenomenal," he exudes. "They really impress me with their work and creativity."

The RCC team has completed countless projects, many of which have received national and international recognition. ACE-Net, the Angel Capital Electronic Network, helps high-tech entrepreneurs secure financing. PRO-Net is the federal government's Procurement, Marketing, and Access Network with more than 170,000 small businesses in its database. In 2003, RCC developed Homeland Security's infrastructure library portal in only three months.

Closer to home, Patrick and his team created Wildcat World, our alumni portal. With a click, grads can find a missing friend, buy a UNH sweatshirt, or network for valuable career advice.

So, how does someone who, by his own admission, doesn't "do" change well stay at the leading edge and remain so calm?

He's been known to wear a heart rate monitor to make sure his training runs are not too fast. And, he commutes to work each day by bicycle.

"I am relatively calm," he admits. "I guess my children (eight-year old Nina and eleven-year-old Cameron) give me that balanced life."

"And, the work is really rewarding. I love to come to work. And, I know I will make a contribution every day."

- Michael Jones