UNH and the New Hampshire Presidential Primary

UNH has had a front row seat to presidential politics since 1952, the year that the New Hampshire Primary achieved its current significance. Many major candidates have visited Durham. Our alums and friends shared their memories with us.

> Read additional Alumni memories.

> View the New Hampshire Primary Page

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Slideshow: Bridget Finnegan, New and Emerging Media. Words: Lori Wright, Media Relations. Images compiled by Stephanie Weatherbee, Photographic Services. Special thanks to Andy Smith, UNH Professor of Political Science. Watch Andy Smith tell the history of the New Hampshire Primary on CSPAN.

Championship banners and football from University archives

Students played the role of candidates in rehearsals when UNH hosted the Democratic Debate in 2004.

An original barnacle pin

"I remember well the day that JFK visited campus. It generated much excitement and anticipation. I had a rather large written assignment due several days after his visit but decided to set my homework aside and see if I could catch a glimpse of him. As things turned out, I happened to be less than an arm's length from him and he stretched out his hand, looked me in the eye, and shook hands with me. I remember well to this day the impact of his charisma and magnetic personality he had, not only on me, but also on all of the students around me. One was drawn to him by his mesmeric persona."

Rod Grondin '62

photo of freshman beanie's

"I was a junior at the time and vividly remember Nixon at our university. It was February 14, 1968, and the president of the Young Republicans (or it could of been the Republican club at UNH) introduced Nixon, his last line is a classic, "... your Valentine and mine Richard M. Nixon." Feel definitely that that was part of history. Later that afternoon on my way to Nashua, I had a car accident, a foreboding of Nixon's horrible escapades in office? Anyway, I loved my time at UNH and will never forget any of those wonderful moments."


Paul S. Pitarys '69

photo of the wool baseball warm-up jackets

"Hubert Humphrey came to UNH in 1968, ostensibly to give a talk about big ideas, but it really was a politician's pre-campaign event. LBJ had decided not to run, and Humphrey was the next logical Democratic candidate. The Field House was filled with people, including a lot of protesting students up at the front (Humphrey was tainted by association with LBJ's Vietnam policies). I don't remember the exact content of his talk, but by the end of his speech, everyone, including the protesters, was standing and cheering!"


Shawn Finnegan '71

photo of ornately carved Senior Canes

"There were a lot of people in the audience dressed as monkeys. I didn't even know until the next day that Ronald Reagan had starred in a movie called "Bedtime for Bonzo," and it was about a monkey. At the end of his speech, my friend, Camille Vincent and I waited in line and shook Mr. Reagan's hand and I was very happy that I had waited so I could say that I had shaken the hand of the president after he was elected in 1980."


Loretta Moore Parker '77


photos of the orange and gold and brown and tan carpet samples that were in Dimond Library

"I had worked very hard to get Edward Kennedy to run; I was the national chair of the Draft Kennedy for President campaign. Carter was the incumbent presiden,t and I thought we needed an alternative candidate. When Kennedy finally announced in November of '79 and very quickly made a visit to New Hampshire, I was VERY excited! So excited that, I fear, I have almost no memory of the event!"


Dudley Dudley '59 (seated second from right in front row.)

photo of UNH milk bottles in the crates that they were carried in

"A lottery was held for tickets to see the 1988 debate in the Granite State Room and I was thrilled to have been chosen. This was to be the first presidential election in which I could vote, so I was fresh and optimistic. I remember that there was a lot of excitement over having Jesse Jackson in the raceā€”he was a fiery speaker and really energized the election process. I also remember that, in this debate, Gary Hart had to field uncomfortable and probing questions about his alleged extramarital exploits."

Susan Dumais '88

old leather ice speed skates

The scene outside the 2004 democratic debate at the Paul Creative Arts Center.

photo of cans that say Pure UNH Air

The 2008 Republican debate included Republicans Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Guiliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Sam Brownback, and Duncan Hunter.

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