J. Bonnie Newman Pettee Medal Ceremony 2010

Mark W. Huddleston

77th Pettee Medal Award Ceremony
Honoring J. Bonnie Newman
November 19, 2010

Good morning. It is my great pleasure to be here for the 77th awarding of the Pettee Medal, and to offer congratulations and best wishes on behalf of the University of New Hampshire to J. Bonnie Newman.

I’d also like to give special recognition to Bonnie’s mother, Louise, for joining us today. As a role model in her own right, Louise has always inspired Bonnie in remaining true to their family’s roots, values, and work ethic.

As we begin, let me also ask everyone here to pause for a moment and take a good look around this ballroom. Among us today are political leaders, business leaders, faculty, alumni, students, and UNH staff. And what do we have in common? All of us, in some unique and surprising ways, can look back and find real, concrete examples of how Bonnie mentored, encouraged, and helped us at critical points in our lives.

In fact, nearly anyone in New Hampshire can look at our public and private institutions and find remarkable connections to Bonnie’s legacy of service in their work, communities, and businesses.

Especially me.

I arrived at UNH faced with the daunting challenge of stepping in where Bonnie so ably served. Yet, Bonnie could not have been more gracious and helpful from the moment I arrived in Durham.

I recall a wonderful dinner Bonnie organized for Emma and me at her home during the summer of 2007, and finding myself in awe at the depth and diversity of the longtime friends she had invited. Those friends included, of course, Senator Gregg and his wife, Kathy, along with the most accomplished figures in New Hampshire’s political, business, and nonprofit communities.

She wanted to make sure that I met the people who would help me in my role as a servant to the University, and to this state that she loves so dearly. She also made sure that my family settled into the Durham community. And she even went out of her way to help my children feel comfortable and welcomed here as well.

Clearly, Bonnie brings out the best in people—often, by bringing them together. In fact, I still meet with Bonnie regularly, and I consider her more than a mentor and sounding board, but also as a dear friend.

And while I owe Bonnie a great deal for making my transition here a smooth one, there are some areas where I’ll just never be able to match her. For instance, I’m still trying to figure out why so few students come trick-or-treating to my house since Bonnie left. We do have candy by the door, after all.

Instead, they’re more likely to toss an old fish on my porch on those rare evenings that a UNH hockey team fails to score.

It’s true: Bonnie has a way of connecting with young people that is truly something special.

In fact, one of Bonnie’s most admirable qualities is her genuine affection for people from all walks of life. In 2007, for example, Bonnie pulled off the coup of academic coups when she convinced former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to speak at our Commencement.

And by convinced, I mean she simply asked them—and they readily agreed. She is Bonnie, after all!

Yet, few people may know that on the morning they appeared, Bonnie was also out walking the campus at 4:30 a.m., making sure that she personally thanked every police and security officer, parking attendant, facilities person, and volunteer as the University prepared for that historic day.

That, my friends, is Bonnie Newman.

Her remarkable ability to manage complex, high profile, and high stakes issues, while at the same time retaining her down-to-earth warmth, calming demeanor, and compassion is her gift to us all.

Among our guests, for example, is a man who was once a young Nashua lawyer who sought Bonnie’s counsel – and he is now a United States Senator. You’ll also see a man who was an undergraduate student when he met Bonnie here in the early 1970s – and today he is our governor.

You’ll see the leader of a nonprofit who asked Bonnie to help manage his organization years ago—and that foundation remains one of the healthiest in New Hampshire, awarding millions of dollars each year in grants and scholarships to improve our quality of life.

That, my friends, is Bonnie Newman, too.

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.”

Bonnie, you have devoted a lifetime in service to the University of New Hampshire, the state of New Hampshire, and the world beyond. And you have done so expertly, while retaining your compassion and values, and holding true to your roots.

Congratulations on this well-deserved award, and thank you, Bonnie, for a New Hampshire ethic and example that guides us, inspires us, and enriches us.