President Dean: Durham Commencement Address 2019

President James W. Dean Jr.

UNH Durham Commencement 2019


Good morning and welcome, everyone! What a beautiful scene this is. It’s a great day for the graduates and for the University of New Hampshire. I have been to some great events in this stadium. But I have never seen it so full of so many proud, remarkable and truly happy people. 

Congratulations to our graduates and thanks to families and friends

Today, we celebrate everything that our graduates have achieved as individuals, as scholars and as members of this very special UNH community.

You, our 2019 graduates, have overcome many obstacles to get here

Earlier this year, I introduced student office hours, when I invited students to come into my office each week and have an informal chat, about anything. These conversations were as surprising and enlightening as they were inspiring. I learned how some were dealing with family tragedies. Others faced their own serious health issues, including cancer. Some were struggling to pay for school, even as they worked part-time or even full-time jobs. And, of course, there were a few students who just wanted me to take care of their parking tickets. Sorry I couldn’t always help you there.

Overcoming these and other obstacles makes your success today all the sweeter, and prepares you well for whatever comes next, which will not be without obstacles

I am very proud of you all, and I know I speak for the faculty and staff and the UNH alumni community in saying that we are all proud of you

As you pursued your degrees, you did so in ways that connected your skills with your passions. You helped build a better campus climate, you improved the quality of life across New Hampshire and you contributed to creating a better world. You learned to how to work on teams. You recognized the value of being friendly, open-minded and welcoming – and inviting diverse people and perspectives into your day-to-day lives and work. Those are great, important skills that will last a lifetime.

You have a great future ahead of you.  I know this because I have visited this year with those who graduated before you: hundreds of highly successful alumni in New York, Washington, Florida, California and all across our country.  Among them were accomplished leaders and innovators, scientists and engineers, musicians and actors, nurses, lawyers and businesspeople.  They are community leaders and national leaders.  And you will join them in making your mark on the world as Wildcats.

The Class of 2019 is prepared to achieve lifetime success. A Gallup survey of universities and colleges across the country found that UNH graduates are far more likely than their peers to be engaged in their communities and to take an active role in civic life. They are more secure financially. And they are also physically healthier and more closely connected to friends and social networks. Those attributes are essential to building a full, satisfying and engaged life of purpose.

In recognition of both their accomplishments and the great future ahead of them, please join me in congratulating the Class of 2019!

There are those here who stand out for their service to our country as well. Among today’s graduates are military veterans and members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. And within the larger UNH family, there are active service members and veterans to whom we are deeply grateful. Thank you to all veterans and active members of the military who are with us today. That includes our family members and guests. On behalf of UNH, thank you for your service.

This is also a wonderful celebration of everyone who supported our graduates along the way. In fact, I’d like to ask the Class of 2019 to help me recognize some very special guests who came from far and wide to be here:

Your parents and grandparents. Your brothers and sisters. All your family and friends.  Can our graduates please stand and give them the ovation that they deserve! Thank you, UNH families, for everything you’ve done to support the Class of 2019!

New Hampshire’s flagship public university also has a great future ahead, and so much to be proud of

Our faculty’s research performance is stronger than over 90 percent of America’s public universities  

Our graduation rate is higher than nearly 95 percent of public universities

And our university’s rating for sustainability, our concern for the environment and for the people who will come after us, is higher than more than 99 percent of public universities

Our faculty researchers and outreach staff provide direct support to more than 5,000 New Hampshire businesses each year and help UNH generate more than $1.5 billion for the state’s economy.

Finally, while I don’t know how to quantify this, the affection our alumni have for this institution (and many of you are in the audience today) is second to none. This feeling of pride and affection is one of the things that attracted me to UNH, and it has proven to be a deep and broad reservoir of good feelings among our alumni.

While we are proud of each of these accomplishments, and many more, we are working every day to promote student success and well-being, to expand academic excellence, to embrace New Hampshire, and to build financial strength. Someday when you come back as alumni, you’ll repeat the refrain I have so often heard: “Wow!  UNH is even better than when I was here!”

Before I close, I want to thank our faculty for the crucial role they have played in your development and in your success.  They have counseled you; they have challenged you; they have expanded your field of vision to new vistas of time and space, and they have sometimes given you tough love.  (Plus, they look great in those robes.)  Please join me in thanking our wonderful, talented, and committed UNH faculty.

Finally, I want to thank all our staff, especially those who have made this ceremony possible. No one arrived here at Wildcat Stadium today before our hard-working staff. They, too, have dedicated themselves to the Class of 2019. They fed you. They counseled you. They helped you register for classes, figure out financial aid and line up work study jobs. They took great care of our beautiful campus. And they put in long hours to make sure that you could thrive on a campus that is safe, secure and welcoming. Many of them are here as volunteers today, because they want to help you and your families celebrate your success together. Let’s hear it for the UNH staff.

But back to our graduates.  Congratulations again! Today, you are graduates of the University of New Hampshire — and you will always be part of our remarkable UNH family!

In conclusion, and I am counting on the graduates throughout the stadium not to let me down here, it is indeed a great day to be a Wildcat!