Update No. 20 from President Dean

Dear staff, faculty and students,

We are making our way toward the end of one of the most challenging semesters anyone can remember. The only event in my lifetime that rivals our current situation was 9/11. People a bit older than me may remember World War II. In all of these cases normal life was suspended while we dealt with the fallout from a common enemy. In this case, of course, the enemy is microscopic, but no less deadly. We still have very limited cases among our UNH community, and for that we are grateful. My thanks to all of you—faculty, students and staff—who have responded so gracefully to challenging circumstances.

We are continuing to think about when and how we can hold commencement ceremonies, and under what circumstances we can reopen for classes in the fall. I promise that we will let you know about both of these as soon as we can be sure of our plans.

In non-COVID news, good things are still happening for members of our community. One nice recent development is that undergraduate student Abrita Kuthumi was awarded a Truman Scholarship.  Congratulations to Abrita and to her advisors Prof. Chris Reardon and Jeanne Sokolowski. We told Abrita about her award during an online class. Here is how it happened.

Provost Wayne Jones and I released a podcast last week with some thoughts about our current situation. If you haven’t heard it, you can find it here.

Last week was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which had me reflect on the many contributions UNH has made and continues to make toward a cleaner Earth and sustainability. I am grateful for the scores of faculty, staff and students who have worked hard for decades on these issues and have positioned UNH as one of only five higher education institutions in the country to earn a STARS Platinum rating—the highest possible rating. In recognition of Earth Day, I recently joined 26 colleges and universities in signing a call to action that aims to accelerate climate solutions in higher education. Finally, I want to share a great video that David Shaw ’73 and inaugural inductee into the university’s entrepreneur hall of fame in 2018 developed to honor and celebrate Earth Day—enjoy. On a personal note, I read many years ago Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring , which was one of the main springboards for people to recognize the crucial importance of preserving our environment.

Please stay safe and healthy.  Better days are ahead, and we will get through this together.


James W. Dean Jr.

P.S. Starting last month, I relegated the book section to a postscript, so that you can stop reading if you’re not interested. I read two great books last month. First, Counterpoint, A Memoir of Bach and Mourning by Philip Kennicott. The author describes his attempts to learn Bach’s Goldberg Variations on piano as a response to his mother’s death. While you probably must like classical music at least a little to enjoy the book, its themes go well beyond, encompassing joy and freedom vs. caution and precision in life, as well as in music. I could relate to Kennicott’s challenges in learning Bach, as I have encountered similar challenges learning to play the Mozart Clarinet Concerto (which in fairness is a lot simpler than the Bach piece!). 

The second book is Daring to Drive, by Manal Al-Sharif, in which she recounts her struggles to change the practice (not exactly a law) forbidding women from driving in Saudi Arabia. This is a remarkable story by a courageous woman. There is even a New Hampshire angle resulting from the author’s sojourn in the U.S.: Chapter 10 is entitled Live Free or Die.