Update No. 26 from President Dean

December 18, 2020


Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

I will give the annual State of the University address on Tuesday, February 9, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. A reminder and Zoom information will be sent in January. I will discuss both where we are with COVID-19 on our campuses as well as our progress in implementing initiatives associated with our four strategic priorities: enhance student success and well-being, expand academic excellence, embrace New Hampshire and build financial strength. There will be some time for Q&A, and the session will be recorded if you can’t attend live.

As many of you know, the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law community has gone through the process of considering whether to eliminate Franklin Pierce from the school’s name based on his connections with slavery (for those of you who are new to New Hampshire, Pierce was the only president from our state; he served from 1853 to 1857). A diverse task force of students, faculty, staff and alumni, appointed by Dean Megan Carpenter and the Student Bar Association, recommended not to change the name. This recommendation was supported by Dean Carpenter. You can watch a town hall meeting from early October 2020 during which the task force discussed the name change along with other recommendations to improve diversity and inclusion at the law school.

I have decided to accept the school’s recommendation not to change the name for the following reasons:

  1. Pierce’s conduct neither as a private citizen nor as a political leader stands out relative to others of his time, or actually of any time from the founding of the country until the Civil War. Political leaders starting with Washington, Adams and Jefferson viewed slavery as a cost of creating and preserving the Union. Pierce was very much in this tradition; however, he was not a slaveholder and found slavery an abominable practice, despite the fact that slavery was legal in New Hampshire until 1857. 
  2. As mentioned above, a diverse team of students, faculty, staff and alumni of the law school seriously considered this option and recommended against it.
  3. The name Franklin Pierce—almost completely independent of the man himself—has considerable brand value for the school both nationally and internationally. The students and alumni who most directly benefit from this branding value in their careers sent strong feedback expressing their support of keeping the Franklin Pierce name.

I usually relegate the books I have been reading to a link in the p.s. section of this message, but I wanted to let you know about an opportunity related to this topic. This month I have been reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Leadership: In Turbulent Times. She draws lessons in leadership from the crises faced by Abraham Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. I thought the book was timely since we will inaugurate a new president on January 20. I am inviting the community to join me for a discussion of this book on January 26, 2021, at 7 p.m. Here is the Zoom link for the discussion. I will be joined by Paul College Dean Deborah Merrill-Sands to provide a leadership perspective and by UNH History Professor Jason Sokol to provide historical insights. I hope that many of you will join us for this discussion.

Please don’t forget to watch your UNH email the week of January 4 as we being to share important information for the spring semester around the Wildcat Pledge, pre-arrival testing and a number of other important initiatives.

As we enter the holiday break, please accept my sincere wishes for—despite the circumstances—peace and happiness. You have done wonders this semester and I hope you will take some measure of pride in what we have accomplished together as a university community. Here is a short holiday video from Jan and me. As we watch the national and international toll of the coronavirus continue to escalate and the initial stages of vaccine distribution, please continue to be safe so we all can make it through the last few months of this scourge.

I continue to be proud to serve you as your president.

With all best wishes,

James W. Dean Jr.