Born prematurely in 1924, Arnold Hanson weighed just three pounds. Fortunately, the doctor who delivered him in his parents’ kitchen had recently learned a new method of caring for at-risk infants. He instructed Hanson’s mother to warm the tiny baby in the oven. Ninety years later, Hanson still expressed amazement that he had survived being “baked” and had lived so long, says his daughter, Julie Mook.
Hanson served three years in the Navy submarine service during World War II and enrolled in UNH at the war’s end. He married his wife, Della, in 1948, a week after graduating. In 1951 he received his JD from Boston University School of Law, financing much of his law degree by working construction during summer breaks and selling vacuum cleaners on weekends. A lucrative offer to practice law in Boston was tempting, but Hanson’s love of his hometown of Berlin, N.H. went deep. As a boy he had had an early morning milk route and three newspaper routes in town. In winter, he shoveled snow for neighbors; in summer, he mowed lawns. He returned to Berlin and the people he had known all his life, practicing law there until his retirement 40 years later.
In addition to his private law practice, Hanson served four years as attorney for Coos County and, along with Della, was involved in many local and national social and political organizations. He was also a board member and past president of the New Hampshire Bar Association. Boston University School of Law honored him with its Silver Shingle Award for exemplifying leadership, ethics and integrity in the legal profession.
Hanson loved getting together with friends at the family home, says Julie. Della played the piano and everyone enjoyed a sing-along. Later in life, while living in an assisted living facility, Arnold and Della eagerly awaited the piano player who entertained at the weekly social hour. They were always the first ones downstairs, encouraging other residents to join in.
Grateful for the education Arnold had received at UNH, and wanting to provide opportunities for other students, the Hansons established two significant endowments. The Dr. Norman Alexander Teaching Excellence Fund, created in 1998, rewards faculty for outstanding performance in teaching and scholarship. Although Hanson’s father had planned for his son to become a mechanical engineer, Arnold was more interested in law. Dr. Alexander, then dean of men, encouraged him to major in political science and pursue his passion. Hanson never forgot his mentor, and, speaking of Alexander’s positive influence said, “No other person I know had ever had his life changed like that.”
Believing that students of promise should not be denied a college education because of financial constraints, in 2002 the Hansons created the Arnold P. and Della A. Hanson Endowed Scholarship Fund to provide four-year scholarships to students from Coos County. In recognition of their commitment to the university, in 2004 the Hansons received the Hubbard Family Award for Service to Philanthropy, the highest honor awarded by the UNH Foundation.
Della Hanson died in August 2013. Shortly before Arnold’s death 11 months later, Julie Mook and her siblings, Caryl Hanson Brensinger ’73 and Arnie Hanson, Jr., along with seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and other family members, gathered with Arnold to celebrate his 90th birthday. He had accomplished much in the professional world, but always said that his proudest achievement was his family.
Originally published in UNH Magazine—Fall 2014 Issue