President’s Column
The View From T-Hall

Photo of Jim Dean


ernon Law won baseball’s Cy Young Award for pitching in 1960 when he went 20-9 for the Pirates, but he is remembered today as much for his insights about performance and success, including this favorite: “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”

COVID-19 certainly tested our university and everyone in the Wildcat family, and it taught us countless lessons about getting through a pandemic — from the steps we took to protect health and safety to the ways we taught, worked and learned to how we delivered research and support to businesses, communities and families across New Hampshire. And no matter how great online video technology is, we learned that sharing a cup of coffee with a friend over a computer just isn’t the same as sitting across the table from each other at a local café.

Thankfully, as this issue of the UNH Magazine is being prepared, COVID-19 appears to be coming under control. Restrictions have been dialed back on our campuses and across the nation. More people are getting vaccinated. At long last, they are reconnecting in-person with friends and enjoying their first real vacations away from home in more than a year — and on Friday afternoons, most of them seem to be coming to our beautiful Granite State.

Our experiences have taught us so much. And importantly, we are putting the lessons we learned into practice to create great opportunities, streamline our work and bring innovative ideas to fruition.

Foremost, we are planning to open for a relatively normal semester this fall, with in-person classes and minimal restrictions on our campuses, assuming rates of COVID infections remain low. This is only possible because of how people across UNH worked together throughout the pandemic.

In addition to UNH’s safety protocols, our research faculty and staff developed a system for regularly testing every student, faculty and staff member on our campuses, and then built our own state-of-the-art testing labs on our Durham campus so that we could deliver accurate results as quickly as possible.

Our innovative, multi-faceted approach was so effective that UNH was one of the few public universities in New England that offered in-person commencement ceremonies this year. In my commencement remarks, I noted that our student body’s rate of infection remained below the state of New Hampshire’s throughout the pandemic. The great applause our graduates received for that achievement was music to my ears.

UNH is a national leader in its response to COVID-19 not because we were uniquely prepared for a pandemic, but because of how we responded to every challenge: with teamwork, expertise and solutions based on science. Our success reflects New Hampshire’s can-do spirit, and the great character of our community.

Of course, we are not out of the woods yet, and we must remain vigilant as new strains and threats emerge.

But the lessons we learned and the solutions that we created together prepare UNH for a promising new normal, ready to thrive in a dynamic world that rewards communities that define themselves by ingenuity, collegiality and old-fashioned grit.

James W. Dean Jr.