The election of the Rev. Charles Murkland as the first president of the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts took many people by surprise. Those who considered the object of the college to train practical farmers had expected an agricultural authority of some prominence to be chosen to lead it.
Murkland was regarded with a great deal of suspicion, even by some of his new co-workers. Dean Pettee, however, supported the selection. In a letter to his wife dated May 24, 1894, he wrote approvingly of the new president's reaction to a bit of inter-class rivalry:
On my return [from Dover] I found the freshmen having their pictures taken in front of [Thompson Hall]. The sophomores had taken looking glasses and reflected the sun light from across the road into their faces. The freshmen went down and caught two of the sophs and tied them and had their pictures taken with the looking glasses behind them. They all kept good natured so no particular hurt was done. It was nearly over when the Pres came out. As no one was being abused or injured he did not interfere.
No Place Like Home
In 1914, Oren V. "Dad" Henderson moved to Durham from Topeka, Kansas at the invitation of the President Fairchild, who offered him a job in the Business Office. He arrived on a Sunday evening and spent the night at the president's house. Here is his account of his first view of Durham:
The next morning I left the house early to get a look at the surroundings of our new location, and started down the street to find the village. I passed, what I afterwards learned, was the home of Charles Wentworth, the A.T.O. house, the Pettee Block, Charles Schoonmaker's house and barber shop, a large three story building, Frank Morrisons' house with a livery stable to the rear, then a large house on the corner of Main St. and Madbury Road. At this corner, I met a man and asked the location of the Village and he replied, "you've come through 'er." I stood there, a stranger recently from a city of 60,000, with muddy feet, as there were no sidewalks, on a dirt street muddy from a rain the night before, and I said, "What a dump. About five years of this and back West for me."
Dad retired from UNH twenty-five years later.
Brooks Brothers Meet Montgomery Ward
An anecdote written down by Oren V. "Dad" Henderson, dating in the 1920s:
Dean Pettee was, for years, chairman of the Loan Committee. Students desiring a loan were asked to submit a financial statement showing required expenditures for such items as tuition, room and board, books, travel, clothes, etc. Being a frugal man, the Dean carefully scrutinized each expense in the presence of the applicant. On one occasion, a young man indicated he needed $75 for clothes. The Dean quizzed the young man concerning the necessity for such a large amount. On being informed that it was for a new suit, the Dean proceeded to lecture the student on such extravagance and to clinch his point he asked told him he had only paid $17.50 for the suit he was wearing. He then asked the men in the office adjoining his how much they paid for their suits. "$15 from Montgomery Ward," one answered. The other said he'd paid $16 for his. Whereupon the young man shook his head, saying, "I couldn't wear such clothes, Dean."
Whether you're a UNH alum, a member of "Red Sox Nation," or both, you may be surprised to learn that the first man ever to pitch a shutout for the Boston Red Sox served as president of UNH from 1927 until his death in 1936.
Edward M. Lewis was born in Machynlleth, Wales, on Christmas Day in 1872. When he was eight, Ted's family moved to Utica, NY, where he learned the American national game. He entered Marietta College in Ohio and then transferred to Williams College in western Massachusetts in his sophomore year. It was there that he became a star baseball pitcher. Ted graduated in 1896. To pay for his further education, he turned professional with the Boston Nationals from 1896 through 1900.
Lewis was unusual for his time, being a college-educated ballplayer who did not drink, who refused to play Sunday ball, and who read the Bible and said his prayers every day (hence his nickname "Parson"). At one time, he had considered becoming a minister, but decided he could have more influence as a teacher.
He earned his master's degree from Williams College in 1899. "The Pitching Professor" coached baseball at Harvard while he was still playing professionally, 1897–1901. In 1901, he jumped to the American League as a member of the first-ever Red Sox team. He won their final game of the 1901 season on a 5–0 shutout against Cleveland, the first in the history of the Boston Red Sox.
After the 1901 season, Lewis retired from baseball to devote his full energies to teaching. His lifetime record was 94–64, with an ERA of 3.53 and a batting average of .223.
Reading the Defense
William H. "Butch" Cowell arrived at New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts in 1915 as the college's first full-time coach. Cowell was creative when it came to recruiting promising athletes. To make out-of-state students eligible for in-state tuition and scholarships, Cowell arranged for New Hampshire sports fans to "adopt" non-resident students, with court orders establishing guardianship.
In the 1920s, selective admissions policies and a restriction on enrollment resulted in some testy meetings of the admissions committee. Once, when Dean Pettee was ill and confined to bed, a member of the committee, Adrian Morse, who was more committed to raising standards than Pettee, took advantage of the situation by calling a meeting.
Pettee countered by asking for the meeting to be conducted in his bedroom. Morse realized he had been defeated when he saw Coach Cowell leaving the Pettee residence. The athletes whose applications were in question were not rejected.
In 1923, Registrar Oren V. "Dad" Henderson started a tradition of sending a summer letter to all the enrolled students telling them what had been happening in Durham during their absence. The 1926 letter includes these tidbits:
- "Coach Cowell spent about three weeks in Cape Breton Island. He returned Aug. 6 with a fine lot of fish which he generously distributed among friends. All fishermen will be pleased to hear the Coach's stories about how long it takes to land fish in that far off country.
- "As the street and roads in and about Durham are to become safe for driving, since the rule went into effect prohibiting a certain group from cluttering up the highways with cars of doubtful vintage, the following faculty people have purchased new cars: Profs. Richards, Case, McNutt, Woodward, Slobin, French, Wellman, Howes, Rudd, Swasey, Huggins and DePew. Taylor, Scudder and Ritzman have had theirs repainted while many others have had mud guards repaired.
- "That old and often discussed question, 'Resolved that there is more pleasure in pursuit than in possession,' will soon be decided by the following: Blake, Kalijarvi, Maitland, Gildow, Manton, Lloyd and Lowry. They will all be married before you see them again.
- "On July 17, I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary by hiking to the top of Mt. Washington via Tuckerman's Ravine with my two youngsters, Helen and Hennie. Mrs. Henderson, not being a hiker, swatted flies in camp."
Doing What's Right
In his 1924 annual report, President Ralph Hetzel wrote: "No provision has been made... for retirement allowances to those who have given their life's work to the institution. The University has now reached the point where this question is acute."
The need for a retirement program was highlighted by the situation of Professor Charles Scott, who had started his career with the college in 1876. Following a stroke in 1918, having no other means of livelihood, he had returned to teaching in January 1919 even though he was nearly blind and deaf. He was able to read his lectures but was not aware of what was going on in the class.
History professor Donald Babcock went to Scott's class on the top floor of Hamilton Smith Hall one day, to discover that the boys had reached out the windows to get icicles off the eaves, which they were tossing about the room. Babcock entered by a side door and quietly chided the students for taking advantage of a man who could not defend himself. The class settled down, and Babcock left without Scott knowing he had been in the room.
In 1925, Scott was given an undemanding appointment as university historian, and relieved of his teaching duties. He died in August 1930. Fourteen years after Hetzel first broached the subject, the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association program was put into effect at UNH.
The Milk Man
In 2006, 1,850 undergraduates and 574 graduate students earned degrees from 216 different programs. The following fall, nearly 600 more freshmen than expected sent in housing deposits. One hundred and thirty years previously, the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts (as UNH was then called) had the opposite problem.
In the fall of 1877, not a single student appeared to register as a member of the class of 1880. During the course of the year, two young men enrolled in the college, but both eventually dropped out. In the fall of 1878, Charles Harvey Hood of Derry qualified to enter the middle year, and thus became the only person to graduate as a member of the class of 1880.
After graduation, he joined his father's dairy business and was soon president of H.P. Hood & Sons Milk Co., one of the largest dairy product companies in New England. Charles Hood was an enthusiastic alum and a generous benefactor to the college. He was a member of the Alumni Council for six years during the formative days of the Alumni Association, and then served on the first board of directors.
In 1929, Hood was the unanimous vote for Alumni Trustee. Over the years, he also established a number of scholarships and achievement prizes. On the 50th anniversary of his graduation, he gave the school its first major gift from an alum: a modern infirmary with accommodations for 30 patients. Hood gave $125,000 for construction of the building and an additional $75,000 for its maintenance. Hood House was dedicated on June 12, 1932.
A Degree of Kindness
One Sunday in 1916, the president of Amherst College invited Prof. Edward Lewis, of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, to his home for a poetry reading. Well-known for his elocution, Lewis was asked to read the poems, including several written by one of the newest professors at Amherst, Robert Frost.
You don't know what ideas you were putting in my head… One dangerous one was that I ought to be ashamed to live anywhere but in New Hampshire. You watch the idea work. I predict that it will land me back in the state where my father was born and three fourths of my children and practically all of my poetry.
The two men discovered they had much in common and became lifelong friends. In 1927, Lewis became the president of UNH, and on June 16, 1930, he was delighted to confer an Honorary Doctor of Letters from UNH on the famous poet.
A week later, Lewis received a letter from Frost, who wrote:
The degree you gave me was different from any other I have ever had; the hood will be the one I wear if I ever have occasion to wear a hood. You made me realize that your friendship had in it an element of personal affection: it went beyond a mere admiration for what I have done. I deserve a little friendship of that warmth in a life mostly subject to cold criticism. At any rate it goes to my heart, and whether I deserve it or not, I am going to cling to it. We must see more of each other in the years to come than we have in the last few. I am coming for the visit in the fall and you must come for a visit here when you can. You were all so kind to us. It was family to family wasn't it. The honor was much, but the kindness was much more. Ever Yours, Robert
The sincerity and depth of their friendship is evident in the text of Lewis presentation, in which he chided Frost for leaving New Hampshire for Vermont. A few days later, Frost wrote to Lewis:
You don't know what ideas you were putting in my head... One dangerous one was that I ought to be ashamed to live anywhere but in New Hampshire. You watch the idea work. I predict that it will land me back in the state where my father was born and three fourths of my children and practically all of my poetry.
In 1937, two of the university's most respected men held very different views on the need for Daylight Saving time. Registrar Oren V. "Dad" Henderson, who was also the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the time, was the first to sign the Act establishing Eastern Daylight Time in New Hampshire.
Holding the opposing point of view was Dean Charles Pettee. Pettee's granddaughter remembers "There were two mantle clocks over the fireplace in the Pettee's home. My grandfather would have nothing to do with Daylight Saving Time. As a result, one clock was on "Pa's" time and one clock was on "Ma's" time, so we were constantly consulting both."
In July of 1953, the university's first "jet-age" president took his first ride in a jet plane and declared that if he were 20 years younger, "I think I'd like to do this for a living." President Robert F. Chandler Jr. rode in an F-94C from Otis Air Force Base at Falmouth, Mass., during a routine inspection of the ROTC summer encampment of 35 UNH students.
Major Chappy James, 260-pound air commander just back from Korea, said that the president "did everything we ask a pilot to do; he'd have been a natural flier."
Gremlins in the Basement
In the spring of 1967, the Outing Club found themselves in need of a large space on campus in which to build a number of kayaks. Just when they were beginning to think they were out of luck, Mrs. John McConnell, the president's wife, offered them the use of two rooms in the basement of their home.
Dick Roberts '67 (in photo) and at least seven other outing club members quickly began setting up shop with the infra-red heat lamps, exhaust fan, numerous vacuum cleaners, saber saws, paint brushes and rollers needed to build the 13-feet long boats. Each boat took two or three days to build and they planned to build a total of 12 or 13 kayaks before returning the president's house to its former condition.
President McConnell commented with a grin on the weird noises and smells emanating from his basement, but said he was happy a good use had finally been found for the space. And according to Roberts, "Mrs. McConnell sorta likes it. She enjoys the gremlins in the basement."
In 1971, when the selection of Thomas Bonner for president of UNH was announced, the Manchester Union Leader began a series of articles and editorials with the intent of persuading him to resign before he arrived. (His friend and former employer, Sen. George McGovern, was then campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president.) Undeterred, Bonner came to New Hampshire and began a statewide campaign to rally support for the university, with a goal of making UNH a truly public institution.
In the three years of his administration, he developed a School of Continuing Studies, making educational opportunities more available to adults, expanded the Merrimack Valley branch of the university, and increased support for Cooperative Extension programs. For two consecutive years, he was able to reduce the high in-state tuition rates while successfully lobbying for increased state appropriations.
Bonner also spoke out for equality on the campus. "If arguments against the complete equality of women are weak and contrived elsewhere, they surely are completely without merit in a University community," he said in 1972.
Bonner, who died September 2 in Scottsdale, Arizona, went on to become president of Wayne State from 1978 to 1982. A leading medical historian, he wrote seven books on American medicine.
When Joan Leitzel was inaugurated UNH president, the program read that she was to become the 18th president of the university. On November 22, 2002, when Ann Weaver Hart was inaugurated, the program described her as UNH's 18th president as well. It wasn't a typo. How can this be?
The mystery has its roots back in 1866, when the college was founded in Hanover, NH. To save money, the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts was situated next to Dartmouth College so the two schools could share facilities and faculty. Each college, however, was to maintain its own identity and had its own governing body.
Between 1866 and 1892, three men served as president of the college's board of trustees: Asa Smith (who was also president of Dartmouth), George Nesmith, and Lyman Stevens. No one seemed to keep a count of presidents until the college, by then UNH, was getting ready for its 75th anniversary.
Since 75 years included the Hanover years, it seemed logical to include the Hanover presidents, even though they were actually board presidents not college presidents. By the time Everett Sackett's history of UNH was published in the mid-'70s, however, two of the early presidents had been dropped, leaving only Asa Smith. This new count continued until President Leitzel, overseeing a redesign of the university seal, discovered the error.
A mathematician by training, Leitzel ordered the mistake rectified. Thus, UNH's 18th president, President Leitzel, was quite correctly succeeded by UNH's 18th president, Ann Weaver Hart.