All hail the UNH School of Law

In late spring 1970 or 1971, University of New Hampshire President John McConnell received a call from the only law book publisher in New Hampshire, Meldrim Thomson Jr. of Orford’s Equity Publishing Company, asking if he could have lunch at the university to learn more about it. Thomson already had run in the primary for governor and was planning another attempt.McConnell called a number of administrators and asked me to join as a former student leader. On the appointed day, we met at the Memorial Union Building and had a pleasant lunch with Thomson, McConnell and others answering his questions about the state’s flagship public university. After lunch, Thomson asked if he could have a tour of the campus, and McConnell asked me to come along in the car.About halfway through the tour, Thomson asked McConnell, “Where is the law school?”McConnell, without missing a beat or turning his head, answered, “Right next to the medical school.” Of course, UNH had neither.On Sept. 1 – almost 40 years after Thomson’s question – the affiliation between Franklin Pierce Law Center and the University of New Hampshire became official, creating the UNH School of Law. This was a major and historic event for both institutions.The affiliation means that for the next several years, UNH President Mark Huddleston will be entitled to add trustees to the board of the law school and make certain significant decisions concerning its operations and future. Already, he has named five such trustees and at the end of three years will have named half of the total.The affiliation will help the law school by having a more recognizable name and will allow it to develop joint programs with the Whittemore School of Business, the school of education, school of engineering, and perhaps other parts of the university. It will help UNH by increasing its student offerings, as well, perhaps including an undergrad/law school program leading to two degrees.One of the first orders of business, unfortunately, is the selection of a new dean for the law school. John Hutson, the visionary dean who sparked the affiliation along with Huddleston, has announced his retirement in June at the end of this academic year. It will be important to the future of the law school who is named as his successor, as that person will have major responsibility in integrating the two institutions.At the end of the affiliation period, the trustees of both schools will decide whether to continue the affiliation, proceed to a full merger of the institutions or terminate the arrangement – an eventuality no one envisions.At a joyous celebration on Sept. 1, the law school students, faculty, trustees and UNH administrators in attendance wore T-shirts bearing the title, “UNH School of Law.” The enthusiasm was sincere and obvious.This is a major event for New Hampshire education, and Huddleston and Hutson deserve great credit as true heroes of vision.*****Speaking of heroes, there are heroes all around us if we only look for them. That fact was brought home again at the screening of the film, “Surviving Hitler: A Love Story,” presented Sept. 26 at the Red River Theatres in Concord and, sponsored by the Lantos Foundation, named in honor of the late congressman from California.The film is the story of a teenage girl and her parents, and a soldier in Hitler’s army and their romance in the face of World War II, resistance to Hitler, participation in a plot to kill him, his revenge and their eventual marriage as the first couple married after the liberation of Berlin.It is the story of Jutta Cords, a longtime Grantham resident and her late husband. Although many in New Hampshire have known Mrs. Cords, most had no idea about her part in these historic events.At two showings of the film, sellout crowds watched in silence as the events of the war, imprisonment, liberation, reunion, marriage and immigration were described. After the screenings, Mrs. Cords, now 90 years old, answered questions graciously and eloquently.Jutta Cords is the mother of Concord resident Claudia Damon, who as a small child came to the United States with her parents. She is a longtime New Hampshire attorney now serving as public affairs director of the New Hampshire Center for Non-Profits.Everyone should see this film.The film was produced by John Keith Watson of New Hampshire’s Upper Valley and was the outgrowth of a series of discussions Mrs. Cords had with local students to bring home the point that many Germans were not Hitler supporters.As with many other people living ordinary lives among us, there are extraordinary stories behind them, if we only scratch the surface.Brad Cook is a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.