Reno to step down as USNH chancellor

Stephen J. Reno, the longest-serving chancellor in the 46-year history of the University System of New Hampshire, announced plans to leave the post in June 2009, the end of the next academic year.

Reno, who began serving as chancellor in June 2000, said that while he had been thinking about stepping down “for a while,” he had “no definite plans” for life after the university system.

A Manchester resident, Reno did say that he would remain in New Hampshire. “I feel very much a part of the fabric of the state, thanks to the wonderful people with whom I continue to work and meet,” he told NHBR.

He said he wants to remain at the university system through the next academic year, primarily to usher the university system’s next biennial operating and capital budgets through the Legislature in the next session.

He said he sees the coming year as a “challenging one” for the university system, “yet we must keep in clear view the shared responsibility we all have to ensure that the people of New Hampshire have affordable access to an education of quality.” He also said he wants to ensure that the university system board of trustees has “ample time to determine how it wants to proceed in finding a successor.”

When he was first appointed chancellor eight years ago – coming to New Hampshire after serving as president of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore. — Reno said, his “primary task” was “to raise the profile of the university system and to advocate for its critical role in the economy and life of the state of New Hampshire and its citizenry.”

The job has pretty much remained the same.

During his tenure, he has worked with government, business, academic and nonprofit organizations to promote public higher education.

His first effort, in 2001, was the “KEEP-NH” campaign (the Knowledge Economy Education Plan), which established a new model for funding key construction and renovation projects across the university system. The Legislature committed $209.5 million over a 12-year period for the renovation and enhancement of buildings supporting science, engineering, technology and teacher education.

Other achievements Reno can point to during his tenure include working to strengthen ties between the state’s business community and the state’s colleges and universities — including the appointment of business liaisons at each institution that serve as a single point of contact.

He also helped enhance collaboration between the university system and the Community College System of New Hampshire, leading to transfer and articulation programs between the two, co-location of facilities and the Connections Program, which allows for transfer from a community college to a USNH institution after one year of study based on certain academic accomplishments.

Besides working on the next biennial budgets, another sizable portion of Reno’s time over the next year will be continuing his work on the 55% Initiative, which seeks to encourage more New Hampshire college graduates to stay in the state to pursue their careers. The initiative, which involves a wide range of the state’s business and professional communities, has been spearheaded by Reno.

Reno, who will be turning 65 at the end of 2009, said that, while that age “doesn’t mean anything necessarily, it is an age that does give one pause and ask, ‘What do I want to do with the rest of my life?’

“In Greek, there are two words for time. The first word is ‘chronos,’ and that means correct time, or clock time. The other is ‘kairos,’ the appropriate time, the time you feel is the right time, and that’s where I am now.”

Jeff Feingold can be reached at