We must treasure the university system

Editor’s note: The following are the remarks Andrew Leitz — managing director of Rye Capital, retired president of Hadco Corp. and current chair of the University System of New Hampshire board of trustees — gave after accepting the Business and Industry Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this month in Manchester.

I am humbled and very much appreciate receiving this award, especially coming from the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association.

My thanks go to out to the business community at large for the work you do everyday in representing business and business interests throughout our state. You are the valued and respected voice in the public policy area.

A Lifetime Achievement Award is really an award to many people. In my case I want to thank all of my associates over the last 47 years who are really being honored here tonight.

A business leader is only as good as his or her associates. I have been blessed to be a part of many great teams. During my 23-plus years in New Hampshire, I have had the opportunity to visit with many of you in various business settings.

During that period we have also worked together on community related projects – most recently those associated with public higher education (given my role as chair of the University System of New Hampshire’s board of trustees), as well as environmental issues.

As I thank the BIA for this award – let me issue a challenge. Support non-governmental organizations and community programs, such as the Nature Conservancy. In addition, from an educational standpoint we, the citizens of New Hampshire, have a treasure – a world-class resource in the institutions that make up our university system. But the system’s institutions are under immense pressure and need your help.

The University of New Hampshire is a world-class research university with nationally recognized programs in many areas, including ocean, air, space, engineering, business and education programs.

Plymouth State University is a comprehensive regional university featuring areas of innovation including meteorology, the Center for the Environment, performing arts and business, to name a few.

Keene State College is a public liberal arts school that also excels in many areas, a few of which include education, writing, science, safety studies and media arts.

Granite State College, our online institution, features programs in business, education, general studies and provides noncampus-based educational opportunities across our state.

These institutions, in conjunction with our private institutions, grant over 16,000 degrees and certificates each year. Those graduates will have a lifetime earnings potential in excess of $3.2 billion over the non-degreed population.

Higher education in New Hampshire has a $4.5 billion annual impact on our economy and employs over 18,000 full- or part-time employees. These are not my numbers, but numbers from the New Hampshire Forum on the Future.

Higher education in New Hampshire is a big business – but it is a threatened business. Costs are escalating, funding from public sources is constrained, and the need for financial aid is increasing.

My plea to you is to become directly involved in higher education, more specifically higher public education. You can help by serving on boards, being financial benefactors, advocating in the Legislature, providing and supporting internships and scholarships and supporting and sponsoring research.

Get to know our four presidents and chancellor and become engaged. President Giles-Gee of Keene State College gave me a book recently, titled, “The True Genius of America at Risk.” The question it asks: “Are we at risk of losing our public institutions because of cost and funding issues?” We as New Hampshire business leaders can’t let this happen.

A true lifetime achievement for all of us would be to protect, preserve and grow these treasures of New Hampshire. I hope you will join me and many others in this endeavor.

Categories: Opinion