Dana Hamel is a plainspoken man, quiet and unassuming. He and his family have been among the university's most steadfast and generous supporters. The reason, he says, is rooted in practical fact: Hamel wants his philanthropy to make a difference—and at UNH, he can see that it does. "If you really want to impact the politics, business, culture and environment in New Hampshire," he says, "the university is the best vehicle to work through. It's the best asset the state has."
This fall, a significant new Hamel family initiative was announced that reflects Hamel's highest hopes for the university and the state. The $5 million endowment will fund a two-pronged program designed to attract and support outstanding students and, ultimately, to create a network of students and alumni who are likely to stay involved in community service and leadership in the state.
The Dana A. Hamel Family Scholarship/Scholars Fund began its first phase this fall. It will award $5,000 Hamel Family Scholarships to high-achieving New Hampshire students as they enter their freshman year at UNH. Each scholarship will be renewable for three additional years. "The idea is to encourage and enable top students to go to UNH," says Hamel.
The second phase of the program will establish an honorary society for UNH juniors and seniors who have distinguished themselves academically and have also demonstrated good character ("curiosity, humility, honor and compassion"), leadership potential, and campus or community involvement. Each of these Hamel Scholars will receive an annual stipend of $2,000. The scholars will be chosen by the university's deans from among the recipients of Hamel Family Scholarships and others in the top 10 percent of their class.
Hamel envisions the Hamel Scholars Society as an organization in which older members mentor younger ones. After the scholars graduate, they will be invited back to UNH for Hamel Scholars Society events throughout the year. The goal is to encourage mentoring and networking among current students and alumni in hopes of developing an "emerging culture of young leaders across the state." UNH students already benefit from two earlier Hamel family gifts—the Hamel Student Recreation Center and the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, which provides resources and financial support for a host of research, scholarly and creative projects by UNH students.
It makes sense that this latest gift—coming from a man whose generosity has supported so many UNH students—is designed to encourage mentoring and excellence. "Dana Hamel is a friend of UNH who recognizes the crucial role that education has in shaping a better world," said President Mark Huddleston, announcing the endowment in his recent inaugural address. Hamel became connected with UNH when his daughter Karen '88 attended. He went on to become a benefactor, he says, because here, at this public university devoted to the public good, he can see his philanthropy making a difference. Which has been his goal from the beginning.Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents