Peter Paul '67 likes to refer to himself as "an old kid from New Hampshire," and indeed, his unpretentious, open manner gives him a particularly youthful air. He is a seemingly uncomplicated person with a head for very complicated industries--mortgage banking, winemaking, biofuels--and in conversation, he easily ticks off scores of details while others grapple with the basic concept. "Numbers are simple for me," he explains. He's very good at making money, and generous by nature. In June, he announced his second gift to UNH, a $25 million challenge--half of the $50 million cost of building a new business college at UNH. It is the single largest gift in the university's history. (In 2001, Paul donated $10 million to establish the Peter T. Paul Chair in Space Science and the Dr. Samuel F. Paul Chair in Developmental Psychology.)
Paul says the more money you have, "the more marginal the unit of satisfaction you get in spending it--in other words, I have enough. It's important to me to put my money where it can make the most impact." He adds that he's always planned to give a substantial part of his assets to others.
When he announced his gift, Paul emphasized that investing in his home state is fun for him, and he is clearly looking forward to seeing what might transpire from his challenge. "The Granite State is thrifty. It knows how to do more with less and achieve great results," he told a standing-room-only audience on the UNH campus. "This is a good deal--50 percent off on something that is clearly needed in the state!"
Paul knows the state. He grew up in the small New Hampshire town of Troy, the oldest of three children; his father was a physician and his mother, a nurse. He was a Boy Scout, swam and fished in local ponds and took the bus to the movie theaters in Keene (movies cost 50 cents; popcorn, 10 cents). In high school, he excelled at math and science. He was particularly interested in chemistry, and one of his first jobs was working in the lab at Troy Mills, which made vinyl upholstery for cars. At UNH, Paul spent two years as a chemical engineering major. He could do the calculus and statistics, he says, but the satisfaction he got from solving a physics problem wasn't worth the effort expended. After taking an economics course, he switched to business administration. "What I got from my education at UNH was a structure with which to solve problems and deal with situations--that's timeless," he says.
In the late 1960s, Paul served in the Army Reserves and then set about building a career, a process that was neither easy nor straightforward. He taught high school chemistry for a year in Rochester, N.H., got an M.B.A. at Boston University, worked in sales support at Wang Laboratories, and took the civil service savings and loan exam in Washington, D.C. He found his niche selling mortgages and worked for various companies on both coasts. In 1986, he settled in California's Marin County, despite the fact that it had, he says, "too much traffic and made me crave rain," and started Headlands Mortgage Company, specializing in residential mortgage products. It became one of the most successful wholesale lending institutions in the nation. Paul sold it in 1998 for $475 million and for several years afterwards devoted his time to his nonprofit Headlands Foundation, which has given more than $4 million to local social service organizations. In 1999, he also bought a Sonoma County winery.
In recent years he has re-entered mortgage banking with a new company, Paul Financial. Other entrepreneurial ventures include West Biofuels, a company that is partnering with college researchers in California to develop a system to convert forest, urban and agricultural wastes into a gasoline additive. "This is a very promising technology that could eventually have a significant impact on our environment while also reducing California's reliance on oil imports," Paul says. Other West Coast ties include his daughter, Jessica, who lives in Bend, Ore.
Paul plans to be involved with the business college, too. He and his partner, Jude Blake '77, recently bought a condo in Portsmouth, N.H.; he thinks the city has great energy, and their lovely penthouse, which sits above Market Square, is right in the middle of it. He jokes that he is happy to spend more time in a place where people understand his accent.
Part of his hope for the gift is to provide opportunities for other kids from New Hampshire. "Peter's vision is to create a school that really stands out at the undergraduate level--there's a real niche for us there," says Daniel Innis, dean of the Whittemore School of Business and Economics. "If we can provide an even better business education for New Hampshire residents, and train future entrepreneurs, we'll be providing an incentive for them to stay in-state, to create their own businesses right here," says Innis. "Ultimately, it's important to the state's economy."
Paul's gift will help build a new facility for the business school. The building will be state-of-the-art, Innis says, with "smart" classrooms that offer the latest technology, experiential learning facilities for hands-on learning, informal gathering areas to encourage student collaboration, a cafe, and laboratory space for the hospitality program. By moving out of WSBE's current home, McConnell Hall, the new college will be able to enroll 600 more undergraduates, for a total of 2,500; when McConnell was built in 1967, it had a capacity of 1,000.
The new college, when completed, will be named the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics. When the business school was created in the early '60s, it was named in honor of the late industrialist Laurence Whittemore, former president of the University System of New Hampshire board of trustees. "The Whittemore name, a central part of the UNH story for more than 40 years, will not go away, not by any means," says President Mark Huddleston. "In the coming months, I will be working with Dean Innis, the business school faculty and the USNH board to name our graduate programs in honor of Laurence Whittemore."
The Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, says Huddleston, "will secure our position as a national leader in the teaching of business management and economics." He notes that $25 million dollars is a lot of money, "but for a project of this magnitude, it represents only half of what is needed. Peter's gift is a challenge, and it is up to our alumni and friends to step up to that challenge." UNH Foundation President Peggy Sullivan adds, "UNH has been built on the strength of its graduates, and on the support of people like Peter. Fundraising has begun in earnest. We need financial support from business school graduates, alumni, friends and the business community to make this exciting new building a reality. No gift is too small."
Paul shares their optimism. "I hope others will join with me," he says with a smile, "because the sooner we get this school built, the sooner we can have the grand opening celebration!"~