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UNH Gets a New Leader
by Allen Lessels '76

It became clear to search committee members seeking the next University of New Hampshire president that Ann Weaver Hart does her homework. Her attention to detail, her communication skills and experience tackling tough issues-most recently as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif.-were among the qualities they cited when recommending her to succeed Joan R. Leitzel.

On April 15, University System of New Hampshire Chancellor Stephen Reno named Hart as the 19th president of the University of New Hampshire.

"I think she was very impressive," says John Crosier, chair of the 20-person search committee. "She has a presence that I'll say is striking when she introduces herself. She has very polished communication skills, and she interacts well. She clearly had done her homework on UNH prior to her interviews."

Other members of the committee saw the same qualities. "She's a very good public speaker, very articulate," says T.J. Paton '03, a student representative on the board of trustees and a member of the search committee. "She carries herself very well. When she walks into a room, people know who she is. She sets the tone."

Hart also impressed Paton with the up-front nature of the give and take at a student forum. She knew much about UNH and wanted to know more about the parking situation and nontraditional students, among other subjects. "If there was something she didn't know about, she'd ask questions," Paton says. "She talked with students about what they liked about the university and what needed improvement. She wanted to know what we saw as problems."

Checking references confirmed what Crosier and others felt. "I had the opportunity to talk to peers of hers who have known her over her career," he says. "Every reference check I did validated the opinion many of us had of her capabilities as a skilled communicator. Her résumé has many experiences in it, I think, that equip her well to deal with the challenges that face the next president of the University of New Hampshire. … One of her references said of her, 'I know of no one in academic circles more ready to be a president than she is.'"

Hart, says Crosier, has taken on tough tasks in the past. "We were looking for someone with a proven track record of being able to deal with difficult issues," he says. "If you talk to her colleagues, she has taken on very complex and contentious issues within an academic setting. Running a university is quite different from running a company. You have to have a great capacity for persuasion, and you have to be able to listen and synthesize various viewpoints that are often conflicting and then construct and implement the strategies to get the job done. She has a substantial record of accomplishments, whether it's resolution of curriculum relations over six entire campus complexes (at Claremont) or whether it's her work in Utah prior to going to California."

Hart told the Concord Monitor that she comes to UNH with no set agenda. "It's important for a new president not to bring in a recipe and try to fit the school to that recipe," she said.

Hart, 53, has been at Claremont Graduate School since 1998. Before that she held a variety of roles at the University of Utah, starting as a teacher there in 1984 and working up to special assistant to the president and dean of the graduate school. Hart received an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Utah in 1970 and followed that with a master's degree in history in 1981 and a doctoral degree in educational administration in 1983.

Now she is ready to move East.

"There are always butterflies in your stomach with every new job," Hart said in the interview with the Monitor. "But I expect that I'll have a lot of help. I'm eager to start."

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