Profile of a President
Joan Leitzel's gift to New Hampshire is a stronger, better university.

Joan Leitzel
Photos by Kindra Clineff

In northwest Indiana, where Joan Leitzel grew up, they have a saying: "Leave the woodpile higher than you found it."

"I think," says Leitzel, who will retire at the end of June after six years as president of the University of New Hampshire, "I can be confident that I have."

This is not a woman given to overstatement. By almost any measure, UNH is better and stronger than it was when she arrived. Leitzel has initiated changes to strengthen the university's financial condition, improve the physical plant, increase private support, enhance academic programs and expand research opportunities. She has also consolidated the university's Manchester programs on a new campus in the city's historic mill yard, expanded graduate programs in Manchester and Durham and promoted a more diverse student body. (See sidebar, page 27.)

Steve Taylor '62, New Hampshire's commissioner of agriculture and a university trustee, has seen a lot of UNH presidents come and go. Ask Taylor where Leitzel ranks among them, and he does not hesitate. "In terms of impact and achievement, number one," he says, "easy."

John Seavey, a professor of health management and policy and former chair of the faculty senate, agrees. "She's really turned this into a great place to be," he says. "Her focus has been on UNH and how to improve it. ... She's kept academic quality as her highest priority, focusing on faculty and academics and turning UNH into more of a research institution. ... I think one of the highest compliments that can be paid to her is that there is a general sense from all parts of UNH and the board of trustees that we would have been better off if she could have stayed a few more years."

Leitzel on The Student Body
"If the public institutions don't position themselves to educate across all sectors of society, the nation won't haev the workforce it needs."

"I think she's the most effective president that I've seen here," says Jim Varn, who graduated from UNH in 1976 and is now assistant to the provost. "She has a lot of integrity, and she stays positive. I think she figures out the most important things that need to be done and sticks with them. She uses a combination of charm and firmness to get where the institution needs to go--and she does all of that without focusing on herself."

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