Alumni News

In the Spotlight: Chapter Revival
Alumni organize gatherings and an executive forum in Boston

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Alumni like John Murtha '75 and Ted Wheatley '76 knew there were hundreds of UNH graduates in the greater Boston area. But there was little they could do to reach out to them until a few years ago, when a group of alumni—including Fred Olsen '97, Karen Johnson '84, Stephanie Gillen '00, Stephen Pannucci '96, Bethany Grazio '97 and Murtha and Wheatley themselves—began to put in the volunteer thier time to revive the Boston chapter of the UNH Alumni Association.

"What we both noticed, and agreed on, is that there were probably lots of UNH alumni in very close proximity to each other, but they just didn't know it," Murtha says. "In fact, Ted and I are a prime example. He graduated in '76, I graduated in '75, and we work within three blocks of each other and didn't know it until we both got involved in the Boston chapter."

Boston Based, photo by Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services BOSTON BASED: Some of the alumni involved in organizing chapter activities are, clockwise from left, Ted Wheatley '76, Fred Olsen '97, John Murtha '75 and Karen Johnson '84.

Connections like that have become commonplace, says Olsen, who has been president of the chapter for the past three years, since the Boston volunteers began broadening their scope to include not only social events like happy hours and Red Sox outings but also an innovative quarterly breakfast speakers series called the Executive Forum.

"We have tried to make events open to as many people as possible," he says. "We just wanted there to be something for everyon, because we have found there certainly is a demand."

Designed to attract senior-level executives, the forum has filled a niche by showcasing alumni such as UNH hockey legend Andy Brickley '83, well-known TV sports commentator Jack Edwards '79 and former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator Robert Varney '77.

The forums start with a half hour of networking over breakfast, followed by the featured speaker. They're held at locations like the Omni Parker House, where Murtha is general manager, and the Seaport Hotel, where Marianna Accomando '80 is vice president of sales. The underlying theme is the importance of the UNH connection.

"Our hope was to re-engage alumni with a venue that would be professionally and personally relevant and create an opportunity for networking," Wheatley says. "Based on the positive response we've had from the first four events, there is strong interest among alumni to reconnect."

In fact, even when the speakers were Brickley, the Boston Bruins color analyst with NESN who spent 14 years playing professional hockey, and Edwards, who has been in broadcasting for 27 years, it all came back to the university.

"Some thought it would be all about hockey, but it wasn't," says Maggie Morrison '82, assistant director of programs and events for the UNH Alumni Association, which helps coordinate the chapter's activities. "It was all about how they got to where they are, how UNH helped them get to where they are, and what motivates them."

That's music to the ears of the alumni on the forum committee, like Karen Johnson '84, a lawyer in the tax and benefits department with Ropes & Gray. "The idea was to create a meaningful opportunity for the Boston area alums to gather and build a community, while highlighting the achievements of the local alumni as well as the programs and events at the university," she says.

Though that may have sounded like a tall order at first, the chapter has been attracting alumni to events in increasing numbers.

"The thing I loved is that when we had our first forum, the surrounding rooms had to come and ask us to be quiet about five times," Johnson says. "Everyone was so happy to see each other and reconnect."

A measure of the forum's successm the solution was simple - book a bigger room. ~

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