Mike cote’s business editor’s notebook unh’s new president champions a well-rounded education new hampshire q gas station cleveland ohio


Having finally picked up downhill skiing myself this year at age 55, I think James W. Dean Jr. might want to reconsider. Once you learn how to turn and control your speed, it’s a glorious way to spend the day in the White Mountains. Sure, you should be cautious when you reach an age when things might stay broken if you break them, but there are far more dangerous winter activities in New Hampshire than spending time on the slopes.

Dean, the former executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will take over as president of UNH on June 30. Dean visited New Hampshire earlier this month, when he spent some time with the Union Leader at the UNH Manchester campus.

As a UNH alumnus (English and communication, Class of ’85), I’m interested in Dean’s vision for UNH and what he will do to raise funds in a state that ranks dead last in aid to higher education. But that will come later. When Dean met with me and reporter Michael Cousineau on April 10, he hadn’t even signed his contract yet.

"When you think about the history of higher education in America, there’s sort of a yin and yang between being prepared to take on a job and do some important work as soon as possible but also being prepared for a lifetime of not only contribution to the economy but to live a rich and interesting life," he said. Focusing solely on a specialty area might serve short-term needs, but ends up short-changing students in the long run. Dean hopes accounting and engineering majors are also spending time studying fine arts, history and geography.

"I would guess that of a hundred students who major in accounting and go off and get an entry-level job with Ernst & Young or someone like that, 10 years later probably 25 percent of them at most are still doing that kind of work. They’re doing something else," Dean said. "So if you make their entire education about their first job, you’re really not serving their needs. You really need to find that balance between the two."

"One of the things that has occurred to me many times is I would probably not hire someone to work for me in a business who only knew about business. I find that incredibly frightening," he said. "Someone who had no historical context, no knowledge of different cultures, no knowledge of history. Even for the more pragmatic things you really want a proper context."

Now, about that skiing: During my three trips to Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln this winter, I worked my way through the sheer terror of becoming a runaway train to gaining enough skill and confidence to ride the gondola to the summit on my own and taking a slow – and spill-free – run down some beginner trails.

As a native New Englander, I should know better. Weather here knows only chaos and confusion. But after our weird rainy midwinter I would not have predicted April would bring both another chance to ski and the perfect opportunity to slip on an icy step and whack my back hard enough to fracture a rib.

We prepare and plan for what we perceive as challenges and slip up when we let our guard down – for me it was something as simple as walking outside to take out some recyclables. A rainy night left a coating of water that froze to a sheer layer of ice on our steps. That was my discovery the next morning when I thumped against a couple of them and tumbled to the ground.

I spent part of the morning getting X-rays at an urgent-care center and returned home with an ice pack and a bottle of high-strength ibuprofen. Both came in handy the next day when my wife and I spent several hours on a flight to Kansas City to celebrate our 1-year-old grandson’s birthday.