MANCHESTER — David Cote was the first person in his family to graduate high school and took six years to get his degree from the University of New Hampshire after quitting twice.
For the past decade or so, he has served as chairman and CEO of Honeywell, overseeing more than 130,000 employees at the diversified technology and manufacturing company, based in New Jersey.
Today, Cote and 11 others will be announced as recipients of the Horatio Alger Award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc., a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education.
“Dave Cote’s unique background reflects his willingness to work hard and courage to travel a different path to success,” said Tony Novelly, the association’s president and CEO and 2000 Horatio Alger Award recipient, in a statement.
In a phone interview Friday, Cote, 61, said he was honored to receive the award and credited his parents for helping in his success.
“Good parents with good values who stressed values all the time,” he said. “At the end of the day, all that repetition helps. I’m oftentimes asked who was your mentor or role model when it came to leadership development. I often say my parents.”
He worked in his dad’s Manchester garage as a teenager and recalled one hostile customer who yelled at his dad, who quietly absorbed the criticism.
“Sometimes in life and business, you’ve got to put your pride in your back pocket,” he recalled his dad, Henri, saying.
“That’s one that still stuck with me, and I use it today,” said Cote, who visits New Hampshire three or four times a year and still owns property in Merrimack.
Born in Manchester, he has lived in Nottingham, Hooksett and Suncook over the years, graduating from Pembroke Academy in 1970. He inspired his mother, Georgette, to go to night school to get a high school degree and to attend college.
The award nomination form said a nominee “must have triumphed over humble beginnings and/or adversity in his/her early life. Adversity is considered any significant barrier to success that requires exemplary levels of dedication, hard work and courage to overcome.”
In 2010, President Barack Obama named Cote to serve on the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, more commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission.
Cote said he believes the commission’s work prompted more leaders in Washington to discuss reigning in federal entitlement programs as part of an overall effort to curb budget deficits and reduce the federal debt.
“By and large, a majority of politicians understand the problem,” he said. “It’s a lack of political will out of fear their decision will be used against them.”
In 2011, North Conway native Harry Patten received a Horatio Alger award. Patten was founder, chairman and CEO of National Land Partners LLC and Inland Management, according to the association’s website.