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Student-athletes honored at UNH commencement

Sunday News Correspondent

May 19. 2018 8:14PM
The most decorated athlete in UNH history ran up to the stage during commencement ceremonies in Durham on Saturday. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)
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DURHAM - During commencement ceremonies at the University of New Hampshire on Saturday, star student athlete Elinor Purrier was asked to run up to the stage by UNH President Mark Huddleston.

Purrier, of Montgomery, Vt., gladly did so in her cap and gown. She is now the reigning national champion in the indoor mile.

Huddleston told the crowd Purrier clocked a four-minute, 31-second mile at the NCAA national championships in College Station, Texas, last March.

Purrier is a 10-time All-American and a 16-time America East champion, making her the most decorated athlete in UNH history.

"Congratulations, Elinor. You make us proud," Huddleston said. "Elinor Purrier is just one of more than 3,000 talented graduates that we honor and celebrate today. The Class of 2018, like Elinor, has had a truly wonderful run at UNH. You will go far."

Amy Schlagel, Carlee Toews, Ali Praus and Julia Fedeski were members of the women's hockey team and said as student athletes, teammates were like family throughout college.

"It's definitely bittersweet, but it's fun to celebrate all the hard work we put in," Praus, of Long Lake, Minn., said as they lined up for the ceremony.

Praus was a communications major and a team captain.

Huddleston said more than 70 percent of the school's athletes earned America East Academic Honors this year.

"You again showed us that it's possible to excel on and off the field, even at the highest levels of Division 1 sports," Huddleston said.

This will be the outgoing president's last commencement ceremony. James Dean was chosen to replace Huddleston early this year.

This year's keynote speaker was L.L. Bean Chairman Shawn Gorman, who graduated from UNH in 1989. He showed off their famous boots. His had a UNH emblem on them.

Gorman's message to graduates was to enjoy the outdoors, trust in their values and find balance in life.

"The outdoors to you might mean hiking in the White Mountains or simply walking to class across campus. Where and how you chose to be outside doesn't matter. What is important is recognizing that being outdoors is a critical antidote to this hyper-competitive, hyper-stressed, tech-driven world we live in," Gorman said. "Yes, technology powers our lives in all sorts of wonderful ways, but it will never fill your soul like a sunrise in the mountains."

Andrew Lietz of Rye received the Granite State Award for his work in support of higher education in the state. A successful businessman, Lietz served as chair of the University System of New Hampshire board of trustees and the state's Business and Industry Association. Believing that high-quality education was the basis for long-term growth, he shepherded the 2001 Knowledge Economy Education Plan for New Hampshire through the legislature, helping to secure a $185 million package of capital renovations to the university system's aging science, engineering and technology facilities.

Along with Gorman, Margaret Shea '58, G'61, the first woman to earn an advanced degree in physics from UNH, and former Boston city councilor and mayoral candidate Tito Jackson '99 received honorary degrees.

Shea began her research career as an undergraduate, monitoring cosmic rays on Mt. Washington and in Durham. After brief stints at the University of Hawaii and AVCO Corporation, she joined the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories at Massachusetts' Hanscom Air Force Base, where she forged a 50-year career researching the interplay between cosmic rays and the Earth's magnetic field.

Jackson served in the administration of Deval Patrick, Massachusetts' first African-American governor, served on the Boston City Council for seven years and mounted a historic campaign to become Boston's first African-American mayor.

While Jackson ultimately lost to incumbent Marty Walsh, his 34 percent showing was regarded as groundbreaking. His passion for public service and political activism were forged at UNH, where he earned a degree in history. He played a central role in reviving the university's Black Student Union, helped to spearhead efforts to increase campus diversity and was later voted student body president, according to information provided by the school.

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VIDEO: UNH chemistry students Sarah Lachapelle of North Hampton, Drew Verrier of Hampton, Joseph Mancinelli of Plaistow, and Matthew Currier of Concord express their feelings before commencement ceremonies began in Durham Saturday:

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