For the 2021 class of the Union Leader’s 40 Under Forty, the ceremony honoring the emerging generation of New Hampshire leaders — all members of the millennial generation this year — was an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of their peers.
People under 40 are nominated each year for their career achievements, community involvement and contributions to New Hampshire.
Honoree Ali Sekou of Concord beamed as friends took photos of him with his plaque and his family.
“It feels good to live in a healthy community that recognizes hard work and dedication,” he said.
Sekou said he was proud of the hard work that propelled him in less than a decade from a new arrival in Manchester with limited English to a master’s degree holder and valued member of his community.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Sekou said.
The class of 2021 came to Manchester on Tuesday afternoon from every corner of the state. Friends and a few rowdy cheering sections spread out in the stadium, until a burst of rain forced the ceremony to the concourse. Stadium staff carried a podium up from the field and reconnected the sound system.
Sheryl McQuade, chair of the Business and Industry Association’s board, and Union Leader President and Publisher Brendan McQuaid introduced the honorees. This year’s class was the 20th, bringing New Hampshire to a total of 800 honorees recognized for their leadership and involvement since 2002.
Between cheering for the other members of the 40 Under Forty, honorees took photos with their plaques in front of the stadium’s Jumbotron.
The in-person celebration at Delta Dental Stadium — site of several pandemic-era commencements and celebrations — bore a few lingering marks of COVID-19.
One honoree said the biggest challenge in his life had been supervising remote learning for three elementary schoolers. Another honoree was Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center epidemiologist Antonia Altomare of Lyme, who helped lead the state’s largest hospital’s efforts against the coronavirus.
Altomare said it felt good to celebrate after the difficult months of COVID-19.
The 40 honorees cheered each other’s achievements, and the work they had done to make a mark on New Hampshire.
“You can’t sit on the sidelines if you want to make a difference,” McQuade quoted from honoree Sabrina Dunlap of Hopkinton’s 40 Under Forty interview. “You have to jump in.”