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6 new presidents, new chancellor at NH colleges

Six colleges in New Hampshire and the office that oversees the state university system all have new leadership this fall, an amount of turnover the New Hampshire College & University Council said is the largest in recent memory.

From community college to the Ivy League, the changes touch public and private institutions and come amid a trend of aging presidents. A March 2012 report by the American Council on Education found the average age of a college president is 61. In 1986, the council reported 42 percent of college or university presidents were 50 or younger and just 14 percent were 61 or older. By 2011, 10 percent of presidents were 50 or younger while 58 percent were 61 or older.

In the report, the advocacy and research group predicted “significant turnover” in college leadership because of retirements. And as presidents must now focus much of their energy on things outside the academic realm – like political pressures, fundraising, athletics and community outreach – there is less appetite among rising administrators to take the top job, said council President Molly Corbett Broad.

“The reason they are in higher education is a deep commitment to the academy and their own personal commitment to a discipline,” Broad said.

“It’s harder to have any part of their life in a contemplative mode anymore.”

Dr. Anne Huot, who will take over at Keene State College, said she welcomes the challenges and anticipates fresh blood will bring new ideas while building off existing partnerships.

“In my mind, it’s the highest form of service that a person can give to a college community and that very much resonates with who I am,” she said.

Taking the helm at the University System of New Hampshire is Dr. Todd Leach, who left Granite State College to take the top job at the state agency overseeing four public, four-year colleges.

“I am confident our new leaders will continue to support the importance of our unique history of public and private institutions working together to reduce costs, share scarce resources and build critical partnerships,” said Tom Horgan, president and CEO of the college and university council, which has 22 members.

Leach, who will have four universities under his watch, is positive about the changes but aware that leadership is an important issue.

“Because higher education has not been in such a turbulent period in the past, higher education has not built as much bench strength,” he said. “That’s something I felt was very important at Granite State College as I built my management team.”

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