Colleagues mourn state rep, union head and FPU professor Doug Ley

  • Doug Ley Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/11/2021 3:12:32 PM

Longtime state representative and Franklin Pierce University history professor Douglas Ley died at home on Thursday, family members announced Friday.

Ley’s son, Ethan, announced his father’s passing Friday on CaringBridge, a crowd-funding site aimed at paying medical expenses.

“Dad spent his last day here at home in a peaceful state surrounded by his family. We are all comforted in knowing that we were able to respect his wishes to bring him home and give him a taste of New Glarus Spotted Cow beer before he passed away late last night,” he wrote. 

Mary C. Kelly, who taught history alongside Ley at Franklin Pierce University, said in an interview on Friday that Ley’s passing was quite sudden after a short illness.

“He had such a big reach in the state and region. He touched a lot of people. A lot of people.”

Kelly said Ley was a “Renaissance man” who was a politician, historian, professor and mentor to generations of students, as well as faculty.

“He had the courage of his convictions,” Kelly said. “He worked hard and energetically and passionately, all the time. He sought to improve life at Pierce for the entire campus community. He spoke truth to power. But he was a warm and dear friend, also. His passing just leaves us at an enormous loss, and a bright light has been extinguished at Franklin Pierce with his passing.”

Ley has been a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives since 2012. He served on the House Labor Committee from 2012 until 2018, and served as the House Majority Leader in 2019 and 2020.

Following the news of his passing, Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy and Deputy Senate Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald issued a joint statement praising Ley’s persistent commitment to the state and its voters.  

“We are heartbroken to hear of Representative Ley’s passing. Doug was a champion for all Granite Staters and his fierce dedication to the betterment of New Hampshire will be missed by all,” Soucy and Rosenwald wrote. “He was a passionate leader to our House colleagues and leaves behind a legacy of fighting for working people and working families.”

Former House Speaker Steve Shurtleff issued a statement Friday recalling his time working with Ley in the State House.

 “Working closely with Doug over the past few years, I admired his incredible intellect and ability to bring people together,” Shurtleff wrote. “Doug’s booming laugh could often be heard throughout the halls of the State House, and it always brought joy to those around him. The respect and love that Doug had for his staff and colleagues in the legislature embodied him as a person. It will be a long time before New Hampshire sees another man like Doug Ley.”

Dick Ames of Jaffrey, who served in the House of Representatives with Ley, said in an interview Friday that his death is “a huge loss to the people who knew him, to his friends, students and to his colleagues.”

“Doug Ley was a good man, kind, thoughtful, caring about others and the direction we were moving as a state,” Ames said. “He wanted to see the people who were being left out get more and a fair deal. He worked hard to move the world we knew in that direction. He was devoted to the labor movement, his family, the legislature and democracy in a larger sense.”

Ley has also been a professor at Franklin Pierce specializing in history for decades. He was president of the teacher’s union at Franklin Pierce University, as well as president of the American Federation of Teachers.

The AFT executive board released a statement Friday mourning his loss.

“He truly lived his values, whether teaching labor history, or making labor history by staunchly defending workers’ rights in the state House,” the statement reads. “No battle for what was right was too tough for him, and he met every challenge with grace and humor. His loss will be grieved throughout New Hampshire, but his immeasurable contributions will live after him.”

John Daly, FPU class of 1995, was a student of Ley’s and kept in contact with him up until his passing. He said was an advisor and a mentor.

“I was not the most successful high school student, and he made history fun and exciting. I started to excel, which was a new experience for me,” Daly said. Daly said he remembers Ley taking his class on a Saturday trip to the Tenement Museum in New York City, and celebrating the end of the school year at gatherings at Ley’s home in Jaffrey.

“He was part of what made Pierce special,” Daly said.

Daly, who now lives in Washington D.C. and works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, went on to law school after Franklin Piece, and said when he initially struggled, he couldn’t quit, because he knew Ley would be disappointed in him.

“I was more afraid of telling him I had dropped out of law school than my parents. So I toughed it out,” Daly said. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it weren’t for Doug. He was always encouraging and teaching us. I’m devastated. He’ll be a voice missed in the legislature and a voice missed at Pierce.”


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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