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A Glimpse of the Man Who Will Be President

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
April 25, 2007

Perry Smith photos

Mark Huddleston knows all about The Fish.

Not that it’s a prerequisite for a UNH president, but Huddleston was a hockey fan before he got the job and was familiar with the practice of Wildcat fans throwing a dead fish on the ice after scoring the first goal of a game.

The current Ohio Wesleyan University president who takes over for Interim President J. Bonnie Newman in July grew up in a family that talked hockey. His grandfather was from Canada.

“Yes, I’m a fan,” Huddleston said during a recent interview. “I was never very good at it but I love the sport. When I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I cherished having those hockey tickets.”

So, the newly elected president--confirmed last week by the USNH Board of Trustees—isn’t completely all-work. Although he does admit his children, Andy, Kate and Giles, would describe him as a pretty serious guy.

While that’s true, his wife Emma Bricker says Huddleston, who has spent the last three decades in higher education as a faculty member, dean and then senior administrator, has a “great sense of humor.”

“He can be really funny,” Bricker said. “On the really odd day out, he can be almost silly. He is serious, certainly, but he also has this really good sense of humor.”

She says his younger children—Kate, 15, and Giles, 11--agree. Kate (Katherine) calls him “intelligent and a good person” while Giles says he’s “nice but travels a lot” adding it’s okay because he still gets to see him.

The couple met in 1988 when Bricker owned a landscaping business. It was summer and Huddleston was spending a lot of time around a friend’s pool. Bricker was working there, building a patio and installing a garden.

By then Huddleston, a licensed pilot, had purchased his first plane and would sometimes tip his wings when flying over his buddy’s property. The way he tells the story, Bricker asked the friend about him and said she’d like to co-pilot if Huddleston was ever interested.

He was.

“Our first date was in that airplane,” Huddleston said.

Flying is one of the ways the New York native relaxes. He still has his own plane but it’s not the same one; he had to make an emergency landing in that first one when he lost an engine. Luckily he was able to bring it down in an open field and neither he nor the plane had a scratch on them.

While living in Ohio, owning a plane has allowed the family to travel to their home in Vermont.

“We sold our house when we moved into the president’s house at Ohio Wesleyan. It was a strange feeling, to be an adult and not own property,” Huddleston said of the decision to then buy the house in Vermont where, coincidentally, his parents now live.

With a nod to its possible political incorrectness, Huddleston admits to also turning to skeet-shooting as a means of relaxation.

“And I golf enthusiastically but badly,” he said. “I joke about getting letters from the USGA asking me to stop. I also ski and have skied Ohio but it’s not really a thrill. The greatest part is, you get a lot of runs in.”

On a serious note, Huddleston describes what he calls one of the most exciting things he has ever done: serving as a consultant in war-torn Bosnia after the Dayton accords. As part of a team trying to help the country rebuild its financial and administrative infrastructures, he witnessed the ravages of war.

“We drove past bombed out buildings; buildings riddled with machine gun fire,” Huddleston said. “It was very sobering.”

Huddleston was raised in Syracuse and spent 24 years at the University of Delaware in various capacities. The move back east will be a sort of homecoming. For UNH he says, the best years are yet to come—and he is happy that he will be a part of that.

“I like to think I’m a really accessible guy. I see students on a regular basis when I’m wandering around campus,” Huddleston said, acknowledging that, with 12,000 more students at UNH than at Ohio Wesleyan, it will be a different experience but not one he wants to disappear.

“If I had wanted to be a CEO of a large company, tucked away in an office somewhere, I would have done that,” he said. “I think people here really want a president that they see and feel is a part of the fabric of UNH. That’s very appealing to me.”

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