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Passing: Brian Doyle, N.H. Sea Grant Leader

January 28, 2009

Brian Doyle

In the month since the passing of Brian Doyle, associate director of N.H. Sea Grant and program leader for UNH Cooperative Extension’s Water Resources, there has been an outpouring of stories about his abilities in the workplace and his good natured approach to an often challenging career.

Those who worked closely with Doyle often heard him say “I wear a lot of hats,” referring to the various roles he fulfilled. After earning his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Doyle began his career as an extension specialist for N.Y. Sea Grant at Cornell University in 1976.

He came to UNH in 1980 where he assumed the role of program leader for Cooperative Extension and associate director for N.H. Sea Grant. Doyle was also an adjunct assistant professor at UNH in the department of parks and recreation during the 1980s. In 1994, his work with Cooperative Extension transitioned into the program leader for the Water Resources team and he held that title and that of N.H. Sea Grant associate director until his death.

Although his dual leadership positions at the university could have potentially competed with one another, Doyle instead built a bridge between N.H. Sea Grant and Cooperative Extension to the benefit of both organizations.

“He had an impressive ability to manage university outreach programs and to build coalitions and networks,” said John Pike, director of Cooperative Extension.

Steve Adams, communications coordinator for N.H. Sea Grant, added that Doyle was a supportive, enthusiastic and farsighted colleague.

“Brian had a way of bringing people together and moving things forward, and he could manage the big picture without losing sight of all the little pictures” Adams said.

A consummate team player, Doyle is also remembered as the visionary and cohesive force in N.H. Sea Grant who helped guide the program to a perfect score during a national review in 2006. That was the first year a Sea Grant program was awarded that score and it was due in large part to Doyle’s capabilities to maximize the impacts of the program on stakeholders and the community.  

“My most meaningful interactions with Brian were the times when he used his experience and ingrained gentle methods to help his colleagues focus our energies on the critical issues at hand without repeating the mistakes of the past,” said Jon Pennock, director of N.H. Sea Grant and the UNH Marine Program.

Pennock added that Doyle was the very essence of N.H. Sea Grant. “While directors periodically moved on, Brian remained the constant, stabilizing force of the program,” he said.

Despite having many challenges in the workplace, N.H. Sea Grant program assistant Lori Lavac remembered his positive approach to obstacles. “We met many tough grant deadlines together and shared plenty of good natured laughter in the process,” she said. “I always marveled at Brian’s ‘nose to the grindstone’ demeanor. He would approach many seemingly insurmountable tasks, such as 15 performance reviews in one week or a large proposal that needed to be written in three days, and complete them by the deadline.”

Doyle’s strong work ethic carried over to his co-workers. “He expected great work from his team and would always acknowledge when it happened,” said Julia Peterson, N.H. Sea Grant water resources specialist. 

Even in times of financial belt-tightening, Doyle ensured that there were funds available to continue programs integral to achieving the goals of N.H. Sea Grant and Cooperative Extension.  

“Brian was a very successful behind-the-scenes supporter of all that his specialists did,” said Mark Wiley, N.H. Sea Grant marine educator. “He was able to find money to keep everyone’s projects going even though the Sea Grant budgets kept shrinking.”

Wiley, who leads the UNH Marine Docent Program, said that Doyle often referred to the volunteer marine education program as a highlight of N.H. Sea Grant and Cooperative Extension’s efforts.

Many of Doyle’s co-workers remember the lighthearted times with him as well. His laughter was a common sound in Kingman Farm where his office was located, along with discussion about his latest round of golf. Whenever children were around the office, he would beam with delight to watch them walk or talk and smile at him.

One of the last and perhaps most poignant memories for his co-workers was of Doyle’s spirited singing of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” at the 2008 Marine Docent holiday luncheon. His genuine warmth and humor shone through that day as he talked about his pride for the Docent program, passion for his career and love for his son, Brian Doyle Jr.

Doyle’s empty desk is a daily reminder of his absence, but he left behind a strong legacy of visionary leadership, intelligence, integrity and communication that will be carried forward to meet challenges head-on.  

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