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Plymouth State University’s Best Days Lie Ahead
Our Founders Day celebration in March featured a proclamation by Governor Chris Sununu, tributes from Senate President Chuck Morse ’84 and Representative Matt Wilhelm ’04, recognition of Meredith Bristow Stevens ’62, Wallace R. Stevens ’62, and Professor Emerita Bonnie Breen-Wagner ’72, ’74MEd, and the presentation of a time capsule by Student Body President Avery Jones ’21.

In his Founders Day remarks, President Donald Birx describes a century and a half of service to New Hampshire and its citizens, distinguished by “…a continuity of inspiration and growth, and a transformation of lives for the better.” He also shared his vision of PSU 50 years from now, when the University will mark its two-hundredth anniversary.

Plymouth State University is blessed with thousands of friends, businesses, and community partners who join us every day in our mission to serve New Hampshire and our region. We are so very grateful for the efforts of all who have helped us achieve this momentous milestone.

Plymouth Normal School opened the doors to its first class on March 15, 1871, 150 years ago. From Plymouth Normal School to Plymouth Teachers College, and Plymouth State College to today’s Plymouth State University, there has been a continuity of inspiration and growth and a transformation of lives for the better. From the beginning, Plymouth has been a place of purpose, learning, and service focused on enhancing society and opening doors of opportunity. It’s an incredible story of commitment that we can all take great pride in. We should not miss, though, that PSU has faced periods of enormous challenge from its very beginning, but these have served to make it stronger. Like a tree in the wind, the roots have grown deeper, the branches stronger, the outreach greater, and its tender shoots spread further.

Plymouth State’s beautiful grounds and historic buildings, set within one of the nation’s most glorious landscapes, provides an unmatched setting for our tight-knit community. We have come to Plymouth from an ever-increasing diversity of backgrounds and we celebrate our differences as opportunities to learn from one another and expand our horizons. As Plymouth State Panthers, living, learning, and partnering together, we share experiences and values that result in lifelong friendships, close collegial collaborations, and mentorships that have launched countless successful careers.

Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” And so it is at Plymouth State, where we are the beneficiaries of exceptional and devoted students, faculty, and staff, academic leaders, alumni, forward-thinking members of our town community, legislative leaders, and others who came before us. “See Further Up Here” is more than a marketing tagline for us—it’s a recognition of how our special community has the power to elevate our outlook and inspire us to “go beyond.”

“Going beyond” is an imperative that applies not only to students, but to the University as a whole as well. What was set in motion a century and a half ago is an on-going story. Our well-established ability to innovate, first as a leader in education and then in many other fields, is what has sustained Plymouth State over so many years and what will continue to keep us vital in the years to come.

We’re in the midst of a continuing story and are proud to be today’s links in a chain, or runners in a relay, stretching back 150 years. We received the baton with a good head of steam and are confident that we have the drive and determination to keep up the pace.

Our path this year has taken us up a sharp incline. Those looking back on this period of history will recognize that we grappled with the pandemic and economic downturn, shortcomings in justice and equity, and national tensions, yet we responded with all of our strength and ingenuity to provide students with a safe harbor to consider these and other consequential issues. Plymouth State is keeping doors of opportunity open for students to achieve their career and life goals, and we are serving as an irreplaceable anchor of hope and stability in a turbulent world. We are meeting today’s challenges, and I am sure that those who take our place on this campus in coming years will do so as well.

Predicting the future can be a tricky business, and there are some things that we can only guess at. But considering all that we’ve accomplished so far, I’m convinced that our historic ability to evolve will continue to serve us well 50 years from now when PSU celebrates its two-hundredth anniversary.

In 2071, Plymouth State will have a reputation for teaching students how to learn, to mine the vast treasure trove of information around them, separate the diamonds from the dust, and to string those diamonds together with other gems of knowledge to create and build other worlds and sustain the beauty of this one. Our students will graduate with flexibility that equips them for a continually advancing workplace. Panthers will be problem solvers who know how to work across disciplines.

Technological advances will lead to more interactive learning, perhaps with avatars and artificial environments. We’ll probably have more online and hybrid courses, which will complement our traditionally warm and vibrant on-campus culture, for life-long learning.

We’ll be more closely integrated with college and university partners, which will result in many more subject matter options as well as research opportunities.

As we celebrate in this special anniversary year, let us move forward, together, with conviction and certainty that our best days lie ahead.
Plymouth State will have expanded the breadth of its diversity programming and our justice and equity initiatives. PSU will be a respected, statewide resource on these fundamental concerns. Funding for students and higher education will be more robust as it will have become increasingly obvious that education is the great equalizer, and the best opportunity for the future of not only our students, but our country.

We will have more centers and partnerships with communities, businesses, and nonprofits, working together to solve problems like climate change. Data analytics and forensics will be further incorporated in many areas of study, applied research will increase, and Plymouth State will have a growing number of nationally recognized programs. We will also have an increasing national and student understanding of the value of the humanities and we will have found ways to integrate subject matter seamlessly with more career-orientated endeavors.

We’ll have even closer ties with employers, with feedback loops built in to better meet marketplace demands, resulting in better job prospects for our graduates.

I am confident that this will come to pass because we are putting our best efforts into achieving all of these goals right now and because of the challenges we face as a nation.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.” Looking back over our rich history, we understand clearly that this is an institution that evolves with the times, is deeply committed to service, and inspires great affection among all who are privileged to know it. These building blocks are everlasting and constitute the solid foundation of our bright future.

As we celebrate in this special anniversary year, let us move forward, together, with conviction and certainty that our best days lie ahead.

Thank you all for your continued support of Plymouth State University.

View the full Founders Day celebration. (32 minutes) at plymouth.edu/150/founders-day.