PLYMOUTH, N.H.—From dozens of awards for service, to membership on various boards of directors, art associations and a girl scout council, the names of Gene and Joan Savage are connected with service to others and support of education.
But nowhere in New Hampshire are their names better known and their service and financial support more appreciated than at Plymouth State University, their alma mater, where they met as students in the 1950s.
Now the Savages will see their names engraved in the bricks and mortar of the institution with which they have been connected for 54 years. In recognition of the Savages’ lifelong commitment to the University and their multiple gifts of time, talent and resources, Plymouth State will designate the Eugene and Joan Savage Welcome Center at Plymouth State University when the facility opens in August.
The naming honors the many ways in which the Savages have given back to Plymouth State and other organizations throughout their careers. “The Savages are wonderful ambassadors and philanthropists for Plymouth State University. Naming the welcome center celebrates and honors their history as benefactors and alumni,” said University President Sara Jayne Steen. “We are exceedingly grateful for their constant generosity and encouragement to us as a university community.
“And the welcome center, which welcomes visitors to PSU and our region of New Hampshire, is a visual symbol of the interconnection between Plymouth State University and its host communities. Gene and Joan represent that connection.”
The Savages said they are honored and humbled by the welcome center naming. Joan came to Plymouth Teacher’s College on a four-year scholarship and Gene followed two years later on the GI Bill. “Neither of us would have been at Plymouth without that assistance, and our years there were transformative,” Joan said. “We couldn’t have imagined all the opportunities that opened up for us–students don’t usually think that way,” she added.
“The Savages were among the first to step forward with a pledge of support when planning for ALLWell and the Imagine a Way campaign first began. They’ve been strong supporters of the administration through seven presidencies and have guided the leadership of the institution as alumni and professionals,” said Sylvia Bryant, PSU executive director of university advancement.
The Eugene and Joan Savage Welcome Center is part of the Center for Active Living, Learning and Wellness (ALLWell), a multi-phase complex designed to integrate academics and recreation for the campus, community and the region. Located along Holderness Road (Rte 175A), the environmentally sustainable building that is scheduled to open in August 2010 will house an ice rink for university and public use, in addition to the welcome center.
The facility will be among the first buildings visitors to the area see as they exit Route I-93 into Holderness and Plymouth, a perfect location for a university welcome center that will support the work and membership of area chambers of commerce and retail associations, in addition to PSU.
The expansive lobby and facilities will provide an attractive meeting place for prospective students, parents and visitors to the campus and the region. “We envision the welcome center to be a place where folks can pull off the highway, have a cup of coffee and get information that will enrich their visit,” said Steve Barba, executive director of university relations.
“The welcome center will provide a way for towns in the region to get information out—not just Holderness and Plymouth—but all the surrounding towns,” said Gene. “Getting out the right information is imperative for those towns and related organizations,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for them.”
Joan Doyon Savage, Plymouth Teachers College class of 1956, began her teaching career at Pittsfield (N.H.) High School (PHS). She was the only female science student at the College and the only female science teacher at PHS. After doing graduate work at the University of New Hampshire she continued her teaching at Oyster River Middle School in Durham, retiring in the early 1990s.
Joan has served on the Plymouth State University Alumni Board of Directors and the Swift Water Girl Scout Council, and she was president of the Durham chapter of the American Association of University Women. Joan is a recipient of the Thomas More Award from St. Thomas More Church, and PSU Alumni Association Service and Alumni Achievement Awards.
An accomplished artist, Joan has been a member of the Durham Art Association in New Hampshire, and of the Pine Island Art and Herons Glen Art Associations in Fort Myers, Fla. In 2009 the University dedicated an original painting by Joan—“Plymouth Views Plymouth State”—a gift from the Savages that now hangs in the lobby of Mary Lyon Hall, where Joan lived as a student.
Gene Savage’s career spans 35 years in education, beginning as a teacher-coach and guidance director in schools in New Hampshire and Vermont, then as director and later dean of admission at the University of New Hampshire. He culminated his career as Vice Chancellor for University System Relations at the University System of New Hampshire (USNH), a post from which he retired in 1993.
Following his retirement from the University System, he accepted a position as senior government relations advisor with the law firm of Rath, Young and Pignatelli.
Savage, a 1958 Plymouth Teachers College graduate, is the founding chairman of the PSU President’s Council, a body of volunteers whose mission is to raise funds for endowment and to develop university resources that will advance the mission and vision of Plymouth State. Under Gene’s leadership, the President’s Council has invigorated fundraising and outreach for the University. “I see it as another opportunity to give back to Plymouth State,” he says.
President’s Councilor Wally Stevens says naming bricks and mortar for individuals such as Gene and Joan inspires those who operate the facility to provide an extremely high standard of hospitality. “We often hear of the New Hampshire ‘way’ or the Plymouth State ‘way’ in positive terms. Gene and Joan’s ‘way’ as welcomers is thought of as extraordinary by all who know them,” said Stevens.
Gene has served on numerous boards and councils–notably, the USNH Board of Trustees and the Board of Trustees of the College Board. He also served as a college admission consultant for the U.S. Department of State and the College Board in Africa, Asia and South America.
He received the New Hampshire Distinguished Citizen Award from the Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 1992 and the Granite State Award from Plymouth State University in 1994. In 2007 he received the USNH Chancellor’s Medallion in recognition of his efforts on behalf of higher education in general and the University System in particular.
The Savages believe that PSU’s ALLWell project will have the same kind of transformative effect on the University that their PTC education had on them. “With so much national attention on health and obesity, I believe there will be research going on through ALLWell that will have major ramifications for the area well beyond Plymouth and Holderness,” Gene said.
Gene also said the future presence of the complete ALLWell complex, comprising new buildings and playing fields on both sides of Holderness Road, will make a strong statement about the status of Plymouth State University as an academic entity. “People heading toward town will see these striking facilities, and they can’t help but have a positive first impression,” Gene said. “The ice rink and welcome center are the beginning of very important improvements for the University.”