Under brilliant blue skies on September 20th, the UNH community celebrated the dedication of John and Leona Gehring Hall, home to the renowned Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science.
As the marching band played a rousing selection of songs, hundreds of students, faculty, staff, members of the Board of Governors and guests gathered around Maxcy Quad to pay tribute to the Gehrings, who President Steve Kaplan said have “built a legacy at a place that makes a difference in the lives of individuals, in the lives of communities and in the life of this nation and on a global level as well.
“You’re going to know and hopefully thrive on the knowledge that when students walk by this building, they will know what it means to give back and what it means to give back to an institution that plays such a profound role in the community,” he added.
The couple’s transformational gift, one of the largest in the University’s history, establishes the John R. and Leona M. Gehring Endowed Forensic Research and Training Advancement Fund at the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, the John R. and Leona M. Gehring Endowed Scholarship Fund for College of Business students and the John R. Gehring Endowed Professorship in Business Administration.
In a letter from Dr. Henry C. Lee read by President Kaplan at the ceremony, Lee indicated he was “humbled and very appreciative that the Institute has received this transformational gift from such dear friends.
“Your gift will provide critical funds for research, teaching and student scholarships. Your support helps advance the Institute’s mission of making the criminal justice system more effective worldwide,” Lee wrote. “You are inspirational role models for others, and we are so proud of all your many life accomplishments.”
The Gehrings’ connection to Dr. Lee goes back decades. “Henry used to have his office in Meriden, and I was born and brought up in Meriden, so I first got to know about him then,” Gehring said. “My wife, Leona, and I have always admired the work that Henry Lee has done. He solves so many crimes. Most people don’t realize how hard he works to find the cause.”
Corey Scott ’13 ’15 M.S. (forensic science) thanked the Gehrings for their commitment to the Lee Institute, which has provided him with opportunities to do high-level research and to work with the FBI on investigations in the state and across New England.
“At times, people ask me, `Why did you stay at UNH for your master’s?’” he said. “I’ve toured the country looking for other schools to attend. The truth is, if I started at the top, why would I settle for less?”
Christopher Shays, a former U.S. Congressman and a distinguished fellow in public service at UNH, said the Gehrings’ support “ensures the University will continue to play a critical role in advancing important research that influences policy decisions at the state and federal level and can ultimately save lives.”
Nuomso Kaba, a junior accounting major from West Haven, reflected on the important role scholarship support has played during her college career. Because of the Gehrings’ generosity, even more students will be able to pursue a college education at UNH. “The scholarship that I received has helped lighten my financial burden and has allowed me to focus on my studies and tutor in the Center for Learning Resources,” she said.
As part of the ceremony, John Gehring ’52 A.S. was awarded an honorary doctor of business administration degree. For more than 50 years, he and Leona ran Gehring Office Equipment and Lincolnwood Organ and Piano Center. He went on to become the exclusive Connecticut distributor of the first electronic calculator that was created by Wang Electronic and sold and serviced all of the typewriters for the Connecticut public schools.
Gehring said he and Leona were extremely honored to be recognized by his alma mater. “And we are pleased to see all that they are doing at the University,” he said. “Steve Kaplan has made the University a great place for all people to attend. He is always so forward-thinking.”
As the event came to a close, Gehring and his wife leaned in close to one another and clasped hands, turning to look at their names gracing the side of the building.
Gehring spoke of his abiding affection for his alma mater and how he savored and retained everything his professors taught him. “It set a path for me,” he said. “Our business grew more successful because of what I learned here.”
This story, by Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor Jackie Hennessey, originally appeared in UNH Today on September 23, 2013.