UNH says farewell to beloved Bonnie

By Amanda Cote
On May 2, 2014

  • Bonnie Hodgdon, the face of the Communication department for the last 23 years, passed away suddenly early last week. Courtesy of UNH Photographic Services

The halls of the University of New Hampshire's Communication Department have been solemn and quiet this past week with the sudden passing of Bonnie Hodgdon on April 22. 

The department lost an exceptional staff member and friend to many. Her official title within the department was the academic and student services assistant, but people who knew Hodgdon said she  went above and beyond this job description.  

Hodgdon was the department's only office assistant and excelled in managing a program with over 500 majors - typically a two- or multiple-person job. Having been with the department for 23 years, Hodgdon was referred to as the administrative wizard of the communication department. 

Several of Hodgdon's colleagues said that she was a very organized, knowledgeable and helpful person, eager to help in any situation. Oftentimes, this included volunteering to take on tasks that she saw as "burdensome" to the other communication faculty. 

"She was somebody who was always very organized and somebody who was always very helpful," Mark Hungerford, lecturer in communication, said. "I know if I asked her to do something for me, she always would do it almost immediately." 

As the go-to member of the communication department, Hodgdon had an unlimited knowledge of the faculty and students she came in contact with, but "never betrayed a confidence."

"She was the person the students knew," said Sheila McNamee, professor of communication. "She had the answers that many us as faculty didn't have to the more specific questions they had."

McNamee, former chair of the communication department and current professor of communication, had known Bonnie since the early 1990s. McNamee made the decision to hire Hodgdon years ago and has worked with her ever since. In her words, Hodgdon was the "king pin of [the] department; the center spoke." 

"She knew everything and kept everything moving and always was there to solve a problem," McNamee said. 

In Hodgdon's absence, the department is scrambling to perform basic tasks and keep on track for the remainder of the semester. Because Hodgdon had anticipated all things, she made it all look easy. According to Joshua Lauer, assistant professor in communication, Hodgdon "bent over backwards" for both the faculty and the students in all situations - from scheduling to planning graduation.

Aside from her excelling at her professional duties, Hodgdon also had developed personal relationships with the faculty and students she had met throughout her time at UNH and in the communication department. 

Robert Jackson, senior professor of communication, met Hodgdon 14 years ago when he was hired in the department. He said he had enormous trust in her, as well as respect. He spoke of the many times he went into her office for little tasks, but other times just for her company. 

"Sometimes I just wondered what Bonnie was up to. Sometimes I would chat with her or simply hear her talking with others. I miss her voice," Jackson said. "I don't think there will ever be a day on campus where the thought 'I've got to ask Bonnie about that' will run through my mind."

Many of Hodgdon's colleagues felt the same way. They said they were deeply saddened and shocked upon hearing the news last week.

"It was very hard for me to get the news and ... to keep on working that day," Hungerford said. "I love Bonnie because she was just truly a pleasure to work with. I definitely appreciated her. In a way, she was the backbone of the department."

In 2013, the chair of the department, Joshua Meyrowitz, wrote to the Awards Committee nominating Hodgdon for the Presidential Service Award for her tireless dedication and hard work. 

"Almost any words and phrases I can think of to describe what Bonnie does, who she is and how she views her mission in the department and the university would fail to capture the full living, breathing, acting, amazingly competent, caring, organized and efficient Bonnie we all love and depend on daily," Meyrowitz wrote in the letter. 

"She competently manages an often bewildering array of tasks in a programs with the largest numbers of major per faculty and staff member, and she does so with style, grace, patience and good humor," Meyrowitz continued.  

Bonnie was honored with the 2013 President's Award of Excellence soon after her nomination.

The department is deeply saddened for this great loss, but remains dedicated to honoring her memory and continuing her legacy by supporting those she cared so much for: the students.

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