Cote named commencement speaker

Honeywell CEO a ‘76 WSBE graduate

On March 4, 2011

  • David Cote has been selected as UNH's 2011 Commencement speaker. Courtesy

This May, Honeywell CEO David Cote will join the list of previous commencement speakers at UNH, such as Mike O'Malley, President Clinton and President Bush, Sr., at the 2011 graduation.

David Cote has a long history with executive and high leadership positions in a plethora of companies, including General Electric, where he served as vice president, president and CEO for GE Appliances, before accepting tenure.

Cote was selected from a variety of nominees that students requested through UNH's website, which also included many celebrities, like Bono and Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report.

A lot of students want to nominate who they see on TV," explained Susan Entz, director of University Events and Programs. "That's typical year after year."

Entz is head of the Committee of Honorary Degrees and Granite State Awards, which reviews the nominees suggested by students.

Nominated speakers have to fulfill numerous requirements in the eyes of the committee when being reviewed as potential candidates for the commencement speaker.

The committee consists of 12 elected members and Entz, as well as Provost John Aber.

The committee includes representatives from each college, who are selected by that college's dean, as well as representatives from UNH Manchester, the UNH foundation and the Alumni Association. Each of these representatives serves a five-year term on the committee.

The student senate also chose one student representative from both the junior and senior classes of that year to be on the committee to represent the interests of the undergraduate student body. The Graduate Student Organization selects a graduate student to be on the committee as well. 

None of the committee's elected members were allowed to comment on the selection process or matters concerning the committee because of confidentiality agreements. However, Entz explained the selection process and noted that the student's perspectives were crucial.

"At the end of the day, they really help us make our decision," Entz said.

One of the reasons Cote was chosen was because of his commitment to philanthropy and his impact on global affairs.

This includes working with several other CEOs from major corporations to join in a relief effort mission for the Sichuan Province of China after earthquakes terrorized the land in May 2008.    

Cote serves on the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Policy Association, a position he was appointed to by President Obama.

Cote was also a UNH alumnus who graduated from WSBE in 1976.

Entz said the fact he was an alumnus was vital in his selection as commencement. While it is not a requirement to be a UNH alumnus in order to be chosen as a commencement speaker, Entz believes an alumnus offers a crucial insight that no other speaker can offer, and delivers a direct connection to students because he or she once stood where the students do.

"They look at him and say ‘that could be me,'" Entz said. "They want to know if there's hope that they can apply their education in way that they will be successful and do wonderful things in the world."

Provost John Aber said he was happy with Cote's selection.

"I do think he is a great choice and will be a very interesting speaker," Aber said.

President Mark Huddleston, who met Cote at a WSBE reunion in New York City this summer, was also pleased with the committee's choice.

"Mr. Cote exemplifies many of the characteristics that we embrace at UNH:  an entrepreneurial spirit, a global outlook, and a commitment to public service," Huddleston said.

David Cote was unable to be reached for comment. His commencement speech will take place at Memorial Field at 10:00 a.m. on May 21.   


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