2014 It List

These influential Granite Staters represent the arts, philanthropy, business, the local food movement, sports, science, education and more. Get to know this year’s who’s who of New Hampshire and how they are helping  shape our state.


May we introduce you?

Jennifer Lee | Alex Preston | Richard Ober | Sharon Olds | John Mortimer | Deepika Kurup | Brian Sabean | Randy Pierce | Cathy Sununu | Keith Sarasin | Jesse Laflamme | Dick Anagnost | John Broderick | Paul Lazarus | Fallen Hero: We remember James Foley


It List Reigning Queen of the Disney Screen
Jennifer Lee

Seth meyersGenerally movies come and go — whether they’re bombs or box office hits, it’s rare for a movie to strike all the right chords to become a pop culture phenomenon. This is especially true for movies ostensibly geared towards children. University of New Hampshire graduate (and commencement speaker for 2014) Jennifer Lee made this magic happen with her hit movie “Frozen.” She both wrote and co-directed the Oscar-winning animated film a year after she co-wrote the screenplay for “Wreck-It Ralph.” In addition to her Oscar win for Best Animated Feature, Lee is the first female director at Walt Disney Animation Studios, the first writer at any major animation studio to become a director and the first female director of a feature film that earned more than $1 billion in gross box office revenue. Now she’s been entrusted to adapt Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved young adult novel “A Wrinkle in Time.” A release date isn’t set just yet, but we can’t wait to see Lee’s take on this fantastical classic.


It ListUnlikely Idol
Alex Preston

Courtesy Photo

Jane DifleyWhen local kid Alex Preston made it to the final three on “American Idol’s” 2014 season, it wasn’t for rock star moves or fashion model good looks. In fact, he was a bit awkward and something of a dark horse in the race. But what wowed the judges and the legions of fans he accumulated was the sheer wealth of talent he tapped into every time he played and sang, introducing some original songs into the mix as he went. His music is hard to pin down with a definition, rootsy and ethereal at the same time. He credits his roots to classic performers like blues legend BB King (he even plays the same guitar, an ES-355 Gibson). Although he remains tight with his Mont Vernon family (his dad is his agent), he’s finding his own path now, planning on moving to Nashville with musical friends he made during his “Idol” run. But before leaving home again, he had some treats for the home team. He sold out a couple of shows at Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts and has a holiday pops special playing with the NH Symphony Orchestra and Chorus scheduled for December 13 at the Keefe Center for the Arts in Nashua. His promise to his fans? “Stick with me and I’ll try to put out as much good music as I can.”


It ListCommunity Connector
Richard Ober

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Kimberley Smith QuirkWhat happens when thousands of NH philanthropists are connected to NH’s leading nonprofit, business and government leaders? “They become a network for good,” says Richard Ober, president and CEO of the NH Charitable Foundation. “It’s people joining together, investing their hearts, time and money.” Coordinating that network for good is the Charitable Foundation, one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the country, distributing more than $30 million in grants and scholarships each year. Forty percent of the funds support programs for NH’s young people. One of the most significant recent efforts is a $12 million commitment to prevent substance use disorders by working arm in arm with public agencies, health care providers and social service groups to implement a comprehensive set of initiatives. Ober says the NH Center for Excellence, which tracks data on alcohol and drug use, has found a drop in some of the most problematic behaviors over the last several years. But Ober says the foundation won’t rest on early success: “We’ll keep at it until we bend the needle the right way permanently.”


It ListWord Worker
Sharon Olds

Courtesy photo

Charlie BurkeNew Hampshire has a rich history of fostering prize-winning poetic talent — Robert Frost, Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin — and now Pittsfield’s Sharon Olds. In the last two years she was awarded both the T.S. Eliot and Pulitzer Prizes for her latest book of poems, “Stag’s Leap.” Then, last April, she became the fifth recipient of New Hampshire’s Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. The fierce, unflinching, feminist poetry in Olds’ “Stag’s Leap” centers on the pain, anger and eventual recovery following the end of her 32-year marriage when her husband left her for another woman. The title poem begins: “Then the drawing on the label of our favorite red wine/looks like my husband, casting himself off a/cliff in his fervor to get free of me.” The rest of this poem — and the entirety of the book — are by turns beautiful and painful, with nothing of her heart or mind held back.


It ListRoad Runner
John Mortimer

Photo by Melissa Boulanger

Justice David SouterDowntown Manchester will look more like the magical North Pole on December 6 when 4,000 runners dressed as jolly old St. Nick participate in the annual BASC Santa Claus Shuffle. The three-mile trek, which is preceded by an Elf Run for little athletes and followed by the Christmas Parade, is promoted by Millennium Running, the state’s fastest-growing road race management company and the brainchild of Londonderry native John Mortimer. Four years ago, Mortimer, a three-time high school national track champion and a seven-time All-American at the University of Michigan, decided to combine his passion for promoting healthy lifestyles with unique top-class events, fun and community spirit. “John stepped away from a prestigious coaching job at the University of Kentucky in order to come home and fulfill a dream. His vision is helping to make countless New Hampshire residents healthier and happier,” says WMUR-TV sports director and anchor Jamie Staton. The Santa Run is a wonderful holiday gift to the community as it will help heal the fear, vitriol and division created by the contentious fall election season.


It ListWater Warrior
Deepika Kurup

Courtesy Photo

Keri WiederspahnInspired by a family trip to India where she witnessed people standing in long lines and desperate to fill their buckets, Deepika Kurup decided to change the world in which one-quarter of the population does not have access to life’s most basic necessity. “I am passionate about solving the global water crisis. Over the past three years I became an advocate for clean water and found a way to purify water by harnessing solar energy,” says the 16-year-old junior at Nashua South High School. Her patented invention, which is cost-effective, safe and environmentally friendly, garnered the grand prize in the 2012 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge as well as recognition as America’s Top Young Scientist. President Obama invited her to present her research at the 2013 White House Science Fair, where she discussed it with him and Bill Nye the Science Guy, and this year she represented the United States at an international conference in Sweden and took home the Stockholm Junior Water Prize during World Water Week. This fall, she was a winner at the Saving Walden Pond Environmental Challenge Awards and met actor Robert Redford and musician Don Henley, who rewarded her with front row seats at his Eagles concert after the ceremony. Even after collecting 10 prestigious national and international awards, she still has an insatiable thirst for STEM (science, math, engineering and technology).


It ListTeam Player
Brian Sabean

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Jackson NicollMoments before this issue went to press the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series in five years. That’s a huge accomplishment that took an entire team, a dazzling pitching performance for the history books by Madison Bumgarner, the coaching staff, front office and the many others that all contribute to a winning baseball club. Still, a significant portion of the credit should — and will — settle on the shoulders of the general manager and Concord native Brian Sabean. Sabean has faced his share of criticism since the beginning of his tenure in 1997 but no one can argue that the team has enjoyed incredible success in recent years. With World Series wins in 2010, 2012 (that’s Sabean pictured with the trophy in 2012) and 2014, we imagine any criticism will disappear (or at least until the next trade that’s perceived as terrible goes down, that is).


It ListVisionary Quester
Randy Pierce

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Annmarie TimminsEmbracing the belief that no mountain is too high and no adversity is too difficult to conquer, Randy Pierce of Nashua became the first blind person to master “The 48” by reaching the top of all four dozen of the 4,000-foot-plus mountains in the state. His beloved Quinn, a yellow Labrador retriever (pictured here), is the first guide dog and one of only two dogs to summit all 48, and they even did it twice. “The mountains are twisty, rocky, rooty and gnarly but Quinn had an aptitude and a passion for it,” says Pierce, who was honored this year with UNH’s Outstanding Alumni Award. Pierce founded his non-profit 2020 Vision Quest in 2010 with the goal of accomplishing “The 48” over 10 years but hit his mark seven years early. Now he raises funds for charities benefitting the blind, generates awareness of blindness as a social issue and educates and inspires others. Sadly, Quinn passed away this year, but Awesome Autumn is his new best friend for future adventures, which include running the 2015 Boston Marathon. “I want to always reach more people than peaks,” says Pierce, who also has climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on the docket. “The world is full of challenges but loaded with promise.”


It ListArt Exhibitor
Cathy Sununu

Photo by David Mendelson

Guor MarialHer last name is familiar to many Granite Staters, but Cathy Sununu, daughter of former Governor John H. Sununu and sister of former US Senator John E. Sununu, isn’t interested in politics. Sununu, director of the Portsmouth Museum of Art (PMA), wants to discuss art: how it fosters conversation and how it changes perceptions, especially in history-rich Portsmouth. “It’s often relegated to something trivial and frivolous, but the visual arts have a tremendous impact on this area financially as well as on our quality of life,” she says. Portsmouth, with its working port and historic downtown, is home to some of the state’s most popular cultural resources: Prescott Park, the Music Hall, Strawbery Banke and more. Sununu, energetic, entrepreneurial and a long-time supporter of the arts in New Hampshire, joined the PMA board in 2009 and became director soon after. Since then, she’s caused something of a stir, creating exhibits like “Street a.k.a Museum,” which introduced graffiti and urban art to outdoor walls all around Portsmouth. She’s now focused on creating a permanent home on Islington Street for PMA, which exhibits emerging 21st century artists from around the world and has a unique collecting philosophy: there’s no permanent art collection. With Sununu’s energy — in a city that’s poised to become an even bigger cultural presence — PMA should be exactly what it hopes to be: an indispensable educational resource for the community.


It ListFarm Fan
Keith Sarasin

Photo by Susan Laughlin

Douglas DarrellKeith Sarasin, from Nashua, was born and raised in the city. Like most city kids, he thought food came from boxes and bags. Now, he is determined to help people appreciate the true source of food and introduce them to the people who plant the seeds and nurture the animals. Since 2012, when he first reached out to farmers, he has produced 16 Farmers Dinners at local restaurants, with the most spectacular, a seating of 200 people down the center of Main Street, Nashua. Key to his concept is the presence of the farmer and a slideshow of farm and field to put a face on plated food. Plans for 2015 include taking the diners and the dinner actually to the farm. Sarasin says “I used to think if just one person was inspired to spend 10-percent of their food budget at a local farmstand, I would have made a difference.” Fortunately, his concept for The Farmers Dinner has grown into more than that, a win-win-win. His alliance with Rickety Ranch in Hollis has eased its mission of helping kids with problems. Farmers are paid first and each chef, at every event, wins the respect of a roomful of diners. If those in attendance are inspired to start cooking with local food, too, we’ll call that another win.


It ListDream Hatcher
Jesse Laflamme

Photo by John Hession

Kelly AyotteFourteen years ago, it was a struggling family egg farm, nearly out of business, unable to compete with big guys in the industry. Today its eggs are sold up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest. The business has grown 40 percent a year. It employs 100 and partners with 80 other family farms. The reason for its success: switching the farm’s production to accommodate a new trend — organic eggs. Catching that wave turned Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs and Nellie’s Cage Free Eggs into, respectively, the second largest organic egg brand in the country and one of the largest cage-free brands. “People are more engaged with their food supply,” says Jesse Laflamme, co-owner and CEO. “They’re looking for healthier food and humanely raised animals.” Pete & Gerry’s was the first Certified Humane egg farm in the country (they even have screened porches for their chickens).


It ListDevoted Developer
Dick Anagnost

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Joe HillWhen asked for his secret to success, Manchester developer and philanthropist Dick Anagnost says, “I’m always the dumbest guy in the room, so I can ask the dumb question.” Then, by surrounding himself with brighter bulbs, he knows that he’ll get a good answer. But it’s not brains but heart that led him to chair the recent “I Am One” campaign to end child homelessness culminating in a huge flash mob in Veteran’s Park with about 400 people representing local businesses, civic groups and even motorcycle gangs. The program raised awareness of the “pathetic” state of existing resources for families, he says, and raised about $600,000 toward building a much-needed new shelter on Lake Ave.


It ListConversation Starter
John Broderick

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Ben CherringtonIn the four years since John Broderick stepped down as Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, he has continued to pursue his passion for the law — first as dean of the UNH School of Law and now as the school’s Warren B. Rudman chairman and executive director of its Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy. Broderick’s tenure has been marked with one success after the other. After he led the integration of the law school into the full university, the school quickly moved up in US News & World Report’s national rankings and is now one of the top 100 law schools in the country. “We moved 49 slots in 24 months,” he says. “Integration helped, but there was also the effort by the law school to improve its quality and increase scholarship.” The ranking for the school’s “jobs after nine months” also shot up from 174th to 26th — behind only Harvard and Yale in the Northeast. At the Rudman Center, Broderick’s aim is to create a non-partisan stage for thoughtful discussion of national policy, to inspire young people to public service and to provide a valuable resource for the people of NH. Recent conferences, speeches and the “Rudman Center Conversations with the Candidates” in partnership with NHPR are just the start.


It ListKamen Chronicler
Paul Lazarus

Photo courtesy of AIF Docs

Christiana ThorntonPaul Lazarus is a veteran TV and film director with a lengthy IMDb profile but just one feature length documentary, a movie featuring NH’s (and America’s) most famous inventor, Dean Kamen. The film is named after Kamen’s latest world-saving contraption, a water-purification system called “Slingshot.” The name refers to the Biblical story of David and Goliath where a monster was felled by a simple device and that’s what Kamen spent 15 years working on, a simple and reliable way to provide clean water to countries beset with drought, pollution and water-borne illness. Lazarus, a Dartmouth graduate, had been a colleague of Kamen’s for more than 20 years, producing films for his FIRST Robotics program, but it was with a little shared missionary zeal that he undertook this film, which has consumed the last three years of his life. He’s now engineering  ways to get the film to the public, because building the device to fell the beast is only half the battle. The next phase is delivering the fatal blow to the world’s water crisis once and for all.


It ListFallen Hero: James Foley

Photo by Matthew Lomano

October 18, 1973–c. August 19, 2014
War correspondent, son, brother, neighbor, friend, martyr.


Categories: It List