Heidi Duncanson | Development and Communications Coordinator
When Barbara Newall was a student at the University of New Hampshire in the 1940s, she could not have predicted where her ties to the school and the New Hampshire Seacoast would lead her decades later.
Growing up, Barbara got an early introduction to the ocean. Her family summered in Lanesville, MA and often visited Portsmouth, Hampton and the Isles of Shoals. Barbara loved anything related to the water. At the University of New Hampshire, she once again enjoyed easy access to the coastline. After graduating in 1950, she became an occupational therapist and rose to be the head of occupational therapy at the Veterans Hospital in West Roxbury. MA.
As an active member of the UNH Boston Alumni Club, Barbara maintained many connections to her alma mater. In the 1970s, she was one of the first eight people trained as UNH Marine Docents by professor Jerry Chase. Thus began her long relationship with what would become the Seacoast Science Center.
“Barbara has been a board member since before there was a Seacoast Science Center Board,” said Wendy Lull, President Emerita of the Center. “She was a member of the Friends of Odiorne Point Board, which later merged into the Seacoast Science Center, and played a role in building the Center from a seasonal nature center to the year-round marine education center it is today.”
Barbara recalls the early days when volunteers would offer just six weeks of programming in the summer. “We wanted to see the program grow, so we worked to try and get grants, we trained docents to conduct rocky shore education and trail walks, and we put on many fundraisers,” she said. One in particular she remembers was held during a Nor’easter with no power but that didn’t stop Barbara and her group—they got lots of candles from the Yoken’s gift shop and held the event anyway. She is also proud of bringing in the first $10,000 gift to kick off the capital campaign to build the Seacoast Science Center. The State of NH issued a challenge match of $400,000 and the Friends of Odiorne Point went above and beyond to raise $450,000 from the community.
Wendy Lull remembers that “Barbara was the first person to greet me on my very first day at the Center. Back then, there was just one room with heat and a phone. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but very glad to see a friendly face. She gave me my first on-the-ground introduction to what happened at the seasonal center, which was the basis for the Center’s first season. Her insight and friendly support were so valuable that first day and remain so today. The context she adds to our board meetings and general discussion are so important. Personally, I count on her passion, energy and just love of the place and our mission to lift me up and remind me of the true value of our work here.”
In 2008, Barbara received the prestigious Profile of Service Award from the University of New Hampshire, in recognition of her involvement as a volunteer with many worthy causes. She is particularly proud of her work with the Seacoast Science Center. “I’m thrilled at how the Center has been able to grow and change thanks to Wendy’s leadership and the support of so many people,” she enthused. “I was especially proud of the outstanding response the Center was able to make to the stranding of Snowplow the humpback whale this past year. The team was so prepared and organized. The Seacoast Science Center has great people and resources.”