Paul LeBlanc named 2023 Citizen of the Year by Greater Manchester Chamber

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Greater Manchester Chamber’s 2023 Citizen of the Year Paul LeBlanc.

MANCHESTER, NH  – The Greater Manchester Chamber (GMC) is pleased to announce Dr. Paul J. LeBlanc, President & CEO of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) as its next Citizen of the Year. LeBlanc will be honored on Tuesday, April 11 at the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Celebration, taking place at 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown. This annual event, presented by The Elliot, is an opportunity for Chamber members, community members, friends, family, and colleagues of LeBlanc to celebrate his accomplishments and his dedication to the city of Manchester.

LeBlanc has driven prolific, progressive, and positive impact on a global scale and here in Manchester, especially to those most in need. All the actions he takes and directs are done with the wish to make the world a better place by making opportunities accessible. Under LeBlanc’s leadership, SNHU has grown from 2,800 students to over 175,000 learners and became the largest nonprofit provider of online higher education in the country. LeBlanc immigrated to the United States as a child and immediately understood the importance of education and how it can change the trajectory of one’s life. He was the first person in his extended family to attend college and is a graduate of Framingham State University (BA), Boston College (MA) and the University of Massachusetts (PhD). From 1993 to 1996 he directed a technology startup for Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company, was President of Marlboro College (VT) from 1996 to 2003 and became President of SNHU in 2003.

Since becoming president of SNHU 20 years ago, Paul has shaped the school from a small business college into a thriving, innovative, and global institution. Today, SNHU employs more than 5,000 individuals in the region and has brought diverse talent to Manchester from all over the world.

LeBlanc’s vision and willingness to disrupt the status quo has redefined higher education for hundreds of thousands of adult students over the last two decades. Examples of this are apparent through the many community projects and initiatives born within the think tank that is SNHU. Recognizing the need for employers to attract and retain talent, SNHU created its competency-based, workforce applicable College for America (CFA) program.

“I have seen firsthand how this program has provided opportunities for education, professional development, and career advancement,” said Lisa Guertin, former President, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire, who worked closely with LeBlanc to establish a unique collaboration over a decade ago to offer no-cost college degrees to NH Based Anthem Associates through CFA.

LeBlanc extends his commitment to solving problems with access to education globally. Since 2017 SNHU’s Global Education Movement has offered high-quality, low-cost degrees to refugees and vulnerable learners around the world. With more than 800 current students in this program and 5,000 alumni across five countries, SNHU has helped displaced learners gain the academic skills to transform their lives for the better. In 2017, SNHU founded the Center for New Americans in partnership with YWCA NH to serve the needs of the New American community in Manchester, providing programming for newly resettled youth and their families. For adults, the Center seeks to advance continuing education for New Americans as well as create pathways for employment. The Center’s foundational promise is to provide a safe space that welcomes anyone who enters, no matter his or her or their path to get there. Through his commitment to build organizations like this, LeBlanc has been a major force in leading the region for a more inclusive and diverse economy.

“Paul has changed hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world by giving so many the tools to make a better life, the daring to dream a better future, and the hope and focus to realize their success,” said Howard Brodsky, Chairman, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, CCA Global Partners. “What is most amazing about his work at SNHU is that he has grown the university in size, scope, and quality with laser focus on serving the populations that are most at need, and with the least opportunities. Many of the individuals impacted by Paul and SNHU are anchored right here in the greater Manchester area,” added Brodsky.

LeBlanc continues to push others to consider, “How do we make education more accessible for those who can’t afford it?”  While his contributions to higher education have been transformational, his contributions to the Manchester community have had just as tremendous of an impact. LeBlanc’s outreach has touched more than just education. Placing themselves at the forefront of COVID-19 response efforts in the state, LeBlanc guided the designation of the SNHU facilities as a remote hospital auxiliary site for overflow COVID-19 patients, and then as a vaccination site. With a focus on food insecurity and cooperation with the Manchester School District, Granite United Way and Granite YMCA, SNHU provided more than 215,000 meals to young people and families in need throughout the community.

“Paul LeBlanc has been an unwavering advocate for the residents of this community and used his impeccable leadership at Southern New Hampshire University to not only lift up his students, but to lift up our entire community,” said Joyce Craig, Mayor of Manchester. “Paul’s presidency has helped shape our city into what it is today,” said Craig.

SNHU has updated technology labs in schools across the city, built two soccer mini pitches in underserved neighborhoods, and partnered with the City to offer free college tuition to Manchester students who, without assistance, would otherwise not have been able to attend school due to the hardships imposed by COVID-19. LeBlanc and his team are also coalition partners for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge and will help administer an $8,000,000 program focused on equitable workforce development here in Manchester, ensuring that our existing workers will benefit as our economy grows.

Paul LeBlanc’s nomination for Citizen of the Year was championed by Peter Ramsey, President and CEO of The Palace Theatres and Past Citizen of the Year. In his nomination, Ramsey said that “Under Dr. LeBlanc’s leadership, the substantial growth of SNHU has had significant, positive impact on Manchester and the region. In addition to the ongoing expansion and modernization of its campus in North Manchester, the college’s other interests in the Millyard are exceptionally maintained and provide a welcome sight for residents and guests alike as they drive within or enter our city.”

LeBlanc’s vision has transformed the city and region’s infrastructure, having revitalized one of Manchester’s historic mill buildings and bringing parking infrastructure to the area.

“The best way to describe Paul’s impact on our community is that he inspires us to do more for others. Paul’s imprint on higher education and the city of Manchester is significant, and his contributions will impact our community for decades to come,” said Diane Fitzpatrick, CEO, Boys & Girls Club of Manchester.

Civic engagement is a value LeBlanc emulates, having served as Senior Policy Advisor under Secretary Ted Mitchell at the U.S. Department of Education, working on competency-based education, new accreditation pathways and innovation. He serves on the American Council of Education (ACE) Board, and served on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Board on Higher Education and Workforce. During the second year of his tenure, SNHU created The Chandler Center, with a fundamental purpose to engage and empower on-campus students to be active citizens through the creation and sustaining of service and leadership opportunities. Additionally, every year, hundreds of SNHU students and employees, who are provided paid time off to volunteer for local non-profit organizations, do so by giving their energy to improve the lives of those in Greater Manchester.

LeBlanc’s impact hasn’t gone unnoticed over the years. SNHU was #12 on Fast Company’s “World’s Fifty Most Innovative Companies,” list. Forbes magazine has listed him as one of its 15 “Classroom Revolutionaries,” and one of the “most influential people in higher education.” Washington Monthly named him one of America’s ten most innovative university presidents. In 2018 Paul won the prestigious TIAA Institute Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence and Higher Education, joining some of the most respected university and college presidents in American higher education. LeBlanc has helped to make SNHU an inclusive place to work, recognized by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for Women” in the U.S. in 2022, and named a “Great College to Work For” for 15 consecutive years as part of the Great Colleges program.

Since 1954, the Greater Manchester Chamber has presented one outstanding individual the Citizen of the Year Award. This exceptional group of community leaders has been paramount in shaping the GMC’s agenda and the community. The Citizen of the Year award recognizes an individual with significant leadership and citizenship in the community, while demonstrating exemplary vision, civic pride, and commitment to the betterment of society. To be nominated, the individual should live in the greater Manchester area and his or her activities should be centered in the same area. Recognition is given for leadership and performance in several areas of community service over a period of years.

“We are honored and thrilled to be recognizing Paul LeBlanc as our Citizen of the Year,” said Heather McGrail, President & CEO, Greater Manchester Chamber. “Leadership and personal integrity are at the core of what it means to be a Citizen of the Year. Paul has embodied a deep commitment to service in the pursuit of lifting and empowering others throughout his entire career.”

Paul LeBlanc will be recognized as the Citizen of the Year at the Greater Manchester Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Celebration, presented by The Elliot, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, at 5 p.m. For more information, please visit www.manchester-chamber.org/citizen-of-the-year-celebration. Sponsorship of this event makes it possible for the Manchester community to celebrate LeBlanc, spread his message of integrity and service, and will support the Chamber’s mission to strengthen our business community. For more information about sponsorships and table sales, email sponsorship@manchester-chamber.org.


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Greater Manchester Chamber