At this year’s commencement ceremony, Keene State College will grant two honorary degrees and the annual Granite State Award. Honorary degrees are given to individuals who have represented distinguished work in any field. The Granite State Award is given to an organization or business who has accomplished exemplary work in the state of New Hampshire.
Dr. Robert Putnam will receive the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Local business leader and KSC alumnus Leonard Chaloux will receive the Honorary Doctor of Science. The Historical Society of Cheshire County (HSCC) will receive this year’s Granite State Award.
Putnam was a faculty member at Harvard University for many years and remains there today as a research professor. He has written 15 books that have been translated into 20 languages. He currently lives in Jaffrey with his wife after making it their home base about 25 years ago.
“Because of that, we’ve had some contact with Keene State. I’ve spoken there several times and my wife was a special education teacher so she’s taken some courses there,” Putnam said. “The bottom line is, I think of myself as a neighbor to Keene State and have for a long time.”
Putnam’s work over the last 25 years is mostly about communities in the United States and the degree to which people are connecting or not connecting. He spoke at KSC two years ago about his book “Our Kids,” which is about the growing gap between wealthy children and lower class children. He is also currently working on what he believes will be his last book about the ups and downs of American society over the last 125 years.
“It’s a great pleasure to be honored by essentially your friends and neighbors,” Putnam said. “That’s why this honor from Keene State is so important, because it’s where I live. It’s one thing to get an honor from Oxford or some other place, it’s another thing to get an honor from your own hometown and local university.”
Chaloux graduated from KSC in 1974 with an Associates Degree in Science- Manufacturing Process Technology and has lived in Keene for most of his life. After graduating and working in the field for over 25 years, Chaloux got the opportunity to start a company in Keene called Moore Nanotechnology Systems LLC. From the time he started the company in 1997 and was the only employee at the Keene location, he has grown it into a company that needed to build a larger building in Swanzey and now employs just under 100 people. He now has 45 years of industry experience and has travelled to 27 countries for work.
“We (Moore Nanotech) approached Keene, the computer science program specifically, and said we’d be interested in some of the computer science graduates you have coming up, but in order to make it more interesting to them and to apply to what we’re doing, it would be good to try to integrate higher level mathematics into the program and some of the general skills that are required from the SPDI program, which is basic programming and processing and design, which Keene State did agree to do,” Chaloux said.
His company was then able to work with KSC to help develop that program and were able to hire some of the graduates out of the program directly.
“It’s obviously a tremendous honor and I’m very proud. It’s an honor to get it from the same college I was able get my basic start in education, which makes it very special,” Chaloux said.
HSCC is a nonprofit organization that helps keep Cheshire County’s history alive. Through exhibits, events and education, the organization preserves local history. The award will be accepted by HSCC Executive Director Alan Rumrill on behalf of the organization.
“We are delighted to be receiving that award as an organization, and we are very pleased with our relationship with the college, all the collaboration we do with them and throughout community to share the history of the region,” Rumrill said.
The commencement ceremony will take place on May 11 on Fiske Quad.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at