Colleagues mourn state rep, union head and FPU professor Doug Ley

  • Doug Ley Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/11/2021 2:05:21 PM

Longtime state representative and Franklin Pierce University history professor Douglas Ley, 62, died at his Jaffrey home on Thursday, family members announced Friday.

Ley’s son, Ethan, posted on CaringBridge, an  online tool for sharing health updates, on Friday, announcing Ley’s passing.

“Dad spent his last day here at home in a peaceful state surrounded by his family. We are all comforted in knowing that we were able to respect his wishes to bring him home and give him a taste of New Glarus Spotted Cow beer before he passed away late last night,” he wrote. 

Dr. Sarah Dangelantonio became faculty around the same time as Ley at Franklin Pierce University, and said the two and their families became close friends outside of work, and spent Christmas together almost every year.

“He had a lot of loves. Diverse music, good barbecue, craft beers, and family and friends,” Dangelantonio said. “He was absolutely committed to his students, and generous with his time and expertise.”

Ley was known around campus for his booming voice, and Dangelantonio said there were many times when she was teaching down the hall from him, and would have to close the classroom door because his voice would still ring clear several rooms away.

“He never did anything halfway. He had a keen wit, and did not suffer fools lightly. He was not afraid to call something what it was, there was no sugar coating anything.”

Dangelantonio said news of Ley’s death “rocked the campus community,” and that he was “genuinely respected, and loved as a human being,” by both students and faculty.

Mary C. Kelly, who taught history alongside Ley at Franklin Pierce University, said in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Friday Ley’s passing was quite sudden after a short illness.

“He had such a big reach in the state and region. He touched a lot of people. A lot of people.”

Kelly said Ley was a “Renaissance man” who was a politician, historian, professor and mentor to generations of students, as well as faculty.

“He had the courage of his convictions,” Kelly said. “He worked hard and energetically and passionately, all the time. He sought to improve life at Pierce for the entire campus community. He spoke truth to power. But he was a warm and dear friend, also. His passing just leaves us at an enormous loss, and a bright light has been extinguished at Franklin Pierce with his passing.”

Ley has been a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives since 2012. He served on the House Labor Committee from 2012 until 2018, and served as the House Majority Leader in 2019 and 2020.

U.S. Senator and former New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan tweeted her condolences Friday. 

“Doug was a champion for public education and working families – and his dedication to serving others touched the lives of many across the Granite State,” Hassan wrote. 

Former House Speaker Steve Shurtleff issued a statement Friday recalling his time working with Ley in the State House.

 “I admired his incredible intellect and ability to bring people together,” Shurtleff wrote. “Doug’s booming laugh could often be heard throughout the halls of the State House, and it always brought joy to those around him. The respect and love that Doug had for his staff and colleagues in the legislature embodied him as a person. It will be a long time before New Hampshire sees another man like Doug Ley.”

Dick Ames of Jaffrey, who served in the House of Representatives with Ley, said in an interview Friday that his death is “a huge loss to the people who knew him, to his friends, students and to his colleagues.”

“Doug Ley was a good man, kind, thoughtful, caring about others and the direction we were moving as a state,” Ames said. “He wanted to see the people who were being left out get more and a fair deal. He worked hard to move the world we knew in that direction. He was devoted to the labor movement, his family, the legislature and democracy in a larger sense.”

Ley has also been a professor at Franklin Pierce specializing in history for decades. He was president of the teacher’s union at Franklin Pierce University, as well as president of the American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire.

John Daly, FPU class of 1995, was a student of Ley’s and kept in contact with him up until his passing. He said  was an advisor and a mentor.

“I was not the most successful high school student, and he made history fun and exciting. I started to excel, which was a new experience for me,” Daly said. Daly said he remembers Ley taking his class on a Saturday trip to the Tenement Museum in New York City, and celebrating the end of the school year at gatherings at Ley’s home in Jaffrey.

“He was part of what made Pierce special,” Daly said.

Daly, who now lives in Washington D.C. and works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency,  went on to law school after Franklin Piece, and said when he initially struggled, he couldn’t quit, because he knew Ley would be disappointed in him.

“I was more afraid of telling him I had dropped out of law school than my parents. So I toughed it out,” Daly said. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it weren’t for Doug. He was always encouraging and teaching us. I’m devastated. He’ll be a voice missed in the legislature and a voice missed at Pierce.”

Andrew Clavie-Parker, who graduated Franklin Pierce as a history major in 2009, said when he first toured the campus, Ley and Kelly were one of the reasons he initially decided to select Franklin Pierce. Clavie-Parker said Ley helped to recommend him for additional scholarship funds and for multiple professional positions. That dedication to his student’s success wasn’t unusual, other graduates said.

Terrell Boston-Smith of Baltimore, who graduated Franklin Pierce University in 2005, said Ley was the advisor for Brothers Reaching Out, an organization for men of color who offered each other support, and was a big influence in his college life.

“He took every opportunity to encourage and nurture students, and ensure they graduated,” Boston-Smith said. “It was a big deal. He was committed to our in tellectual engagement, but also our success. His service as a legislature was only a piece of his commitment to everyone's ability to live and thrive. He really lived by the thought that we had a responsibility to pull the moral arc of the universe closer to justice.”


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