SNHU President Paul Leblanc (left) and Edward S. Wolak (right) pose with the mural commemorating Wolak’s service to the SNHU Board of Trustees (image courtesy: Gil Talbot)

A portrait was unveiled in the honor of Edward S. Wolak at the Edward S. Wolak Library Learning Commons on May 4. Many members of the SNHU community attended the event, including SNHU President, Paul Leblanc, and Wolak himself. The portrait, painted by Richard Whitney, is located in the library atrium beside the fireplace.

Wolak’s term as a Board of Trustees member ended this past October; the school wanted to recognize his time with a commemorative gift. “When Ed finished up with his Board role, we wanted to give him a suitable gift to thank him,” said Leblanc. “We do something for each board member who has served, [so] I called Debby [Wolak’s wife] to see what he would like. [I suggested that] we could hang a portrait of Ed in the library and she said that Ed would love that. We arranged with Richard, [as] he is very well recognized, and, thankfully, he is [in] great health and was willing to do the portrait, and here it is today.”

Wolak was the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Wolak Group. According to The Wolak Group’s website, they own and operate 95 Dunkin’ restaurants in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. Wolak began his business career at Southern New Hampshire University, where he earned a B.S. in Business Management and a minor in Finance in 1974.

“I met Ed when he was nominated to join our Board of Trustees…more than ten years ago,” said Leblanc. “I remember hearing his story and being so impressed; it is an amazing rags-to-riches story. He’s a great guy that is so down-to-earth but is also so dedicated. He has this real sense of gratitude for what was then New Hampshire College, and what it did for him, [so he] had a real desire to give back.”

During his speech at the event, Wolak expressed his gratitude for SNHU. “It was here that I learned about business, finance, and marketing, and helped me launch a career with Dunkin’ even though I didn’t have a penny in my pocket,” said Wolak.

As emphasized by Wolak, seeing his face in a portrait was intriguing, but an honor nonetheless. “To have your likeness captured in perpetuity is a strange feeling, and to have it done by a painter of Richard Whitney’s caliber is such a privilege,” said Wolak. “He is universally recognized as one of America’s true masters of contemporary realism, and I am humbled to be among a long list of far more famous and noble people that Richard has painted.”

With the portrait now displayed, Wolak’s contributions, including a donation to fund the Library Learning Commons, will be remembered by the SNHU community.

“I am reminded that long after I am gone, this portrait will be viewed by future generations. The internal spirit and energy of this artwork will provide a sense of connection, history, and inspiration for the [SNHU] community, and for that I am humbled and forever grateful,” said Wolak. “As flattered as I am by Richard’s portrait, it is not what you look like or what you do that matters, and one could say that it was my stewardship and contributions to this great university that justifies this honor, but I think of my relationship with [SNHU] as a life long partnership.”