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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

As he rose to prominence in Washington, Rudman never forgot his Nashua roots, friends say

NASHUA – Warren Rudman’s name may front the federal court building in Concord, but even in death, Rudman’s heart remains in Nashua, according to friends and colleagues.

The former U.S. senator was born in Boston, and he died Monday night in Washington, D.C. But he was raised in Nashua, in a home on Chester Street. ...

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NASHUA – Warren Rudman’s name may front the federal court building in Concord, but even in death, Rudman’s heart remains in Nashua, according to friends and colleagues.

The former U.S. senator was born in Boston, and he died Monday night in Washington, D.C. But he was raised in Nashua, in a home on Chester Street.

Even as he rose to prominence in Concord and Washington, he continued to call the Gate City home.

“He never forgot his Nashua roots,” former Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter said Tuesday, recalling his longtime friend, who helped to found Daniel Webster College, among other local institutions.

“He really cared about the city,” added Hannah McCarthy, the former college president who led the school while Rudman served on the board. “We’ll miss him very much.”

Rudman never held elected office in the city.

Growing up, he attended Nashua public schools and graduated from Syracuse University in New York.

After returning from a tour in the Korean War, he attended night classes at Boston College Law School.

Within several years, he developed a reputation as a fierce and successful lawyer in the firm Stein, Rudman and Gormley.

“He practiced all kinds of law. He was very good,” said Gerry Nash, a Nashua developer who worked with Rudman on several occasions. “When they got to the courtroom, people knew who they were dealing with.”

Rudman’s first foray into politics came in 1967, when Nashua resident Walter Peterson, then speaker of the state House of Representatives, launched a run for governor.

Peterson, a longtime family friend, asked Rudman to serve as finance chairman for his campaign.

And when he won the election, Peterson appointed Rudman as his legal counsel. After two years in the corner office, Peterson went on to select Rudman to serve as the state’s attorney general, a nomination quickly confirmed by the state’s Executive Council.

“We all felt that he was an excellent choice,” said Streeter, who sat on the council at the time.

“He was obviously a moderate and he worked very well across the aisle and established good relationships.” Streeter said. “He was a terrific attorney general.”

Rudman continued his rise from there, serving two terms in the U.S. Senate from 1981-93. But as his national profile rose, he remained committed to Nashua, and especially Daniel Webster College, colleagues said.

In his time in Washington, Rudman continued to serve on the college board, helping to shape and direct the school he helped launch 20 years earlier with friends James Tamposi and Harry J. Sheffield.

Rudman dedicated thousands of hours to planning and guiding the school as it grew over the years, according to McCarthy, who served as the school president from 1977-2004.

“He was a huge proponent of education,” she said. “Having a private college delivering in a specialty area was something he wanted to see flourish. … He made it happen.”

Rudman remained on the college’s board of trustees until he retired from the U.S. Senate in 1993.

Even in his retirement, when he worked as a lobbyist and a political leader, he continued to work for the school, McCarthy said.

“He was always working with the federal government to get grants, things of that nature,” she said. “He was a visionary. He was brilliant, and he knew how to make things happen.”

Even as he faded into retirement, moving to Hollis, he remained a part of the local community, playing regular rounds of golf at the Nashua Country Club.

“Many times you could find him there eating Sunday breakfast and playing a round of golf,” said Streeter. “He had a lot of friends around here, and he cared for the city very much. … He never forgot where he came from.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Berry on Twitter (Telegraph_JakeB).