Giving back to her community has always been a part of Roberta Griffiths’ life. When she is not directing the choir at her church, she is actively involved with various committees at UMPI and Presque Isle. “I love it here,” Griffiths said, fondly. “I’ve always felt it important to stay involved with the community. There are so many great things this area has provided me, I try to give back as much as possible.”
Griffiths’ connection with UMPI began when she enrolled as a student in 1978. While a student, she majored in English and minored in music. “I always say that I threw my apron off to finish my education!” Griffiths said. “Raising children and going to school can be difficult, but I was determined. I knew what I wanted to do.” She gives credit to her husband as well for being fully supportive of her decision to go back to school: “I really couldn’t have done it without him.” Griffiths graduated from UMPI in 1982.
Reflecting on her time at UMPI, Griffiths described it as a “wonderful experience.” She remembers the dedication professors had to their students. One of her music professors, Jan Kok, had a particularly large influence on her. “He was such a great teacher,” Griffiths said. “He really knew how to inspire his students.” Griffiths and Kok maintain a connection to this day, meeting every week to play in a recorder consort.
After graduating from UMPI, Griffiths made it a point to stay active with the university. She was a charter member of the Board of Visitors, which, among other things, provides input to UMPI on regional and community needs. Griffiths is also a member of the university’s Foundation Executive Board, Annual Fund and Special Projects committees. In addition, Griffiths has also served on two search committees to help determine the UMPI president.
Due to her commitment and volunteer work at UMPI and in the community, Griffiths and her husband, David Griffiths, were awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2010. “I was so humbled to receive such an award,” Griffiths recalls. “It truly was one of the proudest moments of my life.”
The dedication Griffiths brings to UMPI is valued by other members of the community. “Roberta really values UMPI as a part of her community,” Kim-Anne Perkins, a professor at UMPI and long-time friend of Griffiths, said. “She is a person who is very civic-minded and takes pride in UMPI and all that it offers. Giving back to the college is very important to her.”
Perhaps the most pivotal role Griffiths plays at UMPI is her work on the UMPI Foundation Board, which she has been a part of for more than 15 years. The main goal of the foundation is to assess the fundraising needs aligned with priorities of the UMPI institution, especially in the area of student scholarships and capital projects. The foundation provides the opportunity for alumni, businesses and other individuals to establish scholarships, something Griffiths has been very involved in. One year, Griffiths and other foundation members were able to raise $5,000 for a scholarship they had started in honor of a close member of the UMPI community. The scholarship still receives donations.
Griffiths takes pride in her work on the UMPI Foundation Board. “By establishing scholarships and encouraging others, the foundation is able to help make County students’ academic dreams achievable,” Griffiths said. “Some students may not be able to afford college, so it’s important for us at the foundation to give students the means to go to school. The scholarships encourage kids to stay in the County during college and after graduation, which helps the community as a whole.”
Griffiths’ volunteer work extends beyond the UMPI campus. She is part of the Presque Isle Garden Club, which established an Environmental Education Scholarship with the Foundation. The scholarship is awarded every year to students majoring in biology or environmental studies. Recipients of the award have included nontraditional students, such as parents who have decided to earn a degree.
Griffiths is also a handbell ringing instructor in UMPI’s SAGE program, an entity that gives adults 50 and older opportunities for greater education. Along with this, she is also the adult choir and handbell director at the Congregational Church in Presque Isle.
One of Griffiths’ goals is to encourage young adults to succeed in college. “Students should take advantage of everything that they can,” Griffiths said. “That means making friends with the professors and feeling confident in your work,” she adds.
With the amount of time and commitment she has put into UMPI, it is clear Griffiths has done just that.