Two hundred and thirteen students graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Saturday, May 17, during the 2014 Commencement Exercises – the University's 105th Commencement ceremony. President Linda Schott conferred degrees for the 2013-2014 academic year upon 138 students who participated in the ceremony held in Wieden Gymnasium.
Ellis Paul, the nationally acclaimed folk singer-songwriter, addressed the graduates as this year's commencement speaker and also offered up a very special musical presentation. During the graduation event, he was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.
A veteran, constantly-touring troubadour, Ellis Paul is one of the most respected artists in the folk genre. As one of the top American singer-songwriters, Ellis Paul has won numerous national awards including an unprecedented 14 Boston Music Awards. His literate streak has inspired the frequent use of his songs in TV shows as well as several blockbuster Hollywood films with stars such as Jim Carrey, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black.
He has performed with countless acclaimed musicians, including: Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Patty Griffin, John Mayer, Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin, and the country band, Sugarland. At the request of Woody Guthrie's daughter Nora, Ellis was invited to the Woody Guthrie archives, picked an unreleased lyric and wrote the song God's Promise which is an official co-write with his hero, Woody Guthrie.
In addition to performing more than 150 shows annually for the past 25 years, Ellis Paul has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., The Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio, Carnegie Hall in New York City, as well as festivals, clubs, schools and community coffeehouses all over the globe. Through the record label Black Wolf Records, which he co-founded in 1994, he has released over 20 musical projects, as well as books and films/videos.
During UMPI's commencement exercises, University of Maine System Board of Trustees Chair Samuel W. Collins delivered greetings. Stephen D. Richard, UMPI Board of Visitors Chair, William A. Breton, UMPI Faculty Assembly Chair, and Joshua C. MacKinnon, President of the Class of 2014, offered remarks on behalf of each organization, respectively.
"We are very proud of our Class of 2014 and the hard work they have done to get to this special moment," President Schott said. "Members of this year's class are looking forward to careers in areas from healthcare and education to criminal justice and communication. Whether they are traditional students, commuters, non-traditional students or online students, they've balanced jobs, family life, and other responsibilities while attending classes, taking part in student organizations and athletics, and otherwise embracing their college experience. Now they're ready to spread their wings and fly. We wish them every success as they leave here, and we hope to see them return to us many times, both for fellowship and to share their expertise with future classes."
This year's Commencement was live streamed on the University's website so family and friends who couldn't attend would have the opportunity to see the Class of 2014 graduate. Viewers from around the world were expected to tune in for the ceremony.
Another special component of this year's event was the first-ever pinning of all marching graduates with a special symbol of campus. Each graduate was given a lapel pin depicting a snowy owl with its wings outstretched in flight. Meant to symbolize how each of them is spreading their wings and soaring on to great heights, graduates were asked "Where will your wings take you?" They will have the opportunity to share their stories—about contributions they make in their career fields, ways that they serve their communities, and adventures that they have around the world—on a new website that has been created, www.umpi.edu/yourwings. All alums, not just this year's graduating class are encouraged to add their stories on this site.
A reception for graduates, family and friends was held in the Campus Center immediately following the ceremony.