News & Events

Four honored with UMPI alumni awards

The University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Alumni Association presented four awards of distinction during Homecoming 2019 activities. The annual alumni award presentations were made during the new Alumni and Friends Blue and Gold Evening.

Heidi Rackliffe was honored with the Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award, Alan Gordon received the Faculty/Staff Award, Marcelle Durost was the recipient of the Distinguished Educator Award, and Dr. Rhonda Clements was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Heidi Rackliffe, Class of 2009, received the Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award, presented to an UMPI alumnus/alumna for outstanding professional achievement, contributions to community, and exemplary service to the University. The recipient must have completed their degree within the last 10 years.

Rackliffe received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from UMPI in 2009. She went on to work at the Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP) as a Case Manager and currently holds the title of Director of the new Hope and Prosperity Resource Center and Coaching Supervisor. “Coaching” is a program designed to help others leave a potential crisis lifestyle and gain stability in their lives.

She was instrumental in the creation of the Community Cupboard Project, which meets the needs of those who are unable to obtain food from a local food pantry. Following the first cupboard located at ACAP, 11 additional cupboards have been built across Aroostook from Madawaska to Houlton. Rackliffe has also testified in Augusta in support of a bill that would remove barriers for those she serves, which was passed unanimously and recently made law.

Rackliffe is currently a director of the Presque Isle Kiwanis Club, where she co-chairs the Christmas Project, the Monster Mash Family Halloween Dance, and the PI Kiwanis Gala, a yearly fundraiser for community projects. As secretary for the Washburn PTO, she established the school’s “Beaver Den,” where items students may need are available to access at no charge. She also serves as a board member for Washburn’s After School Program and is an active member of the Aroostook Community Collaborative.

Alan Gordon, Class of 1987, was honored with the Faculty/Staff Award, presented to an UMPI faculty or staff member for exemplary service to University alumni. Nominations are accepted from members of the alumni association, with any faculty or staff member past or present eligible for consideration. Gordon is Lecturer of Physical Education, Head Men’s Soccer Coach, and Athletic Compliance Officer at UMPI.

Gordon received his Bachelor’s degree in Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance from UMPI in 1987 and a Master’s degree in Pedagogy from Ithaca College in 1990. A member of his professional organization, The Maine Association of Physical Education, Health, Recreation, and Dance (MAHPERD) for the past 28 years, Gordon has impacted hundreds of students, alumni, and their colleagues in the region. He also has been involved as a committee member for the State of Maine Learning Results, UMPI Hall of Fame Committee, UMPI Pride Committee, and adviser to the UMPI PE Majors Club.

He has coached and taught numerous men’s soccer, women’s basketball, and physical education students during his time at UMPI. His students have gone on to coach and teach at schools in Maine and throughout the U.S. Eleven of Gordon’s Women’s Basketball players and five of his Men’s Soccer players are members of the UMPI Hall of Fame.

Gordon’s nominator noted that he has received over two dozen of Gordon’s students as future physical education instructors as they fulfill their requirement for student teaching. Their degree of professionalism, confidence, knowledge, poise, and discipline are directly associated with Gordon and his ability to prepare these young educators to be successful.

Marcelle Durost, Class of 1976, received the Distinguished Educator Award, presented to an alumnus/alumna who has received ongoing recognition as an outstanding educator. This recipient may also have shown active or supportive involvement with the Alumni Association, support of the University, a successful career that reflects well on the University, and outstanding leadership qualities. Durost has been an educator for 42 years, and recently retired.

Durost received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from UMPI in 1976, a Master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Maine in 1982, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from the University of Maine in 1989. Following graduation from UMPI, she was hired as a long-term substitute teacher in a multi-age classroom in Topsfield, Maine, and then worked for 10 years as a teacher in grades K-8. In 1986, she was hired as a teaching principal, and, over the next 32 years, she held administrative positions as a special education director, principal, and assistant superintendent. Durost ended her career as interim administrator at the Horace Mitchell School in Kittery.

She has served as state representative for Maine to the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) national conference. She was awarded the NAESP Sharing the Dream Award 2009: 10 Profiles of Best Practices Taking Literacy to the Next Level Initiative while working in RSU 25.

Durost has been a member of the National Association for Elementary School Principals, the Maine Principals’ Association, the Professional Management Committee (MPA), the Down East Principal’s Regional Group, the Down East Principal Book Study Facilitator, and the Bucksport Bay Early Childhood Network.

Dr. Rhonda Clements, Class of 1977, was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award, presented to an alumnus/alumna who has made long-term contributions to the Alumni Association or the University, or has received professional recognition that reflects positively on the University. She is Program Director and Professor for the Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy master’s program at Manhattanville College.

Dr. Clements received her Bachelor’s degree in P.E., Recreation, and Dance from UMPI in 1977, a Master’s degree from the University of Maine in 1978, and a Master’s degree in 1984 and her Doctorate, both from the Teachers College, Columbia University.

She has authored or edited 11 books in the area of movement, play, and game activities for children and has written 50 articles concerning the need for physical play. She has presented at 70 national, international, state, and local conferences. She was one of eight national experts to contribute to Active Start: A Statement of Physical Activity Guidelines for Birth to Five Years, a document sponsored by SHAPE America. She is the recipient of the Early Childhood News’ Director’s Choice Award for the Let’s Move, Let’s Play product.

Dr. Clements is a past president of the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play (IPA/USA), and has served as a training consultant to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She conducted a national survey aimed at investigating the extent to which children are playing outdoors today, the results of which have been cited in 400 other research studies. She is a past associate editor of an international online journal and is serving on UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Unit.

All awardees were honored during the Alumni and Friends Blue and Gold Evening on Sept. 28. These awards will be presented next in Fall 2021, during UMPI’s Homecoming celebrations. For more information on the Alumni Association awards, please contact Craig Cormier at 207-768-9425 or craig.cormier@maine.edu.