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Pelletier to speak, McCrea to be honored during UMPI’s 115th Commencement

University of Maine at Presque Isle President Ray Rice has announced that Cathie Pelletier, nationally-acclaimed author and County native, will deliver the commencement address. In addition, Pelletier and David McCrea, former Maine State Representative, local educator, and UMPI alumnus, will receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees during the University’s 115th Commencement Ceremony, to be held on Saturday, May 4, 2024.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to be honoring two individuals who have had such an incredible impact on our region and the world around them during this year’s commencement exercises,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “Cathie and David have been such strong supporters of our institution and northern Maine. We know they’ll leave our Class of 2024 inspired as they look to make their own impact in their careers and communities.”

Portrait photo of Cathie PelletierCathie Pelletier is the author of 16 books, two of which have received notable mentions from the New York Times Book Review. Her first novel, The Funeral Makers, was published by Macmillan in 1986. Her most recent book, Northeaster, A Story of Courage & Survival in the Blizzard of 1952, was released last year by Pegasus Books/Simon & Schuster. In between, she wrote The Weight of Winter (winner of the New England Booksellers Award) and Running the Bulls (winner of the Paterson Prize for Fiction). She and theoretical physicist and National Medal of Science recipient S. James Gates, Jr. co-authored Proving Einstein Right, which received the Brown University Book Award for 2020.

Under the pseudonym of K. C. McKinnon, Pelletier wrote Dancing at the Harvest Moon and Candles on Bay Street, both with Doubleday, the latter earning a million-dollar advance. Harvest Moon was printed in 22 languages and was a CBS film starring Jacqueline Bisset and Valerie Harper. Candles was translated into 16 languages and was a Hallmark Hall of Fame film starring Alicia Silverstone.

Pelletier created and sold to Simon & Schuster a book for country music icon Tanya Tucker, titled 100 Ways to Beat the Blues. She co-wrote The Christmas Note with her friend and Grand Old Opry legend, the late Skeeter Davis. She also has co-written songs that were recorded by David Byrne (of the Talking Heads), the Texas Tornadoes, and others. She and Tanya Tucker are working on a children’s book.

Producer Gabrielle Tana recently optioned Pelletier’s novel The Funeral Makers for Doug Liman to direct and Pelletier to adapt. Pelletier has worked on several film projects with Grammy winner and AFI founder George Stevens, Jr., and she and actor Donald Sutherland have collaborated on one of her original screenplays. She and Dateline’s Andrea Canning are currently pitching a TV show that Pelletier created.

She has been praised by writers ranging from Stephen King and Richard Russo to Fannie Flagg and Kurt Vonnegut, and her works have been featured by publications from the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times to Vogue and The New Yorker.

Pelletier was born and raised on the banks of the St. John River in Allagash, Maine. After years of living in Nashville, Tennessee; Toronto, Canada; and Eastman, Quebec, she returned to Allagash and the family homestead where she was born.

Portrait photo of David McCrea.David McCrea was born in Fort Fairfield in 1946 and has lived there all his life. He taught science in the Fort Fairfield school system for 48 years, retiring in 2016.

He attended Fort Fairfield schools and graduated from Fort Fairfield High School in 1964, attended the University of Maine at Presque Isle, graduating in 1968, and received his Master’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono in 1981.

His teaching career began with his service as a science teacher at Fort Fairfield Junior High School. After 14 years, he moved to Fort Fairfield High School, where he taught Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Driver’s Education until his retirement. He also taught Human Anatomy and Physiology on the UMPI campus last summer as an Upward Bound instructor and plans to return for the 2024 program.

As part of his service to his community, McCrea served the Town of Fort Fairfield as a Town Councilor for 15 years, as Chairman for 9 of those years. He actively served as a leader of the Fort Fairfield Teacher’s Association for over 45 years and was an active member of the Frontier Fish and Game Club, the Frontier Heritage Association, and the Fort Fairfield Middle High School Alumni Association.

Upon retirement, McCrea ran for and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, where he served his District for three successive terms from 2017-2022.  During his time in the legislature, he served on the Joint Committee on Educational and Cultural Affairs as well as the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The University’s Commencement Exercises are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, in Wieden Gymnasium. This year’s Commencement will be live streamed on the University’s website. Viewers can directly access the livestream starting at 9:30 a.m. on graduation day by visiting www.umpi.edu/livestream.