President Don Zillman has announced that U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins will deliver the commencement address during the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s 101st Commencement Ceremony, to be held on Saturday, May 15. During this event, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees will be presented to Senator Collins as well as the Honorable David Griffiths and Roberta Griffiths, long-time pillars of the Presque Isle and university communities.
“As the University marks this commencement ceremony, we are honored to have an Aroostook County native who has gone on to achieve great things at the national level visit our campus and speak to our graduating class. Senator Collins is a true inspiration for our graduates who are preparing to make their own mark on the world,” President Zillman said. “We are also very pleased to be honoring Senator Collins, and our very own David and Roberta Griffiths for the fine examples they have given us of the importance of serving the people in our community, our state and nation.”
Susan M. Collins, the 15th woman in history to be elected to the United States Senate in her own right, has represented Maine in the U.S. Senate since 1997. She is Ranking Member and former Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, serves on the Appropriations Committee and Armed Services Committee, and is a member of the Special Committee on Aging. Previously, she served for six years on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. She was also the first freshman Senator ever to lead the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Senator Collins was born in Caribou on December 7, 1952. Her family runs the fifth-generation lumber business S.W. Collins, founded by her ancestors in 1844, and operated today by two of her brothers, Sam and Gregg Collins. Both of Senator Collins’ parents – Donald and Patricia Collins – have served as Mayor of Caribou, and her father served Maine as a State Senator. Patricia Collins holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art from the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Class of 1986. She also received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Maine at Presque Isle in 2001.
In 1975, Senator Collins graduated with magna cum laude honors from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where she was also elected to the Phi Beta Kappa national academic society. After working for 12 years on the Capitol Hill staff of Maine Senator William Cohen, she joined the cabinet of Maine Governor John McKernan in 1987 as Commissioner of Professional and Financial Regulation. After five years in that post, she served as New England Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration from 1992 to 1993.
In 1994, Senator Collins ran her first campaign for public office. She emerged from an eight-way Republican primary in June 1994 as the first woman in Maine history to win a major-party nomination for governor. She lost that fall’s general election, but remained committed to public service.
In December 1994, Senator Collins became the founding executive director of the Center for Family Business at then Husson College in Bangor. She resigned in 1996 to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Cohen. She went on to win both a contested Republican primary and a four-way general election later that year. In 2002, Senator Collins was reelected with 59 percent of the general-election vote, and in 2008, she was reelected with 61 percent of the vote.
Over the years, Senator Collins has received many honors and awards. She has been named “Guardian of Small Business” by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, “Legislator of the Year” by the American Diabetes Association, and has received honors from other groups ranging from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Association to the National School Boards Association. The Los Angeles Times referred to her as a “champion of good government” in a profile, while The New York Times has said, “Ms. Collins has a long history of taking on the Washington bureaucracy.”
Roberta D. Griffiths was born in Fort Fairfield on November 26, 1937, the daughter of W. Stuart and Louise Duncan. As a young woman, she attended the University of Maine and Fisher Junior College. She graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle in 1982.
Griffiths has served her community and the University for many years. Her UMPI activities have included serving on the Board of Visitors for seven years – she is a charter member – and on the Foundation Board, where she is presently an Executive Board member. She has been a member of the Centennial Planning Committee, several Presidential Search Committees, the Capital Campaign for Gentile Hall, the One-Percent-for-Art Committee, which oversaw the Fiddleheads sculpture installation in Gentile Hall, and the development of the Centennial Garden on campus. She is its current “supervising gardener.”
In her community, Griffiths currently serves on the Presque Isle Downtown Revitalization Committee where she works with the Main Street Flowers sub-committee. She has served as president of the Presque Isle Community Concert Association and the Northeast Audubon Chapter of the National Audubon Society, where she was involved with a project to prevent the construction of the Dickey-Lincoln Dam in Allagash.
Her interest in gardening led to her participation in the Presque Isle Garden Club, where she has been a member for more than 40 years and has served as president. She also has served on several state committees of the Garden Club Federation of Maine as well as in capacities with the New England Regional District. She has been active in planning and maintaining the Downing Park on the Presque Isle Bike Path, landscaping at the Turner Memorial Library, and planning and planting flower beds at A. R. Gould Memorial Hospital [TAMC]. She also has served on the Presque Isle Arbor Council and represented the Garden Club on the Presque Isle Elm Tree Replacement Committee.
A member of the Presque Isle Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, she has directed the Junior Choir for 25 years, has sung in the choir for 49 years, and has served as a Deacon, handbell choir director and coordinator of women’s activities.
Griffiths also has played with the Presque Isle Recorder Consort for nearly 40 years – a group that includes UMPI Emeritus Professors Jan Kok and Richard Kimball, as well as Evelyn Kok and Jean Hamlin.
David B. Griffiths, the son of Dr. Eugene B. and Kathryn P. Griffiths, graduated from Presque Isle High School in 1954, from the University of Maine in 1958, and from Boston University School of Law in 1961. He was admitted to practice law in the State of Maine that same year and subsequently practiced law in Presque Isle from 1961 to 1988.
In 1988, Griffiths was appointed by Governor John McKernan as a District Court Judge and as the resident judge in Presque Isle and Houlton. In 2003, he retired as an Active Judge and was appointed by Governor John Baldacci as an Active Retired Judge. Since that time, he has served in courts throughout the state at the direction of the Chief Judge of the Maine District Court.
Griffiths has served in various community, county and state activities. He taught Business Law as an adjunct instructor of the University of Maine at Presque Isle at Loring Air Force Base. He has been active as a life-long member of the Presque Isle Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, where he has taught church school, and served as Trustee, Moderator and Deacon. For 15 years, he served as a leader and Scoutmaster of Troop 168.
In the 1960’s, he served as a director of the Maine School Administrative District # 1 and on the State of Maine School Board Association. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of Aroostook Mental Health Services for 12 years and was President of that organization when it was granted a federal staffing grant to provide for mental health services for Aroostook County. He served on the initial Board of Directors of the Foundation of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
In 1985, he was elected to the Presque Isle City Council and was elected as Council Chairman. In 1988, he served as President of the Aroostook Bar Association. He has been a member of the Maine State Bar Association and is a Fellow of the Maine Bar Foundation. In 2003, he was recognized at the Blaine House by the Battered Women’s Coalition for continuing support and work done on behalf of the coalition. In 2004, he served as the judicial representative of a group of Maine lawyers and academics in a seminar in Arkangel, Russia, in providing assistance to the Russian response to the worldwide problem of domestic abuse. He has been a member of the Presque Isle Kiwanis Club for over 40 years. In 2004, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Presque Isle Area Chamber of Commerce.
David and Roberta Griffiths celebrate their 50th anniversary later this year. Together, they are the parents of Jeffrey B. Griffiths of Portland, Suzanne L. Griffiths of Vassalboro, Christopher D. Griffiths of Saco, and Jeremy J. Griffiths of Fort Kent, and have four grand children, Eva, Cole, Lucy and Phoebe.
The University’s Commencement Exercises are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 15 in Wieden Gymnasium.