University of Maine at Presque Isle President Ray Rice has announced that Sam W. Collins, President of S.W. Collins and past chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, will deliver the commencement address. In addition, Collins and Mary Barton Akeley Smith—philanthropist and advocate for community development in the region—will receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees during the University’s 114th Commencement Ceremony, to be held on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
“We are very pleased to be honoring two individuals who have had such a positive and long-lasting impact in our region during this year’s commencement exercises,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “Sam and Mary have been such staunch supporters of our institution and northern Maine. We know they’ll provide members of our Class of 2023 with inspiration as they look to make their own impact in the world around them.”
Sam W. Collins has led the S.W. Collins Company as President for nearly three decades. He has taken an active leadership role in education, his community, and the lumber and building materials industry.
As President of S.W. Collins, he expanded the company from one location to five building material hardware stores, a kitchen and bath design center, and a millwork shop. He also served as chair of both the Retail Lumber Dealers Association of Maine and the Northeast Retail Lumber Dealers Association. He is a past chairman and current director of ENAP, now LBM Advantage, a $4 billion building material cooperative buying group that serves dealers in 44 states. In 1992, the industry recognized Collins as the Maine Lumber Dealer of the Year.
In his community, Collins has volunteered as Chair of the United Way of Aroostook campaign, President of Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development, Chairman of Aroostook Partnership, President of the Caribou Rotary Club, and Executive Board Member of UMPI’s Foundation. In addition, he serves on the board of directors of MMG Insurance Company and Aroostook Federal Savings and Loan Association. Collins is the recipient of a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow recognition. He served as a Trustee for the University of Maine System for nearly a decade.
An avid skier and biker, Collins is a longtime advocate of community wellness and recreation. He was instrumental in the construction of the Caribou Ski Building and the Caribou High School tennis courts, and the continued existence of Big Rock Ski Mountain in Mars Hill. A resident of Caribou and graduate of Caribou High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. He is married to Lise Pelletier Collins, and they have four daughters.
Mary Barton Akeley Smith is the founder of the Rodney and Mary Barton Smith Family Foundation. She is well known in the Presque Isle area as a benefactor supporting projects for numerous non-profits in the community. She earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Arizona, a master’s degree in Urban Education from Syracuse University, and an MBA from Santa Clara University. She had a short teaching career and then worked for the Bank of America in commercial real estate.
After her husband’s sudden and untimely death, Smith made the decision to commit herself to giving back and finding ways to help others. She focused her efforts on needs in Aroostook County, supporting her family’s long history in the area, and through her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association as Alzheimer’s disease has deeply affected her family. She established the family foundation in 2020.
Smith has supported the Presque Isle community in many ways over the past decade—from higher education, the public library, and services for those in need, to economic development and city infrastructure improvements, including walking paths, playgrounds, and transportation. In fact, her initial gift to UMPI established the university’s first-ever endowed chair, in Agricultural Science and Agribusiness, and she has been a strong supporter for capital campaigns and infrastructure needs on the campus, including the Zillman Family Greenhouse and, most recently, the Wieden gymnasium renovation project.
The University’s Commencement Exercises are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, 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.