The University of Maine at Presque Isle will host a special evening in three parts as two County writers help to celebrate this singular place called home during The Heart of Aroostook: A Book Reading & Auditorium Naming event, which takes place on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Campus Center.
Kathryn Olmstead, who has long chronicled life in northern Maine, will kick things off with an introduction and tribute to the stories of Aroostook County. Presque Isle native Ray Gauvin will then share his own story and offer a reading from his newly published memoir, A Soldier’s Heart: The 3 Wars of Vietnam, which traces his journey from central Aroostook to Vietnam and back. The evening will end with the official naming of a place where so many in the County have been regaled with countless stories: the Auditorium in Wieden Hall, which will be named in honor of Ray and Sandy Gauvin. The event will take place in the Campus Center as Wieden Hall is closed while the gym is receiving a major renovation.
“We are honored to host such a special event that pays tribute to our sense of place here in northern Maine—and those who write about it—and to two County residents in particular for their contributions to the cultural arts in the region,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “We’re looking forward to an evening focused on local stories and a special place that helps those stories to be told.”
Kathryn Olmstead is a long-time writer and County resident. She published Echoes magazine, a quarterly journal of rural culture based in Caribou, Maine, from 1988 to 2017, and wrote a biweekly column for the Bangor Daily News. She served for 25 years on the University of Maine journalism faculty. Her most recent books are Stories of Aroostook: The Best of Echoes Magazine and True North: Finding the Essence of Aroostook.
“’The Heart of Aroostook’ is a fitting title for an event celebrating both a heartfelt memoir and the affection for a place that inspires people like the Gauvins to give back to Aroostook County in so many ways,” Olmstead said. “I am delighted to help dedicate the auditorium in Wieden Hall and launch A Soldier’s Heart: The 3 Wars of Vietnam.”
Ray Gauvin is a Vietnam veteran and prominent business and community leader. Born to a blended Canadian and American family of Acadian descent, he navigated many difficulties—speaking French at home but English at school, battling dyslexia (which he didn’t learn he had until later in life), and losing his father at a young age. While in the U.S. Army, he received the Army Commendation Medal. He later started the Center for Financial Planning and eventually owned franchises of Advantage Payroll Services in four New England states.
“Writing this book brought back a lot of memories that were very difficult to face,” Gauvin said. “But through that difficulty, I found validation of my memories and a cleansing of my heart. I hope that in addition to learning about my classified mission, veterans and their families will understand that there is hope. That they can mitigate the symptoms of PTSD. That they can lead a happy life.”
Ray and Sandy Gauvin are long-time advocates of higher education, community service, and the cultural arts. Together, they co-founded the Aroostook Aspirations Foundation, a nonprofit that helps first-generation students complete their college education in northern Maine and move into successful careers. The Gauvins provided the first major gift for what has long been known as Wieden Auditorium. The venue will be officially renamed on Sept. 21 as the Gauvin Family Center for Cultural Arts.
“We are delighted to honor the Gauvins for their many contributions to the community and UMPI, and especially their leading gift for the renovations of the auditorium,” UMPI Executive Director of University Advancement & External Affairs Deborah Roark said. “We’re looking forward to a very special night here in the heart of Aroostook.”
For more information on how to support future renovations in the auditorium, please contact Roark at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (207) 768-9755. Donations can also be made at umpi.edu/donate.