Three hundred and forty-five students graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Saturday, May 16, during the 2009 Commencement Exercises – the University’s 100th Commencement ceremony. President Donald Zillman conferred degrees for the 2008-2009 academic year upon 149 students who participated in the ceremony held in Wieden Gymnasium.
Congressman Michael H. Michaud addressed the graduates as the commencement speaker. During the historic event, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees were presented to Congressman Michaud and Bruce Brown, a leading proponent of art education and contemporary art in the State of Maine.
Michael H. Michaud, the U.S. Congressman representing Maine’s Second District, has served the people of Maine for nearly three decades, working to effect important changes in areas ranging from healthcare to veterans affairs to economic development in Maine. He was sworn in as a United States Congressman in January 2003, becoming the first recognized Franco-American from Maine to be elected to federal office. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Michaud serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the Committee on Small Business.
Bruce Brown, an educator and art collector, has worked for more than 35 years as an important proponent of art education and contemporary art in the state. Brown, a Portland native, is the curator emeritus of the Center for Maine Contemporary Arts in Rockport. While in that position, he simultaneously served as an educator at Freeport High School. Since the 1970’s, he has been able to gather together an impressive collection of contemporary art, and was recognized by Arts and Antiques Magazine in 2007 as one of America’s significant art collectors.
Barry McCrum brought greetings from the University of Maine System Board of Trustees and President Zillman delivered remarks on behalf of Frank McElwain, a member of the University’s Board of Visitors. Keith Madore offered remarks on behalf of the UMPI Alumni Association and State Representative Michael Willette delivered remarks on behalf of the Aroostook County Delegation. Annie Charles performed the National Anthem and David Ferrell sang the Canadian National Anthem. At the close of the ceremony, Charles sang Still I Rise.
In addressing the graduating class and the hundreds gathered for the event, President Zillman recounted the remarkable year the University has had leading up to this historic 100th Commencement. He mentioned the very recent installation and commissioning of the University’s 600 kW wind turbine, which is expected to produce more than 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and save the University more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges.
There is also the Project Compass grant, which is expected to bring $750,000 to campus to improve student retention rates, as well as the completion of a $2 million renovation of Folsom Hall last fall and the opening of a Prometric Testing Center this spring that will allow students and area residents to take important computer-based exams close to home instead of having to drive to Bangor or Portland.
UMPI also hosted the very first exhibition in Maine of Andy Warhol photos gifted to colleges and universities across the country and held a 1968 Retrospective that featured journalist Richard Dudman, who served for more than three decades as the chief Washington correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as its keynote speaker.
UMPI brought many other distinguished visitors to campus this year, from Hollywood cinematographer Zoran Popovic, who helped a screenwriting class bring its script to life, to NASA Astronaut Pam Melroy, the second female shuttle commander in NASA’s history.
The University also featured prominently in regional and statewide media coverage. The Boston-based TV show Chronicle ran two segments about the University as part of a news story it did about Aroostook County. The UMPI Owls Baseball team was placed in the national spotlight when the New York Times ran a story about the “road warriors” who hadn’t had a home game in four years due to long northern Maine winters.
“The campus accomplishments have been remarkable,” President Zillman said. “And our students have helped to play a major role in it all. As the University of Maine at Presque Isle marks this, our 100th commencement, we celebrate our students – who walk in the footsteps of thousands of students who have earned their degrees here since the University opened its doors in 1903 – and look forward to the lasting impact we know they will have in their professions, in Maine and beyond.”
In honor of the University’s 100th commencement, students wore, along with their traditional graduation regalia, blue stoles bearing the centennial logo. Each graduate also received a commemorative mug, which features the centennial logo, from the UMPI Alumni Association. The walkway from the Campus Center to Wieden Hall, the route the graduating class took for its processional, was lined with banners displaying the centennial logo. A reception for graduates, family and friends was held in the Campus Center immediately following the ceremony.