One hundred and seventy-six students graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Saturday, May 13, during the 2017 Commencement Exercises—the University’s 108th Commencement ceremony. UMPI Interim President and Provost Raymond Rice conferred degrees for the 2016-2017 academic year upon 126 students who participated in the ceremony held in Wieden Gymnasium.
John L. Estrada, a national leader who has served the U.S. in military and diplomatic posts, including as former U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, addressed the graduates as this year’s commencement speaker. During the graduation event, Laurence A. Park—a well-known farmer and conservationist who is part of a long legacy of Park family members who have been integral in the life of the campus—was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.
Estrada was nominated for his ambassadorship by President Barack Obama and served as U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean islands of his birth, from 2016-2017. As the President’s personal representative, he was responsible for furthering the U.S. diplomacy interest in the bilateral relationship with the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago. He served 34 years of continuous active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps from September 1973 to October 2007, culminating in his last four years serving as the 15th Sergeant Major in the history of the Marine Corps, the highest enlisted rank. He is the recipient of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal with three gold stars, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Park has made many contributions to the County and to UMPI. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he became a potato farmer, woodlot owner, and served as the Supervisor of the Central Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for 30 years. He has served with the National Potato Promotional Board, the Rural America Bicentennial Planning Committee, Young Farmers Organization, Aroostook County Extension Association, Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, and Presque Isle Historical Society. Park was the SWCD Conservation Farmer of the Year in 1973 and its Forest Landowner of the Year in 2003. He and his wife Edith received the Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award from the Maine Tree Farm Program in 2008. Park now serves as the steward of the Rev. George M. Park Scholarship, which was established by his uncle in his grandfather’s honor.
During UMPI’s commencement exercises, Norman L. Fournier, of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, delivered greetings on behalf of the University of Maine System. As well, Carl Michaud, UMPI Board of Visitors Chair; Jacquelyn A. Lowman, UMPI Faculty Assembly Chair; and Tom Wire, UMPI Alumni Association President, offered remarks on behalf of each organization, respectively.
“We are very proud of the members of the Class of 2017 and commend them for their hard work, dedication and perseverance in achieving their academic goals,” President Rice said. “These graduates—traditional students, adult learners, commuters and online students—have accomplished much during their time with us, including challenging coursework, impactful research and service to community. And many of them did so while maintaining jobs, busy family schedules, and a plethora of other responsibilities. Our graduates have prepared themselves well and now we look forward to watching them enter the career field and find success.”
This year’s Commencement was live streamed on the University’s website so family and friends who couldn’t attend would have the opportunity to see the Class of 2017 graduate. Viewers from around the world were expected to tune in for the ceremony.
A few-year-old tradition at this year’s event was the pinning of all marching graduates with a special symbol of campus. Each graduate was given a lapel pin depicting a snowy owl with its wings outstretched in flight. Meant to symbolize how each of them is spreading their wings and soaring on to great heights, graduates were asked during Commencement, “Where will your wings take you?” They will have the opportunity to share their stories—about contributions they make in their career fields, ways that they serve their communities, and adventures that they have around the world—on the website www.umpi.edu/yourwings. All alums, not just this year’s graduating class, are encouraged to add their stories on this site.
A reception for graduates, family and friends was held in the Campus Center immediately following the ceremony.