Two hundred and sixty-three students graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Saturday, May 6, during the University’s 2023 Commencement Exercises—the University’s 114th Commencement ceremony. UMPI President Raymond Rice conferred degrees for the 2022-2023 academic year upon 104 undergraduate students and four graduate students who participated in the ceremony, held in Wieden Gymnasium for the first time since 2019.
Sam W. Collins, President of S.W. Collins and past chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, addressed the graduates as this year’s commencement speaker. During the graduation event, Collins and Mary Barton Akeley Smith, philanthropist and community development advocate, were presented with Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees.
Sam W. Collins, who has led the S.W. Collins Company as President for nearly three decades, has taken an active leadership role in education, his community, and the lumber and building materials industry. He has chaired both the Retail Lumber Dealers Association of Maine and the Northeast Retail Lumber Dealers Association. In 1992, he was named the Maine Lumber Dealer of the Year. 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, Executive Board Member of UMPI’s Foundation, and Trustee for the University of Maine System. A longtime advocate of community wellness and recreation, he was instrumental in the construction of the Caribou Ski Building and the continued existence of Big Rick Ski Mountain in Mars Hill.
Mary Barton Akeley Smith is the founder of the Rodney and Mary Barton Smith Family Foundation. She is well known in Presque Isle—her hometown—as a benefactor supporting projects for numerous non-profits in the community. After her husband’s untimely death, Smith committed herself to finding ways to help others. In addition to her support of the Alzheimer’s Association, she has supported Presque Isle community efforts 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. 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.
During UMPI’s commencement exercises, Chancellor Dannel Malloy delivered greetings on behalf of the University of Maine System. As well, Donna Lisnik, UMPI Board of Visitors Chair; Lea Allen, UMPI Faculty Assembly Chair; and Evan Zarkadas, UMPI Alumni Association President, offered remarks on behalf of each organization, respectively. In addition, Jerranecia Nicole Caddell served as the Class of 2023 Commencement Speaker.
“As we gather in Wieden Gymnasium for the first time in four years for our Commencement Exercises, we remain grateful for our ability to join together and celebrate our graduating class in person,” President Rice said. “Whether they’ve taken a traditional path to earn their degrees, returned after a few, or many, years, or made the start later in life to complete their college journey, our graduates have accomplished truly great things during their time with us. Many have juggled home, life, and work responsibilities while pursuing their academic goals and we couldn’t be prouder of them and their commitment to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve.”
A tradition at this year’s event was the presentation, to all marching graduates, of 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.
This year’s Commencement was livestreamed so that graduates, family, and friends who couldn’t attend would have the opportunity to see the Class of 2023 graduate. Viewers from around the world were expected to tune in for the ceremony, which is now available for viewing on UMPI’s YouTube channel. In addition to the in-person Commencement Exercises on May 6, UMPI will host a virtual graduation ceremony to ensure that all graduating UMPI students are recognized and given an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments. This video, which will recognize all graduates who weren’t able to attend the in-person event, will be made available on UMPI’s YouTube channel on Saturday, June 3.