News & Events

University of Maine at Presque Isle hosts 115th Commencement

Five hundred and thirteen students graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Saturday, May 4, during the University’s 2024 Commencement Exercises—the largest-ever graduating class in the institution’s history. During the University’s 115th Commencement ceremony, UMPI President Raymond Rice conferred degrees for the 2023-2024 academic year upon 176 undergraduate students and 5 graduate students who participated in the ceremony.

Cathie Pelletier, nationally-acclaimed author and County native, addressed the graduates as this year’s commencement speaker. During the graduation event, Pelletier and David McCrea, former Maine State Representative, local educator, and UMPI alumnus, were presented with Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees.

Cathie Pelletier is the author of 16 books, two of which have received notable mentions from the New York Times Book Review. She has received several awards for her writing, including the New England Booksellers Award for The Weight of Winter, the Paterson Prize for Fiction for Running the Bulls, and the Brown University Book Award for Proving Einstein Right, which she co-authored with theoretical physicist and National Medal of Science recipient S. James Gates, Jr. Under the pseudonym of K. C. McKinnon, Pelletier wrote Dancing at the Harvest Moon and Candles on Bay Street, both with Doubleday, the latter earning a million-dollar advance. Harvest Moon was printed in 22 languages and was a CBS film starring Jacqueline Bisset and Valerie Harper. Candles was translated into 16 languages and was a Hallmark Hall of Fame film starring Alicia Silverstone. She has been praised by writers ranging from Stephen King and Richard Russo to Fannie Flagg and Kurt Vonnegut, and her works have been featured by publications from the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times to Vogue and The New Yorker.

David McCrea, a longtime educator and public servant, was born in Fort Fairfield in 1946 and has lived there all his life. His 48-year teaching career began with his service as a science teacher at Fort Fairfield Junior High School. After 14 years, he moved to Fort Fairfield High School, where he taught Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Driver’s Education until his retirement in 2016. As part of his service to his community, McCrea served the Town of Fort Fairfield as a Town Councilor for 15 years, as Chairman for 9 of those years. He actively served as a leader of the Fort Fairfield Teacher’s Association for over 45 years and was an active member of the Frontier Fish and Game Club, the Frontier Heritage Association, and the Fort Fairfield Middle High School Alumni Association. Upon retirement, McCrea ran for and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, where he served his District for three successive terms from 2017-2022.

During UMPI’s commencement exercises, Trustee Emily Cain 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 Kimberly Jones, UMPI Alumni Association Vice President, offered remarks on behalf of each organization, respectively. In addition, Alonda Lopez-Aquino served as the Class of 2024 Commencement Speaker.

“On this most auspicious of days, we commend the Class of 2024, which we are truly humbled to say is our largest graduating class ever, for their dedicated pursuit of their academic goals,” President Rice said. “Whether they’ve taken a traditional path to their degrees, come back after a long time away, or undertaken their college work later in life, our graduates have accomplished great things during their time with us. Many have juggled family schedules, jobs, and other responsibilities while pursuing their goals and dreams and we couldn’t be prouder of their achievements.”

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 2024 graduate. Viewers from around the world were expected to tune in for the ceremony, which is now available for viewing. In addition to the in-person Commencement Exercises on May 4, 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 15.