Go Blue Archive - May 2009
With commencement now just a few days away, I am pleased to write with my monthly Go Blue update. As always, much more news about UMaine from the past month is online at www.umaine.edu/insideumaine.
Commencement is, of course, an annual highlight of the UMaine calendar and this year’s event — UMaine’s 207th commencement — promises to be memorable. We expect to award 1,871 degrees, including 382 graduate degrees. Karen Gordon Mills of Brunswick, who heads up the U.S. Small Business Administration, will be our commencement speaker and we will award honorary doctorates to Passamaquoddy historian/linguist David Francis and retired U.S. Navy Admiral Grog Johnson, a 1968 UMaine graduate. We estimate that more than 12,000 people usually attend UMaine’s commencement ceremonies, making it one of Maine’s largest annual single-day events.
Above all, commencement is about the graduating students. This year’s valedictorian is Adrienne Sturgeon, an elementary education major from Bangor. Alexandra Albert of Eagle Lake is the salutatorian. She is a double major (biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology) with a minor in microbiology. Adrienne and Alexandra are just two of the terrific students in UMaine’s Class of 2009.
I’m also pleased to report that several of our students have recently earned prestigious scholarships. Laura Wood (Scarborough) and Michael Parker (Bradford) have received Morris K. Udall Scholarships, for excellence in environmental fields. Laura and Michael are two of only 80 Udall Scholars chosen from 515 applicants nationwide. Emily Miller (Lamoine), a molecular and cellular biology major, has received a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, one of 278 chosen from 1,097 applicants. Finally, Samantha Bond (Temple, N.H.), a marine science major, and fellow marine science major Jeremy Bender (St. Paul, Minn.) have earned National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association
Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarships. These scholarship recipients are also Honors College students, applying their intellect and talents in significant ways and taking full advantage of what UMaine has to offer for undergraduate students.
Kevin Wellenius, a UMaine student who works with Prof. Bill Kuykendall in documentary photography classes, recently took third place in the National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism 2009 competition in the Feature Audio Slideshow. Kevin’s competition for this award was independent new media producers from throughout the world.
I’d also like to recognize the UMaine theatre students who recently staged several performances of “Red Badge: Questions of War,” Prof. Tom Mikotowicz. adaptation of Stephen Carne’s “The Red Badge of Courage.” The students visited Bangor High School and high schools in Dexter, Lincoln, Fairfield, Wiscasset, Guilford and Greenville.
I very much enjoyed both Earth Day and Maine Day activities on campus within the past few days. Maine Day was well-attended by members of the UMaine community, especially students. In fact, we are quite certain that the morning parade was the largest we have ever had and that student participation in service activities is as strong as ever. It is also a lot of fun, with a great series of events all day long. Earth Day continues to be important for the UMaine community, as it brings into focus a series of important presentations and activities, related to improving our understanding of our environment and the ways humans affect it.
Another terrific April event was the premiere, at the Collins Center for the Arts, of the acclaimed film, “The Way We Get By.” Based on the experiences of the Maine Troop Greeters at Bangor International Airport, the movie is just wonderful. We were pleased that Gov. John Baldacci, U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, along with a large number of local military families, attended the red-carpet premiere. Congratulations to John Patches, Adele Adkins and the rest of the Collins Center for the Arts staff on a terrific event.
In addition, I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend a wonderful performance, at Boston’s Symphony Hall, by the 65-member UMaine Symphonic Band, under the direction of Prof. Chip Farnham. It was a terrific opportunity for those 65 students to perform in one of the country’s great concert halls and the audience, which included a good number of UMaine alums who live in the Boston area, was certainly impressed.
I also congratulate Prof. Mohamad Musavi and the UMaine College of Engineering on a well-received Haskell Energy Conference: Electricity’s Role in Meeting our Energy Needs. A keynote address by Larry Kazmerski, the executive director for Science and Technology Partnerships, National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Dept. of Energy, was a real highlight. Larry, who started his career at UMaine, later wrote to me with a very complimentary message about UMaine’s work related to renewable energy technology.
I am extremely grateful to our development staff, fundraising partners, deans, directors and faculty for their dedication and contributions to the continued success of Campaign Maine, our six-year, $150 million comprehensive fundraising drive. To date, the Campaign Maine total stands at $107 million. This puts us at 72 percent of goal with only a bit more than 60 percent of the time expended. Now, more than ever, the university relies upon private support from donors. These gifts are essential if we are to be actively engaged in the lives of Maine residents and have an impact on the economic development of the state. We have much to celebrate at this point in Campaign Maine, and continued investments in our students and faculty over the next three years will enable UMaine to take the lead in shaping public policy and designing strategies to address Maine’s long-term needs and challenges.
UMaine’s faculty members continue to have a significant impact, not only on our students but on their academic disciplines and on the communities we serve.
Take, for example, Prof. Mick Peterson of the mechanical engineering faculty. With the Kentucky Derby coming up this weekend, there has been a good deal of interest in his interesting research on racetrack surfaces and the safety of thoroughbred horses. This is a timely issue, especially in the context of tragic breakdowns in recent years, and Mick is recognized as the leading expert on this subject. Both ESPN.com and the Boston Globe have reported on his work in recent days.
Mick is also involved in another interesting and timely project. Working with faculty colleagues Huijie Xue, Gayle Zydlewski, collaborators from Maine Maritime Academy and industry representatives, is involved in some exciting research on developing tidal power. Approximately $1 million in new federal funding, a Congressional initiative developed by Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Michaud, will really help advance that research.
Prof. Ray Pelletier, chair of UMaine’s Dept. of Modern Languages and Classics, has received the first annual Richard Williamson Award for Leadership in Modern and Classical Language. The Foreign Language Association of Maine (FLAME) honored Ray at its recent annual meeting, noting his long-term outstanding service to Maine’s language teachers. Gisela Hoecherl-Alden, associate professor of German at UMaine, is a member of the FLAME Advisory Board.
I was also pleased to note the recent Climate Change Science Day, attended by some 140 Maine high school students and adult educators. Headed up by Prof. Kristin Sobolik, this event engages the students in hands-on activities with UMaine faculty members and graduate students in the Climate Change Institute, Dept. of Anthropology and Dept. of Earth Sciences. It’s a well-received annual event, which extends UMaine resources and expertise to enhance the educational experience for these Maine people. The Climate Change Science Day is also an effective example of the type of activity that can also serve to interest good students in eventually enrolling as UMaine students.
My thanks also go to Prof. Sandra Sigmon, graduate student Laura Brothers and the rest of the UMaine President’s Council on Women for organizing a series of recent activities related to civility. That is an important subject, perhaps especially in a university environment, and our community certainly benefits from these discussions and from a heightened awareness of issues related to civility.
The generous nature of the UMaine community was on full display last weekend during the “Care-A-Fair” celebration of student outreach and volunteerism. Prof. Nory Jones from the UMaine Business School and Gus Burkett, director of campus activities and events, came up with the idea to celebrate the relationships between student volunteers and the organizations they serve. A number of those community organizations attended to express their thanks to UMaine student volunteers and to share more information about their work.
In closing this month, let me congratulate Dean Dana Humphrey and Dean Jeff Hecker on the new collaborations between the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Those colleges have a new dual-degree program, through which students can graduate in five years with degrees from each college. The course of study integrates engineering and liberal arts coursework through the five years, and students will have an adviser in each college. This is a wonderful collaboration, which will create terrific opportunities for UMaine students.
As we move to the end of our academic year, please let me extend my thanks to each of you for your outstanding work in support of our students and our institution’s overall mission. Despite our challenges, especially those related to the budget, we have collectively accomplished a great deal since last September. This is a good moment to pause and reflect on a job well done.
President, University of Maine