A University of Maine graduate wants to make it easier for Boston-area alumni who are active in the business community to stay connected with one other and with their alma mater.
Edward Keefe, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business in 1986 and now lives in Belmont, Mass., hosted a cocktail reception in Boston on April 11, for UMaine alumni and friends to socialize, network, and catch up on the latest news about the campus.
President Robert Kennedy was on hand to provide an overview of some of the University’s recent accomplishments. He was accompanied by business Professor John Mahon, founding director of the new School of Policy and International Affairs, who discussed the shrinking international economy. Dean Dan Innis of the College of Business, Public Policy and Health, also attended.
“This is really about the University making an effort to reach out to alumni here in Boston,” Keefe said.
Approximately 80 invitations were sent, he said.
UMaine grads are looking for ways to link up, according to Keefe, chief financial officer at M/C Venture Partners in Boston. He came up with the idea of holding an “outreach event” last fall during a breakfast for Orono alumni at the UMaine/Boston College football game. The morning gathering was jam-packed with enthusiastic UMaine supporters from throughout the Boston region, he recalled.
“It was a great turnout. For me, that’s when the light went on. It just proved that people wanted to network, but that there needed to be events to draw everyone together. The interest was definitely there,” he said.
Keefe was optimistic that the reception at the Union Club inspired many former Black Bears to develop and strengthen their relationship with the University.
“Not everyone can get to Orono as much as they’d like, so this was the perfect opportunity to bring people together,” he said. “Once they become more connected, this will feed on itself. If everyone who leaves the room can talk to one more person and spread the word, it’s one of those things that could build on itself. In five years, we could easily get to 200 members. It’s not a hard goal.”
Todd Saucier, president and executive director of the University of Maine Alumni Association, said creating a smaller group of alumni who share a common interest would “be a great complement” to the general Boston-area alumni organization and would strengthen UMaine’s presence in the region.
“They’re our largest population outside the state of Maine,” he said.
Keefe plans to do some follow-up after the meeting and call participants to garner ideas about how they’d like to proceed. “We’ll do some market research about what we can do to better serve the group,” he said.
For example, members could start out by gathering two to three times a year “to see how it feels,” Keefe said. Meetings could be held in different locations, including Portsmouth, N.H., and even Portland.
“We could rotate the meetings, so it’s not just a Boston focus,” he said, noting that athletic events could be used as the setting for some get-togethers. Each meeting would feature a guest speaker as well as a representative from UMaine who would provide an update about the goings-on at the flagship university.
It’s not just alumni who would be drawn in, according to Keefe. “Many people in the Boston area grew up in Maine and have a real fondness for the University, whether they went there or not, he said.
A native of Watertown, Mass., Keefe decided he wanted to go to UMaine when he was visiting the campus as a high school senior. “I still remember walking across the mall with my dad, headed to Fogler, and thinking that I felt at home here â€” that there was something special about this place.”
For him and for countless other alumni, that feeling endures, according to Keefe.
“People want to find a way to connect back with the University and make sure it succeeds for another 150 years,” he said.
The new group he has started is likely to do just that.