Alumni Rendle and Pat Jones wanted to support the University of Maine with a gift that would encourage pre-law students who plan on going into public service.
Excited that the Honors College enables motivated students to receive a private school type of education at a public school price, the Camden couple decided this was where they would direct their support.
They established the Rendle A. & Patricia K. Jones Honors Thesis Fellowship Fund for students who express an interest in legal service in the public arena. A preference will be offered for students who wish to explore the history of the law or current affairs related to public health and human services, community development, and conservation or policy issues on a wide range of topics. In addition, a “Legal Quad” will be designated within the renovated Colvin Hall Honors Residence to inspire students to consider the legal profession.
The generous gift from Rendle, an attorney who graduated in 1964, and Pat, a real estate agent who earned her bachelor’s degree in 1965, will be endowed in the University of Maine Foundation and perpetuated through a trust in the Maine Community Foundation.
“This is our way of helping the University nurture the bright people who hopefully will stay in the state and help Maine grow,” says Rendle. “The Honors College provides a special niche in the education market. It’s like having an Ivy League school within the public university. It helps elevate the whole institution.”
Reinforcing the noble role played by public service lawyers also was important to Rendle, who knows something about the satisfaction that comes from helping ensure that everyone has equal access to justice. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history and government from UMaine and a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law, he served as a staff attorney and director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, an organization that provides free legal services to low income people. In 1968, he joined the Camden law firm of Gilbert Harmon, which later became Harmon, Jones & Sanford, LLP, where he is the senior partner.
“People in private practice can take of themselves financially and don’t need coaxing,” he says. “Those going into the public arena need a little encouragement to choose a life of public service. Whether they decide to work for an organization like Pine Tree or the U.S. Department of Justice, or become a district attorney or judge, they ought to be encouraged.”
Established in 2003, the Honors College wasn’t around when Rendle and Pat were undergraduate students. But they recall the enthusiasm generated by its predecessor, the Honors Program, headed at the time by Professor Bob Thompson, Rendle’s advisor and one of his favorite teachers.
“He was terrific. He made the subject interesting. I took every course I could get from him because I enjoyed him so much,” says Rendle.
The couple was thrilled to discover that the small Honors program they were familiar with had blossomed into a full-fledged Honors College with its own dean, curricula, and living and learning environment. Today, more than 700 motivated students are enrolled in the Honors College where they investigate diverse academic areas and engage in thoughtful, provocative discussion with fellow students and enthusiastic, distinguished faculty.
Honors College Dean Charlie Slavin says the thesis fellowship fund will enable students to be “more committed” to the time-consuming, difficult task of writing their Honors Thesis. He was especially pleased with the gift because it reinforces the academic goals of the Honors College. “The study and practice of law require an ability to think critically and to read carefully. Those are two skills that are the hallmarks of the Honors curriculum, and we think our students excel in those areas. In addition, law requires the ability to research carefully – and that’s what the thesis is all about.”
Rendle and Pat, who met when they were in their first year at UMaine, credit their alma mater with giving them the foundation that enabled them to launch successful careers.
Personal motivation, along with the support and guidance of his professors helped him graduate in three years, says Rendle, who grew up in Richmond. A history and government major, he planned on going into law ever since graduating from high school.
Pat, a Deer Isle native, took a more roundabout route to what would become a thriving real estate career at Town and Country Realtors in Camden. A microbiology major, she recalls the small, yet “stimulating” program that enabled her and seven classmates to interact with faculty, graduate students and each other. They even were involved in the same cutting edge plant research being done at the time by The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.
With a bachelor’s of science degree from UMaine, Pat had no problem landing numerous jobs at labs in hospitals throughout southern and eastern Maine. After staying home with the couple’s two children for a time, she went to work in Rendle’s firm as a real estate paralegal. She found the work so fulfilling that she enrolled in real estate courses at what is now University College in Rockland.
“From there, I decided to become a real estate broker. I’ve been a realtor for 20 years and I enjoy meeting people, seeing homes, and walking a lot of land.”
Pat and Rendle, who keep in touch with a number of their classmates, frequently are reminded of their Black Bear connections. “It’s a small state, and we’re always bumping into people who went to UMaine,” Rendle says.
Drawing on their deep sense of community spirit, the pair is active on a variety of boards and organizations. Chair of the Camden National Corporation, one of the largest banks in the state, Rendle has served as member and chair on the board of Penobscot Bay Health Care and is former president of the Knox County Bar Association and governor of the Maine State Bar Association. He also is past chair of the Real Estate Section of the Maine State Bar Association. In 2003, he received the Townsperson of Year award from the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Selected “The Best of the Best” in real estate in 2005, Pat also was named Realtor of The Year by the Penobscot Bay Board of Realtors for her community involvement and service to the board.
The couple’s days are jam-packed as they attend to their respective businesses and meet their community service obligations. On weekends they kick back and enjoy reading, skiing and attending UMaine hockey games. From May through October they can be found cruising Penobscot Bay in their Back Cove power boat, Blue Magic.
Their home state has given the couple just the life they wanted.
“After graduation, a lot of our classmates left to find employment elsewhere,” says Pat. “But we decided we wanted to stay here and we’ve never regretted it.”
Image Description: Rendle and Pat Jones
For Richard Higgins, graduating from the University of Maine’s College of Engineering proved a double blessing. Not only did his UMaine diploma help the 1979 alumnus land a great job with the prestigious Boeing Company, but it also allowed him to feel comfortable working with top-notch professionals at the world’s premier manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft.
“The training I received at UMaine was so spot-on that within six months at Boeing I had been accepted as a member of the engineering team and was being recognized as a promising engineer,” Richard says. “There I was, working on the most advanced projects at the greatest aviation company in the world. UMaine helped me land this dream job.”
Recently retired from Boeing after a successful career that spanned nearly three decades and included three vice-presidential assignments, Richard has moved from Seattle to Santa Fe where he lives with his wife, Jean, who graduated from UMaine in 1976. She retired after 12 years at Costco Wholesale, first as the executive assistant for chairman of the company, and then for the executive vice president who headed up both Costco’s International Division and the ancillary businesses.
Neither Richard nor Jean has forgotten their Black Bear roots. Grateful for the outstanding engineering background Richard received at UMaine thanks to caring, knowledgeable professors, the couple provided a generous endowment gift so civil engineering students could get hands-on learning opportunities.
At the Richard and Jean Higgins Materials Testing Laboratory, undergrads test materials like shear plates, concrete cylinders and wooden trusses to determine their strength.
“That’s how you learn about the properties of different materials and why they’re well suited for certain types of engineering design,” says Richard, recalling the many hours he spent at the Boardman Hall facility when he was a student.
“We loved breaking things to test the materials and see how strong they were. It was fun stuff. At the same time it provided dramatic hands-on learning to reinforce the classroom learning.”
Knowing they are helping to ensure that the highest level of standards is maintained in the lab is gratifying to both him and Jean, says Richard. The decision to support the facility had been a family affair, with daughter, Colleen, also an engineer, weighing in as well.
“We wanted to give back to the University in a way that was measurable – to do something visible and effective. This was a place where we knew we could have a serious impact on the education students receive,” Richard says.
A native of New Jersey, Richard had a political science degree and a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard under his belt when he enrolled at UMaine and found “the greatest teachers I ever met.
“My professors were extraordinary,” he says. “Jean remembers me coming home from school and talking about these guys whom I respected so much. They were great engineers who took me under their wing and got me out of there in three years. Every time they saw me they stopped what they were doing and asked if I was sticking to my academic plan, how I was doing in class and if they could do anything to help.”
Under his professors’ tutelage, Richard earned stellar grades which became a constant source of pride. “Every time I succeeded at UMaine, I thought, ‘wow, I’m measuring up to what these professors see as good.’ It gave me confidence.”
That self assurance would prove to be a boon at Boeing where employees are hired based on their college performance. The company also places great importance on the ability to stand up for one’s beliefs.
“We’d have discussions with senior engineering experts with whom you’d have to argue your points about design,” says Richard, who had learned from his UMaine professors “not to be shy and not to hang back, but to push forward new ideas.’’ These discussions could be both animated and demanding of highly sophisticated engineering judgment. Safety is always first at Boeing. UMaine gave me both the technical skills and self-confidence to be a full participant in these discussions.”
Jean says her UMaine degree in psychology helped her launch a successful career as the Controller of a real estate development company, and then as an executive assistant at Costco where she performed a host of duties including organizing schedules and trips, planning meetings and developing presentations, doing financial analysis and working with the senior management teams and employees from all over the globe.
“The people skills that were required were pretty sophisticated. And the knowledge I gained at UMaine made all the difference.”
A firm believer in lifelong learning, Richard subsequently earned an MBA from Seattle University and now is working on a master’s degree in military history from Norwich University in Vermont through a rigorous, on-line program.
Passionate about military history – especially the Civil War — since he was a child, Richard says that, for him, the battlefield represents “the other side of the coin.” Aviation brings people together to solve problems while war drives them apart.
“It’s very important to understand why humans resort to conflict to solve problems,” he says.
His love of military history became “an important part of my career” when, as an executive, he would travel the globe, discussing with world aviation leaders how Boeing could facilitate aviation in their particular country.
“But we couldn’t talk about airlines all day and so this would give us common ground,” he recalls. “I’d ask, ‘didn’t such and such a battle happen close by here?’ It would open up a whole new discussion. They’d take me on tours of battlefields and everybody would go away feeling honored that I’d taken time to learn about their country. For myself, I gained great insight into their history and culture.”
Nowadays, in addition to working on his master’s degree and serving on a number of organizations, Richard keeps busy as a member of the Dean’s External Advisory Committee for the College of Engineering which meets several times a year to determine the overall direction for the College; provide input from the perspective of major employers; identify trends in the engineering industry; and advocate for the College and the University.
Richard says he is particularly proud of the group’s work helping to develop a new minor in Engineering Leadership and Management. The curriculum, which includes courses on professional communication, environmental and business ethics, critical thinking and decision making, aims to provide undergraduate engineering and engineering technology majors with an understanding of how to inspire others to want to achieve the vision and goals of an organization.
“Today, you need engineers who are more than engineers,” he says. “The most critical need in the industry is to be not just a good engineer, but someone who has the capabilities to lead a team of people from around the world to achieve a solution to a challenging problem.”
The new curriculum can help Maine engineering graduates be at the top of their game and enjoy a career as rich as his was, he says.
Image Description: Interim Chair and Professor of Civil Engineering Eric Landis; Jean Higgins; Richard Higgins; College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey
Each time University of Maine alumnus John Bridge gives to his alma mater he is improving upon a family tradition.
For generations, the Bridges have been staunch philanthropists, committed to giving generously to a variety of non-profit organizations, four in particular: their church, the YMCA, the hospital and the United Way.
But John decided another beneficiary should be added to his family’s list.
“For me, education came in as number five.”
Supporting UMaine has indeed become a priority for the civil engineering major who earned a bachelor’s degree in 1957 and a master’s degree in 1963. He also taught civil engineering at the University from 1957 to 1960.
Named Maine’s Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2005, John was inducted into the Francis Crowe Society as a Distinguished Engineer in 2003. His many gifts to the flagship University span a wide range of interests.
With his brother, Dave, he gave to the Chester G. Bridge Tennis Complex – to honor his father who introduced his four sons to the game. John is passionate about tennis to this day. He contributed to the Honors College which he says “maximizes the talent” of UMaine’s best and brightest. He established the John C. Bridge Civil Engineering Professorship, creating a permanent commitment to quality education at the flagship University. Most recently, he created a two-year fellowship for a graduate student in the English Department to write the history of Bridgecorp, the road construction company founded by John’s great grandfather, Amos Bridge, in 1875 in Hazardville, Conn.
“The fellowship is a way to fund the University and the student, and to help me at the same time,” says John, who served for more than 30 years as president and CEO of the family business which was sold to Pike Industries of New Hampshire in 2004. Today, John, who spends winters in Florida and summers in Manchester, Maine, works part-time as a consultant for Bridgecorp, visiting clients, inspecting projects, and working with legislators to improve Maine’s transportation network.
The story of Bridgecorp illustrates the importance of hard work and entrepreneurship as well as the huge changes that came about when machines began replacing man, says John, adding that Amos Bridge would be pleased knowing his legacy is being memorialized.
“There are eight file drawers of old material worthy of summarizing on paper,” John says.
John credits the University not only with giving him a strong technical background that helped him successfully lead the family business, but also with expanding his horizons through a broad array of general subjects – writing, speech, and business courses — that “prepared me for life in general.”
Some of his fondest Black Bear memories stem from his association with the tennis team.
“I like to say that I was number seven on a six-man team,” John recalls, laughing. “We had a lot of good times. My senior year Bob Chase and I were undefeated in doubles until the last match at Bowdoin.”
John particularly enjoyed his time as an instructor. Teaching six classes while earning his master’s degree made for days that were chock full – but happy and stimulating as well.
“I had always been interested in furthering my education, and the opportunity arose when the University offered me a job on the faculty,” says John whose teaching style was inspired by his former instructor, civil engineering Professor George Wadlin.
“I loved his discipline – correcting every homework paper for every student for every class,” says John. ”
Busy as he was back then, John tried as often as possible to work in a game of tennis. The courts then were located next to Boardman Hall, the civil engineering headquarters where he spent most of his time.
“My office was on the top floor and I could look right out onto the tennis courts,” he recalls. “I almost could have played between classes. I was tempted.”
Nowadays, John is free to play tennis whenever he likes. While in Maine for the summer he enjoys using the courts at the Augusta Country Club. He also spends time at the Kennebec Valley YMCA, built in 2006 through a wildly successful $10 million capital campaign that he co-chaired.
“Of course the amazing fact is that the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care raised about the same amount at the same time,” he says, referring to the new Augusta facility operated by Maine General Hospital.
“People are growing to be more generous.”
John also keeps busy with the Kennebec Valley Alumni Chapter, one of UMaine’s most active alumni groups. He has been a member for 20 years.
“I am very proud of my UMaine connection and I enjoy talking with others who share that same pride,” he says. “KVAC is a group of people who all love their University. We have important common ground and want to help UMaine be even more successful.”
Image Description: John Bridge at Dedication of the Chester G. Bridge Tennis Complex in Fall 2007
George Sakellaris, a Greek immigrant who earned an electrical engineering degree from the University of Maine in 1969 and went on to become a leader in energy conservation and the founder of Ameresco, Inc., the largest independent energy solutions provider in North America, has been awarded the highest honor for alumni by the College of Engineering.
Sakellaris, who created two other highly successful energy conservation companies, was given the Edward T. Bryand Distinguished Engineering Award in November for his contributions to the energy industry and to his community.
“I’m pleased and honored, but at the same time humbled, because there are so many other graduates who deserve this more,” said Sakellaris in an interview before the ceremony where UMaine President Robert Kennedy presented him with the award.
Sakellaris lives in Milton, Mass., with his wife, Cathy, and children, Christina and Peter.
Committed to making a positive contribution to the health and welfare of the planet, he established Ameresco in 2000, aiming to help customers lower energy costs, increase energy reliability and enhance the environment.
Headquartered in Framingham, Mass., with offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, Ameresco has worked with hospitals, schools, public housing, government and businesses to modernize infrastructure, manage power supply, and build and operate renewable energy projects such as small scale windmills and hydroelectric dams and landfill gas-to-energy systems.
“There is no building that we haven’t gone into that we haven’t reduced their energy consumption by 25-40 percent,” said Sakellaris.
Known as a pioneer in solving tough energy conservation issues, Sakellaris was asked in 2005 to be among the technical experts to join the Clinton Climate Initiative, launched by the former President Bill Clinton. The partnership between the Clinton Foundation and some of the world’s largest cities aims to lessen the impact of harmful greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy demand.
“I was thrilled to be part of it,” said Sakellaris. Today, Ameresco is helping out by auditing energy use and performing building retrofits at no cost to homes in Louisiana.
Participating in the initiative has given Sakellaris the opportunity to spread his message that energy conservation is one of our best global supply options. “If everybody saved 20 percent of their energy costs that would translate to 25 billion barrels annually and emissions would be reduced by 9.55 billion metric tons of CO2 per year.”
His words have resonated, he added happily, noting that Bill Clinton and others have been repeating those numbers.
UMaine administrators praised Sakellaris for his many professional accomplishments and his foresight.
“For more than 35 years George has been at the frontier of tough energy conservation issues,” said President Kennedy, who hopes to work with Sakellaris on the University’s own energy plan.
“We at the University are very committed to energy conservation, so I have a special appreciation for the work that George has done and will continue to do.”
President Kennedy also noted Sakellaris’ “deep sense of integrity, powerful personal initiative, and respect for others.
“An unwavering commitment to family and community are also important to George, as is a sense of humility and the ability to be flexible and to think “out of the box.’’’
Professor Mohamad Musavi, chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, who nominated him for the Bryand Award, said Sakellaris had the courage to try new approaches and that his experience and influence have been helping to shape the energy industry for more than two decades.
“He was thinking about these issues 25 years ago when very few people were making the case that energy conservation made sound business sense. This is what distinguishes him. His accomplishments ultimately will benefit not only humankind but also the environment.”
Sakellaris’ story typifies the American Dream. He grew up on a farm in Sparta, Greece, where the importance of education, hard work, integrity and determination was instilled in him at an early age. His goal always was to attend college in the U.S., so after graduating from high school he packed his bags and moved to Bangor to live with the Brountas family who were relatives.
“You’ll be close to Orono. There is a great engineering school there,” they told him.
He enrolled at UMaine speaking little English, but armed with a fierce determination to build a better life for himself. He credits the flagship University with giving him a strong academic foundation thanks to excellent courses, such as power engineering and engineering economics, and patient, helpful professors such as Carlton Brown, Ned Sheppard, Fred Irons and Dick Hill.
“Socially, UMaine helped me too,” Sakellaris said. “I was exposed to different cultures and different people. It broadened my horizons.”
The days were jam packed as he juggled studies with jobs as a clerk in a variety store and a short order cook in the family restaurant. During the summer, he’d pick up the pace, working 16 hours a day seven days a week.
But he found time for fun, too, socializing with classmates and area families who would take foreign students under their wing.
The cold weather took some getting used to, Sakellaris admitted. “That first winter, I said to myself, ‘what am I doing here?’ But I stayed focused on the mission I came here for.”
After graduation, he began his career at New England Electrical Systems (NEES) where he adapted quickly thanks to his UMaine background.
“I knew so much that after four months, I told them I had enough training and that I wanted to really do something,” he told his boss. While working, he earned graduate degrees in electrical engineering and business from Northeastern University.
In 1979, he was recruited to analyze whether it made better economic sense for the company to promote energy conservation and energy management or to build a power plant.
“You’d better do the analysis if you want to move ahead,” a senior vice president advised him.
So Sakellaris asked for a team of bright young colleagues and they got to work and ultimately proved that indeed it was cheaper and better for the environment to encourage energy conservation and reduce consumption.
“We developed some analytical tools that are still being used today,” Sakellaris said.
He subsequently launched NEES Energy, a subsidiary of NEES, and pioneered the Energy Savings Performance Contract Concept (ESPC) which has since become a cornerstone in the industry. It operates under a simple premise, Sakellaris explained: “If I tell you you’ll save a million bucks, and you don’t, I’ll make up the difference.”
It’s all about integrity, he added. “Deliver the customer what you promise.”
Under Sakellaris’ guidance, NEES Energy implemented the first ESPC at the Mercantile Wharf in Boston in 1981.
In 1987 NEES was converted into NORESCO, an energy conservation company serving municipalities, government agencies, school districts and hospitals. Sakellaris served as president and CEO until 1997 when the company was acquired by Equitable Resources, an integrated energy company. He then served as president and senior vice president of that corporation.
Reflecting on the twists and turns his life has taken, Sakellaris said it’s hard to believe how far he has come. The personal motto that he adopted nearly 30 years ago has stood him in good stead: “Work harder than the other guy, be persistent and focus.”
Image Description: UMaine President Robert Kennedy, George Sakellaris, College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey, Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering Mohamad Musavi