The Class of 2010 is learning about school spirit from some of the University of Maine’s most dedicated and generous alumni.
Inspired by the Class of ‘44 and their love of their alma mater, the students are planning a class gift that pays tribute to the time honored traditions that have shaped UMaine. They are raising money to build a 2500-foot brick path across campus that will highlight the customs, events and organizations Black Bears have cherished over the years including the Maine Hello; Maine Day; Bananas the Bear; and the Maine Stein Song.
“Traditions Trail” is proposed to begin at Memorial Union, wend its way behind Carnegie and Balentine halls, alongside Chadbourne Hall and Lengyel Gym, and end at Buchanan Alumni House. The walkway will be divided into 10-foot sections that the Class of 2010, along with other UMaine classes, will purchase.
Students typically wait until they are seniors to focus on their class gift, but the sophomores decided to start early after Al McNeilly ’44 told them last year during new-student orientation about the traditions that united his class and enabled them to forge a lifelong bond with each other and with UMaine.
The loyalty shown by members of the Class of ’44 has become legendary. Collectively, they have given more than $8 million to the University and $3 million in planned gifts. They have provided countless scholarships, named the School of Performing Arts building and renovated the Bear’s Den. Their names are on the Buchanan Alumni House, The Bodwell Lounge and the McNeilly Lobby. Several class members have served for years on the President’s Development Council, the University of Maine Alumni Association, the University of Maine Foundation, and many other volunteer boards and committees.
Addressing the Class of 2010 last year, Al advised students to begin work on their project early so they would develop the love and passion for the University epitomized by his class. He also issued a challenge.
“I told them there were only 400 of us in the Class of ’44, but that we were able to leave our mark and do a few things on campus,” he says. “I told them there were over 2,000 of them and so they ought to be able to beat the dickens out of us and do even more good things for the University.”
Al also told the students that his class would act as mentors, help them get organized and provide seed money for the project.
“My classmates have endorsed this support and we’ve adopted the Class of 2010,” he says.
That was all the motivation the students needed to roll up their collective sleeves, elect officers, and start thinking about their class gift. They liked the idea of building a walkway, but decided it wasn’t enough to simply put their name on it. Their goal was to create class unity and school spirit while preserving tradition.
“We wanted to leave our own legacy, but we also wanted to look back at the past and appreciate it,” says Ashley Robinson, chair of public relations for the class. “The Traditions Trail will be a way to show everyone that these are the University’s traditions and that we take them seriously.”
Meanwhile, new traditions have been borne. Following the mentoring model set by the Class of 1944, the Alumni Association is working with other alumni classes to sponsor current classes. Val Mitchell, reunion fund coordinator and class advisor with the University of Maine Alumni Association, says the Class of 1953 has connected with the Class of 2008; the Class of 1959 with the Class of 2009; and the Class of 1951 with the Class of 2011. The Class of 1952 has pledged their support to the Class of 2012 when they arrive this fall.
Most importantly, she says, the Class of 2010 will “build pride while on campus and come to realize UMaine is something bigger than just going to class every day. And when they leave they’ll carry that with them.”
Matt Donahue, class vice president, already sees it happening. “Being a member of the Class of 2010 means something now.”
He and other sophomores agree that Al and the Class of ’44 has given them a better idea of their role and responsibility both before and after graduation. Someday they hope to return the favor and become mentors themselves.
“We want to start accomplishing things now to make a difference at UMaine but we’re also thinking about our role as alumni,” says James Morin, class treasurer. “The thought of us coming back in 30 years and walking the Traditions Trail is amazing.”
Students also are delighted at the relationship they have developed with the Class of ’44.
“We have struck gold with them as mentors,” says Gimbala Sankare, class president. “The Class of ‘44 is passing the torch and preparing us to be better alumni. They’re making sure we understand how to represent ourselves, our class and the whole university.”Posted in News