In 1985 when he was a Doctor of Music student at Indiana University, Stuart Marrs learned that the University of Maine wanted to hire him as professor of music. He and his wife, Gianna Marrs, were thrilled. Gianna had visited the state of Maine and fallen in love with it. Stuart grew up in rural New Jersey and moving to New England felt like a homecoming.
More than 20 years later, Stuart, associate provost and dean for Undergraduate Education, and Gianna, associate director of the Office of Student Financial Aid, are as delighted as ever to be part of the UMaine community.
“I wake up every morning and count my blessings that I landed the job at UMaine,” says Stuart, percussion specialist, conductor and soloist who also served as chair of UMaine’s Music Division.
Given their enthusiasm about UMaine, it’s no surprise that the couple has chosen to support a number of university initiatives.
“UMaine needs the help and we want to contribute in whatever way we can,” says Gianna, a former professional violinist who earned a master’s degree in education at UMaine in 1988.
“We’re here because we believe in public higher education and the accessibility and affordability it offers.”
Stuart adds, “UMaine is an important entity in our state with a huge impact on economic development and on the artistic and intellectual environments. Every dollar contributed to UMaine goes a long way.”
He knows first-hand the ways that UMaine benefits the state and its residents.
With help from the university’s Target Technology Incubator program, which stimulates the growth of new business in Maine by assisting in the commercialization of university-based research and supporting the development of new technologies in the private sector, Stuart was able to launch GudMuse (www.GudMuse.com). The company combines the study of classical performances with cutting edge technology, enabling students to explore music in a detailed and analytical way.
“What began as a research project launched during a sabbatical leave, with the help of many university resources associated with the Target Technology Incubator, has developed into a viable production company, contributing to the Maine economy,” says Stuart. “UMaine’s vision was clear in its intent to translate the world of ideas that abound in a university setting to the world of business. I am pleased they saw this potential in an artistic project.”
One of the couple’s favorite causes is the Maine Center for the Arts – soon to be known as the Richard R. and Anne A. Collins Center for the Arts – where they frequently attend concerts, operas and other musical events. Located on the UMaine campus, the facility is a cultural destination for residents of eastern, central and northern Maine. Aiming to support the MCA’s renovation project, which will be completed in 2009, Stuart and Gianna named seats in Hutchins Hall after their parents. David and Gretchen Felix, Gianna’s father and mother, encouraged their daughter’s love of the violin. Stuart’s parents, Donald and Goldie Marrs, were music educators who inspired his devotion to teaching.
“A symbolic gift like this means so much,” says Gianna. “This was the best gift we could give them. Music and the arts play such an important role in all of our lives.”
In fact, it was music that brought Stuart and Gianna together!
The couple met in 1974 as members of the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica. Stuart was timpanist and principal percussionist and Gianna – who originally came to Costa Rica as a Peace Corps volunteer – played violin. They took to each other right away.
“I knew a good thing when I saw it,” says Stuart.
After the couple returned to the U.S., Stuart enrolled at Indiana University School of Music where he earned master’s and doctoral degrees. Three years later he and Gianna received word that UMaine wanted him on its faculty.
Today, the couple enjoy their jobs and their relationships with students and colleagues.
As associate director in the busy Student Financial Aid Office, Gianna administers federal, state and university aid programs as well as the many alumni scholarships that help UMaine students finance their education, Gianna says she likes “seeing the impact these scholarships have on students.
“I also like working with the senior alumni and with the University of Maine Alumni Association. It’s fabulous to see the loyalty of these folks who have graduated years ago and really understand the significance of a college education.”
For his part, Stuart says he “gains a tremendous satisfaction by serving the university.
“I know that what I’m doing is ultimately benefitting Mainers throughout the state.”
Image Description: Stuart and Gianna Marrs at Acadia National Park
“Curiosity must be kept alive,” Eleanor Roosevelt said. Nancy Prisk ’72 wholeheartedly agrees.
Growing up in Virginia, Nancy chose the University of Maine because, as she says, “I wanted to accumulate skills in lots of fields that were interesting to me and then choose a career I was passionate about. There were topics that I wanted to explore and, as I looked around, I realized that UMaine offered a broad variety of excellent learning opportunities.”
Sure enough, Nancy found a wealth of educational experiences at UMaine. She took classes in nutrition, design, textiles, architecture, folklore, education and map drawing. She even created her own course in fur design.
Ultimately, she earned a bachelor of science degree in home economics education. But, because she came away with “a good solid” foundation, she says she felt confident that a variety of career opportunities would be open to her.
She was right.
Moving to the Boston area after graduation, she married and successfully held a number of positions including as a home economics teacher at a junior high school, a business manager at Brandeis University, and the director of consumer affairs at H.P. Hood. She even started her own management training and consulting firm.
Now retired, Nancy has had the time to pursue metalsmithing, a skill she learned from her father. After training at the DeCordova Museum School, at several studios in Massachusetts and Maine, and with master silver and metalsmiths from the U.S. and the United Kingdom, she began creating one of a kind silver and copper jewelry. Marketed by her company, Southport Silver, Nancy’s unique pieces of wearable art reflect simple, organic forms with textures and finishes inspired by nature. They can be found in galleries in New England, California and the Bahamas. Her website www.southportsilver.com has more information.
Nowadays, dividing her time between Southport Island and Orono, Nancy is grateful to UMaine for enabling her to develop her sense of curiosity and for providing exciting and innovative classes that prepared her well for the business, education and art worlds.
Wanting to give back to her alma mater, she has generously provided a number of gifts.
During the last decade she established a scholarship for the Honors College, helped fund the construction of the Buchanan Alumni House and its endowment, and dedicated to her parents a bench in the Alumni House garden. Most recently she gave a $10,000 gift to establish the Prisk Fund for Native American and Peace Studies. The fund will provide academic scholarships and support for students, research projects and cultural awareness programs within the Wabanaki Center, Native American Studies, and Peace and Reconciliation Studies. Nancy also provided another $1,000 in cash so that the fund could be drawn on immediately.
The idea is to help students in Native American Studies or Peace and Reconciliation Studies participate in a nontraditional learning experiences such as site visits, retreats or conferences, she says.
“By providing educational opportunities to these students you are giving a voice to under-represented cultures and opinions and promoting pathways to peace through mutual understanding.”
Both Native American Studies and Peace and Reconciliation Studies are about “working for a better world,” says Nancy who now takes classes in those disciplines at UMaine.
She stays connected to her alma mater in other ways. After serving for 15 years on the University of Maine Alumni Association Board of Directors, she recently became a member of the University of Maine Athletic Advisory Board of Directors. “I thought it was a good way to better understand the sports community and to share my perspective as a UMaine alumna and an Orono resident.”
Moving back to Orono, Nancy enjoys life in the vibrant, friendly college town she fell in love with as a UMaine student.
“You really feel as though you’re part of a community here. I had such a great experience when I was here as an undergraduate student – it was a perfect fit for me. So, why not return to that perfect fit when you retire?”
Image Description: Nancy Prisk '72 on Southport Bridge
The University of Maine College of Liberal Arts and Sciences celebrated its first annual Maine Heritage Event Nov. 6 at the Buchanan Alumni House thanks to support from TD Banknorth, a longtime friend to the university.
The Maine Heritage Event is part of a larger initiative called the Maine Heritage Project, aimed at highlighting the innovative research and scholarship being done at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; fostering a better understanding of the culture, history, and people of Maine; and honoring a UMaine faculty member who has made significant contributions to the understanding of Maine heritage.
Attended by nearly 100 people including faculty, students, administrators, staff, alumni, donors and volunteers from UMaine boards and committees, the Maine Heritage Event featured a lecture by James Acheson, professor of anthropology and marine sciences, who discussed the lobster industry in light of the 20th anniversary of his book, “The Lobster Gangs of Maine.” In addition, several departments featured displays set up throughout the first floor of the Alumni House.
TD Banknorth’s impact at UMaine will last forever. Over the years, the Maine-based company has contributed to the William S. Cohen Center, the Franco American Centre, Pine Tree 4-H Foundation, the University of Maine Foundation, the Maine Center for the Arts, and Black Bear Athletics.
Representing TD Banknorth at the Maine Heritage Event was Michele Parry who told the audience that many bank employees are UMaine graduates and that “the university holds a special place in our hearts.”
Sponsoring the Maine Heritage Event “demonstrates our commitment to the University of Maine and the state,” she added.
Instrumental in helping UMaine establish the Maine Heritage Event was Ted Scontras, TD Banknorth’s executive vice president for higher education, a UMaine graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science – one of the departments within the college of liberal arts. Also helping bring the event to fruition was another UMaine graduate, Laura Warner, vice president for higher education at the bank.
A collaboration of the departments of art, English, anthropology, history, sociology, modern and classical languages, Franco-American studies and Native American studies, the Maine Heritage Project will focus on all the ethnic groups and nationalities which have lived in Maine over the years including Franco-Americans, Irish-Americans, American Indians, and the Somalis.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is seeking funding for the project from companies and individual donors. Funding will go toward an endowed professorship of Maine heritage and faculty positions in Maine heritage, and will help pay for collaborative projects with communities, faculty and student research projects, and education for schoolchildren. Other areas the college hopes will be funded include graduate fellowships and assistantships.
Dr. Waldo “Mac” Libbey ’44, who taught electrical engineering at the University of Maine for 47 years, and was known as a “Renaissance Man” for his accomplishments in both the arts and the sciences, has provided a generous gift to create a professorship in his name.
Working with Dean of the College of Engineering Dana Humphrey and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair Mohamad Musavi, Libbey has designated resources through his estate that will be used to attract and retain outstanding faculty, help the university build upon its quality academic and research programs, and ensure a thriving intellectual community.
The Waldo “Mac” Libbey ’44 Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering will be established in the University of Maine Foundation.
An acoustics expert who applied his research to hearing conservation and noise control, Libbey, 86, said he wanted to “leave something to the university that would keep my name on in perpetuity.
“I taught here for nearly 50 years — it was my life’s work.”
Libbey earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UMaine in December, 1943, and, just ten days later, was made a faculty member in the Department of Electrical Engineering to teach students in the Army Specialized Training Program. In 1948, Professor Walter Creamer asked him to take over the electro-acoustics course which Creamer had started in 1919. The course, which was the first in the country, applied engineering principles to the science of acoustics to improve the design and construction of devices like microphones, loudspeakers and telephones.
Soon Libbey was teaching other courses in noise control and environmental acoustics. During his tenure at UMaine, he started 14 new courses — mostly graduate level — including Elements of Communication which examined hearing and energy levels in speech and music. He earned his master’s degree in engineering from MIT in 1951 and his Ph.D. from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1969, each time taking only one semester off from his teaching duties and earning the rest of the credit during summer breaks.
“I kept right on going – that’s how the 47 years came about.”
It wasn’t long before Libbey had made a name for himself as an acoustic consultant and legal witness. In the 1970’s and 1980’s he teamed with the Hearing Conservation and Noise Control group based in Philadelphia to teach noise control and acoustics to medical professionals. Industries in Maine and elsewhere began looking to him to help conduct hearing conservation programs so they could comply with new standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He was invited to lecture with Layman Miller of Bolt Beranek and Newman, a Cambridge, Mass., company that pioneered the development of computer models of roadway and aircraft noise and the design of noise barriers near highways.
Musavi pointed out that with his nearly 50 years of teaching plus the time he spent as an undergraduate, Libbey represents close to one half of the ECE Department’s 115-year history.
“He is continuing his legacy with this professorship,” Musavi said.
Science isn’t Libbey’s only interest. He loves to sing, dance, and act, and he plays both the piano and the trumpet. In the 1950’s he helped found the community theatre called the Bangor Savoyards and took leading roles in 19 musical comedy productions. In 1973 he received the Francis R. Stanley award for acting. Known for his gorgeous tenor, he sang with the choir at the Old South Church in Boston, as well as with the choir at Bangor’s Hammond Street Church where he also served as volunteer choir director for eight years. He was a member of the Bangor Male Chorus, the Orono Choral Society, and the Bangor Community Chorus, as well as the Cecelia Society of Boston under the direction of Arthur Fiedler, long time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. He studied briefly with Eileen Farrell, the famous American opera and concert singer soprano.
A model for lifelong learning, Libbey over the years took up ballroom dancing, painting, Chinese, figure skating and swimming, immersing himself in each new interest, and winning numerous awards for his endeavors.
Described as one of the best teachers in the department, Libbey in 1980 was awarded the first Ashley Campbell Award which each year recognizes a faculty member in the College of Engineering for outstanding teaching.
Using his artistic background, Libbey would bring a special flair to his classroom instruction, according to former colleagues.
“He raised the bar for the rest of us,” said Professor John Field. “His dedication to students, his preparation for lectures, the breadth of what he taught – all were impeccable. He’s done so many things so well – everything from the arts to the sciences. He’s a true Renaissance Man.”
Holding his acoustics class in Hauck Auditorium, Libbey would illustrate the “dead” spots by doing a tap dance, Professor Ned Sheppard recalled. For his course on human engineering, he’d use colored chalk to make elaborate drawings of the thorax, or voice box, Professor Fred Irons said.
“They were so beautiful and artistic and clever and clear that no one wanted to erase them.”
Said Libbey, “My upbringing at the University of Maine made me a great teacher. All my teachers were very professional, knowledgeable, and patient. They made their subject interesting. These were all things I tried to do myself.”
Carroll Lee ’71, former Bangor Hydro president and chief operating officer, was in Libbey’s acoustical engineering and lighting engineering classes. He remembered the professor vividly.
“He took great pride in his teaching and was very effective in catching students’ interest. And he was very likeable and easy to talk to. For us young engineers it was really valuable to have a professor who was approachable. He was always noticeable – he had a mustache and wore wear bright colored suit jackets. He stood apart from the average professor.”
Libbey was graduate thesis advisor for Lee Prager, an engineer with Bose in Massachusetts who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UMaine in the 1970’s. Prager still recalls the teacher’s amazing knack for boiling down complicated acoustical theories.
“He was one of my best professors. He taught in such a way that you really got it.”
Although he didn’t use his acoustics background until much later in his career when he joined Bose, Prager said the foundation Libbey gave him years before put him in good stead.
“Thanks to the wonderful background I got from him in acoustics, I was able to make the most of a great career opportunity at Bose.”
Image Description: L-r: Professor Mohamad Musavi, chair of Electric and Computer Engineering; Dr. Waldo "Mac" Libbey '44; and Dana Humphrey, Dean of the College of Engineering
Over the last nearly 20 years, the Cole Land Transportation Museum has forged a close relationship with scores of teachers throughout Maine, helping them educate school children about the pioneers who created the state’s roads and railways and about the veterans who fought and died to preserve our freedom.
The Cole Museum in Bangor, Maine, offers tours led by knowledgeable volunteers; a student-veteran interview program and essay contest ; class presentations; study guides; books; videos; and publications. Through the Galen Cole Family Foundation, the museum also supports programs that teach young people to make healthy decisions, participate in their community, and be prepared for the workforce and entrepreneurship.
Now the Galen Cole Family Foundation has taken community outreach to a new level.
In an effort to connect with prospective teachers, the foundation has provided up to eight, $2,500 scholarships for students in the University of Maine College of Education.
Scholarship recipients, who are recognized for their excellence in a teacher education program and interest in volunteerism, are asked to become involved in some way with the museum or its programs. For example, these teachers-in-training could sit in on students’ interviews with veterans; conduct guided tours at the museum; or partner with a cooperating Maine educator to create a Veterans’ Memorial, a Patriotic Community Program, or a service learning project.
“Since our relationship with schools is established initially through teachers, it seemed natural to start building relationships with them while they are learning to become teachers,” says John Simpson, who earned degrees from UMaine in 1971 and 1983 and now is Chief Executive Officer of the Galen Cole Family Foundation.
“Our mission is to improve aspirations for young people in Maine, and since the only pathway to upward mobility for many Maine children is through education, we want to help college students who may not be able to obtain their degrees without some financial aid.”
Simpson, current head of the President’s Development Council, has been a loyal UMaine supporter and has served on a number of boards and committees, including as immediate past chair of the University of Maine Foundation Board of Directors.
The scholarship program marks the continuation of a long and productive collaboration between the Galen Cole Family Foundation and the University of Maine. For more than a decade, the foundation has funded the Reading Recovery Program administered by UMaine. Galen Cole, founder of the Galen Cole Family Foundation and the Cole Land Transportation Museum, is a committed UMaine supporter who was awarded the Black Bear Award for devotion and loyalty and who headed the President’s Development Council. Three of his four grown children graduated from UMaine.
Located on Perry Road, the museum is a tribute to the pioneers who cleared and reshaped the land and constructed the highways and rail lines that allowed the state to expand beyond its seacoast. Featuring more than 200 vehicles outlining the history of land transportation and approximately 200 military artifacts and memorabilia from several wars, the collection includes farm equipment, automobiles, carriages, bicycles, sleds, fire trucks, horse drawn equipment, motorcycles, railroads, snowmobiles, snowplows, military vehicles and trucks.
To honor our nation’s soldiers and remind this and future generations of the high price veterans have paid to protect our freedom, the museum also features a Veteran Interview Program created by Galen Cole and his son, Gary, a UMaine graduate. Through the program, middle and high school students get a unique opportunity to speak directly to veterans about their life experiences. Students may choose to enter an essay contest in which they write what they learned about freedom from the veteran they interviewed. Winners get a savings bond and the opportunity to read their essay at a Memorial Day celebration at the museum.
A World War II veteran himself, Galen Cole says he is proud that he has been instrumental in connecting thousands of young Mainers with veterans who have such powerful stories.
Each year, the museum welcomes approximately 20,000 visitors from May 1 to Nov. 11. One third of these visitors are children, many of whom likely come away with a new perspective.
“Once young people see what Maine pioneers accomplished with hard work, honest endeavor and primitive tools, they can believe that, with today’s improved knowledge, advanced equipment, and similar efforts, they also can become creative doers and builders of a bright future for themselves, their communities and their fellow man,” says Cole.
In its second year, the scholarship program is proving a great way to acquaint prospective teachers with the museum and its programs. “Now, when they are hired by schools around the state, they already know about us and are excited to participate in our programs,” Cole says.
Kevin Bailey, 20, a UMaine sophomore in the College of Education, didn’t know much about the museum until he was awarded a Cole scholarship last year. He subsequently participated in a tour of the museum with students from Oak Hill High School in Oakland. He also watched while they interviewed veterans.
“I came away very impressed,” says Bailey. “The veterans gave a good account of what it was like to fight in a war and the kids were completely captivated. As a teacher, I definitely would want to bring a group of kids to the Cole Museum. It’s a valuable experience that will complement any kind of history lesson.”
College of Education sophomore Meghan Martin is another Cole scholarship recipient who sat in on conversations between students and veterans. That’s when she realized that a field trip to the Cole Museum could be used to complement any subject being discussed in the classroom.
“We got to hear about the different places veterans traveled and the language barriers they encountered, so a visit to the museum would be perfect to incorporate into the foreign language curriculum,” said Martin, 19, who plans to teach high school French and Spanish.
Image Description: Kevin Bailey '11