Paul G. Coulombe, University of Maine alumnus and president and chief executive officer of White Rock Distilleries, Inc., endowed the Paul G. Coulombe Scholars Fund in 2010. When fully funded, the scholarships will benefit a minimum of four students per year (one from each undergraduate class), with first preference given to financially needy students.
“I’m very fond of my alma mater and I think it’s important to support our state university,” said Coulombe, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1975. “When I learned that the need for financial aid has grown over the last few years, in part because aid has dropped off at the federal level, I was more than happy to make a gift to help the young people in our state who may not be able to afford an education.
“The University of Maine is a great school with an excellent business program,” he said. “I believe in supporting UMaine because it works to strengthen the economy and make the state a better place to live. It’s a key ingredient to the success of the state as a whole.”
Founded in 1928 and acquired by Paul Coulombe’s parents in 1971, White Rock is a leading manufacturer and importer of fine spirits and liqueurs and operates a state-of-the-art facility in Lewiston, Maine. When it started, the company had three employees and a 10,000 square foot plant and was selling just 25,000 cases a year. Over the next 30 years, two generations of the Coulombe family built White Rock into a major industry player through acquisition, expansion, and development of new technologies. Today the company boasts sales exceeding 3.5 million cases, has 250 employees and does business in all 50 states and in about 20 countries.
“It’s exciting to have been part of the growth of my family business,” said Coulombe, who was born in Lewiston and graduated from Lewiston High School. He began work at White Rock after graduating from UMaine in 1975 and was vice president of marketing and a sales manager before being named CEO in 1995. “The marketing aspect excites me the most because it drives revenue. Good marketing and advertising make the difference between a company’s success or failure. You can make all the products you want, but it’s really about getting the word out and creating a demand.”
Key to building White Rock into a major industry player was daring to take risks, Coulombe said. “Being creative and innovative and willing to try new things has been our creed. We were always willing to try new concepts, whether it was new flavors, product lines, or packaging. We were involved in acquisitions and expansions and we developed new technologies in packaging and machinery, but we always believed that having a sense of what’s going on in the marketplace and staying up with the latest fads and trends was the way to be successful and to set ourselves apart.
“We had our share of failures, but we learned from every one of them,” he continued. “It’s all about tenacity and hanging in there when things look darkest. Some people give up. I was raised a different way – you just keep going and work even harder.”
President of his Class and of Phi Mu Delta Fraternity, Coulombe stayed busy and active at UMaine. The training and skills he acquired in his finance, accounting, and general economy classes stood him in good stead throughout his business career. “The best course I ever took required students to run their own fictitious company,” he said. “We had to compete against each other as we applied the business theories we learned in class. We had to understand finance and marketing and know how to regulate inventory and sales. I learned some great lessons in that class. It had a huge impact on me.”
Coulombe’s advice to undergraduates: Aspiring entrepreneurs should become well versed in basic business principles such as finance, accounting, banking, marketing, management, and even law, he said. “All those courses are more important today than ever. Then, continue your education, get an MBA, and take a position in a large, global company. Once you have a few years under your belt, go out on your own or work for a mid-sized or smaller firm. You’ll be a better business person in the end.”
Dunkin Donuts of Orono and Old Town recently donated $4,000 to benefit the UMaine Alumni Association, Black Bear Fund, and Presidential Priorities to support scholarships as part of its community outreach and corporate responsibility program. The university also provided each location jerseys from all of the male and female sports to display at the local outlets.
University of Maine forest resource students will have access to state-of-the-art technology thanks to the Maine Timberlands Charitable Trust (MTCT) which has provided a $200,000 gift to create and endow the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Laboratory in Nutting Hall.
Ms. Wheatland, known affectionately as “Bee,” died at her home in Sargentville, Maine, in 2010. She established the MTCT, a private charitable foundation with a special focus on forestlands, timberlands and other natural resources in the State of Maine, as well as related education, research, and other activities concerning the environmentally compatible use and preservation of these resources.
Robert Wagner, director of the UMaine School of Forest Resources and Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF), said the generous gift from the MTCT for the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Laboratory in Nutting Hall on the UMaine campus in Orono would greatly benefit the School’s nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate students as they pursue their education. “This wonderful endowment helps us ensure that our students are equipped with the latest skills and gives us the capability to perform leading research as we work on applied forest management problems,” he said. “Employers expect our graduates to have state-of-the-art knowledge and training relating to geospatial analysis of landscapes. This new laboratory will help us accomplish that.”
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enable foresters to look at how complex environmental and management factors change and interact over large forest landscapes for long periods of time, allowing forest managers to optimize harvest operations and management plans to meet the rigorous demands of sustainable forestry.
“So much of what we do in modern forest management involves geospatial analysis,” Dr. Wagner said.
A member of the Pingree family which owns and manages multiple timberland properties and hardwood processing facilities in Maine, Ms. Wheatland spent her youth in Marblehead and Topsfield, Mass. She fell in love with the Maine woods at an early age and often hiked the mountain trails on Mount Desert Island, ultimately returning to live at her Maine farm in her later years, practicing “organic gardening” before the term became fashionable.
She was keenly interested in anything connected with Maine, including the development of ”green” certified forestry practices, boutique maple syrup production, and individual ownership of working forestlands. MTCT trustee Linda Dalby Kennedy said Ms. Wheatland’s foundation is committed to innovative approaches in the conservation and economic development of Maine’s natural resources so that residents of Maine may benefit from related educational grants and scholarships, expanded employment opportunities, and the simple enjoyment of nature that is ensured by responsible stewardship.
The MTCT’s generous gift, which supports both the renovation and outfitting of the current GIS lab as well as the endowment to secure its long-term viability in this rapidly changing discipline, comes at an opportune time, Dr. Wagner said, since Nutting Hall is undergoing renovations as part of a bond approved by voters several years ago.
In addition to its gift to the School of Forest Resources, the MTCT has made a substantial grant to the New England Forestry Foundation to open and staff its first satellite office in Maine and enable NEFF to establish its presence in Maine as a “go to” regional resource for forest conservation and sustainable forest management, co-trustee Timothy Ingraham said.
Patricia Cummings, Associate Vice President for Development, expressed appreciation for donors who recognize the importance of UMaine’s research to the state’s economy and who provide the equipment for UMaine students to gain hands-on experience to prepare them as future stewards of our forest resources. “We look forward to dedicating the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Lab in the newly renovated Nutting Hall,” she said.
University of Maine students who are employed at Fogler Library or who want a career working with children and families have received a boost thanks to two new scholarships established by Robert ’57 and Sharon ’60 Ward Fuehrer of Peacham, Vt.
The Robert and Sharon Ward Fuehrer Library Employee Scholarship Fund will provide aid for undergraduate and/or graduate students who work at Fogler Library. First preference is for students who graduated from high schools in Vermont where the couple has lived for nearly 40 years. The Robert and Sharon Ward Fuehrer Scholarship Fund will provide aid for undergraduate and/or graduate students majoring in Child Development and Family Relations or Nutrition Science who are graduates of Maine high schools. First preference is for students from Aroostook County where Sharon grew up in Limestone.
The idea is to help UMaine remain accessible and affordable, said the couple, who recalled their own struggles with finances when they were university students.
“We want to make it easier for students to stay in school,” said Bob, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and a five-year degree in pulp and paper management. While at UMaine he received Pulp and Paper Foundation scholarships which enabled him to continue with his education.
“That certainly affected my interest in establishing scholarships.”
Sharon, who earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics education with a concentration in dietetics, food and nutrition, said her parents scrimped and saved so she could get an education. “My dad was a potato farmer,” she said. “He and my mother worked hard to send me to college.”
The scholarships established by the Fuehrers will be a boon to many UMaine students, officials said.
“Work in the library benefits both the students and the library,” said Joyce Rumery, dean of libraries. “The students make money to help fund their education and they learn more about the library which helps their education. In addition, they help the library maintain the hours and services that all of the students need.”
O.J. Logue, associate dean of student services, said, “The College of Education and Human Development is extremely grateful for the generosity of Robert and Sharon Fuehrer in creating the college’s newest fund. This gift is especially timely given the financial difficulties in funding one’s higher education.”
The University of Maine prepared them well for their careers and for life after graduation, said the Fuehrers. Bob, who worked in the pulp and paper industry for nearly 40 years, began his career at Spaulding Fibre Company’s mills in New Hampshire. He later became a partner at the consulting firm of Gorham Research in Maine, and then went on to co-found EHV Industries in St. Johnsbury, Vt., which eventually became EHV-Weidmann Industries. Now called Weidmann Electrical Technology, the company has operations throughout the world.
Although the current home economics education program at UMaine is far different than the one in which Sharon participated, she also has fond memories of her classes. “It was a really excellent program,” said Sharon, a stay-at-home mother who was a substitute home economics teacher at local schools.
“There was much more to our UMaine program it than cooking and sewing,” she said. “We learned time and home management and how to budget and be financially prudent.”
Her experience influenced the couple’s four children. “They are all knowledgeable about the economics of savings as well as being great cooks,” she said.
Bob and Sharon have supported UMaine in a variety of ways. In 1994 they established a Pulp and Paper Scholarship in memory of Bob’s uncle, George J. Muller, a self-made man who took Bob on a tour of the university while his nephew was still in high school in New York. After meeting with UMaine professors and then-President Arthur Hauck and learning about the scholarships that the Pulp and Paper Program offered, Bob knew UMaine was the place for him.
“That visit cinched the deal,” he said.
Bob said he and Sharon have come to think of the scholarships they’ve created at UMaine as a team effort. Establishing the scholarship for a student in the Pulp and Paper Program was for him, while the scholarship for a student in Child Development was for her, and the scholarship for a Fogler Library employee was for them both.
“It’s a his, hers, ours sort of approach,” Bob said.
Loyal and dedicated alumni, the Fuehrers have made it a point over the years to attend reunions and Black Bear hockey games. They have remained close to a number of former classmates.
The couple, who met when Bob was a senior and Sharon a freshman, reflect often on the fact that, had it not been for their UMaine experience, they likely never would have gotten together. They will celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2010.
“We really are quite struck with the debt of gratitude we owe UMaine,” said Bob. “We met at UMaine and that meeting has led to a long and happy marriage. We are grateful to the university, not only for our education, but for helping us find each other and build a wonderful life with four great kids, six grandchildren and lots of happy memories.
“We’re both lucky,” he added. “We really got our money’s worth.”
Richard C. Hill, P.E.
Professor Richard C. Hill came to the University of Maine 63 years ago and the mark he has left on Maine and its preeminent university is truly indelible. Arriving here in 1946, his body of work in the field of energy has single-handedly educated generations of Maine citizens both in broad policy issues and practical industrial and residential applications. He has the distinction of being the oldest active licensed engineer in the State of Maine, and in 2000 was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Maine.
Dick Hill joined the University of Maine after receiving a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Syracuse University and spending four years at the General Electric Company working on steam and gas turbine design. He was instrumental in building a superb Mechanical Engineering Department at UMaine, and also served as director of the Department of Industrial Cooperation for the last thirty years of his tenure. Retiring after 46 years of teaching and research, Professor Hill remains one of UMaine’s most highly recognized and respected emeriti faculty experts. His extensive knowledge, paired with a communication style that made even the most complex subjects understandable, has made him a highly-sought-after commentator on energy issues for decades. His fifteen years of weekly radio presentations on statewide Maine Public Radio, his consulting work with the U.S. Department of Energy, his extensive writings in newspapers and journals, and his innumerable speaking engagements around the country have brought great recognition and honor to the University.
Professor Hill’s contributions to the University of Maine are legendary. Beloved by his students, admired by his colleagues, and respected by Maine people everywhere, he remains one of UMaine’s most effective and articulate ambassadors. As the first faculty member to receive the Stillwater Presidential Award since its creation in 2001, we are honored to present this distinction to Professor Richard C. Hill.
Henry L.P. “Hank” Schmelzer, Class of 1965
Henry L.P. “Hank” Schmelzer, retired president and CEO of the Maine Community Foundation (MCF), has touched the lives of Maine citizens from Fort Kent to Kittery through his gifted leadership of one of the country’s most vibrant community foundations.
Hank became president and CEO of MCF after twenty-five years as a corporate financial executive in Boston, returning to his beloved adopted state in 2000 with his wife Cynthia Livingston. Under his leadership, the foundation’s assets grew from $78 million to almost $250 million. The number of donors more than doubled, and perhaps most importantly, grants to Maine non-profits and community organizations tripled, increasing from $5 million to $16 million per year.
His exceptional ability to forge relationships with donors, his staff, and his peers in philanthropy, both in Maine and nationally, has been recognized as one of his greatest strengths and the reason for his unprecedented success. His vision and leadership style, coupled with his warm and approachable manner, allowed the foundation to reach out to a greatly expanded sphere of philanthropists and community leaders. While at MCF, Hank was instrumental in the development of the Maine Compact for Higher Education, a statewide program involving academic, government and community leaders to increase higher education levels in Maine, among many other important initiatives.
“Hank (took) the Maine Community Foundation from a small entrepreneurial enterprise to being a major partner in community development in Maine,” notes MCF Board Chair Anne Jackson of Yarmouth. At his retirement less than a year ago, Hank, who has a B.A. in history and Political Science from UMaine and a J.D. from George Washington University, was honored with the creation of the “Schmelzer College Transitions Scholarship Fund” at MCF. The first grants from this fund were presented this fall to four non-traditional students at the University of Maine, where he serves as a distinguished member of the Board of Visitors.
The Honorable Susan M. Collins
Susan Collins has followed in the footsteps of Maine’s long line of distinguished and independent national legislators, taking our state’s reputation for producing tremendously respected and influential leaders to a new level.
Born and raised in Caribou and the daughter of two UMaine undergraduates from the Class of 1949, Senator Susan M. Collins was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. She became the first freshman Senator ever to serve as Chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, leading the Subcommittee in investigating waste and fraud in government, uncovering some $26 billion in Medicare fraud in the process. Re-elected in 2002, Senator Collins became Chair of the Homeland Security Committee. Her work as Chair, coupled with her work on the Armed Services Committee, earned her renown for her expertise and dedication to protecting our nation. She now serves as the Committee’s Ranking Republican. In 2004, she coauthored the Collins-Lieberman Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which represented the most sweeping changes to America’s intelligence community in 50 years. She has successfully passed legislation to improve security at seaports and chemical facilities, and to rebuild our nation’s emergency preparedness structure.
Senator Collins is widely recognized for her national reputation as a thoughtful, gifted legislator who works across party lines to seek consensus on our nation’s most important issues. Her focus on national security and energy independence have made her a powerful voice for the University of Maine and its critical R&D work in creating alternative energy sources and developing technologies for the Department of Defense.
Despite her ascension to the national and international political stage, and her enormous influence as one of our country’s truly independent thinkers in the Senate, Susan has never forgotten her Maine roots. We are honored to call her our U.S. Senator.