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‘Rexford St. John Boyington’ Walking Stick Passes to Stephen Hornsby

Contact: Nancy Strayer, Canadian-American Center, (207) 581-4220

ORONO — “Rexford St. John Boyington” is the ideal professor. He starts class on time, his students love him, and he is always well dressed, carrying a silver-tipped cane around with style and elegance. He’s brilliant, friendly and articulate. What’s stopping him from having his courses full the first night of class sign-up and being the next recipient of the Distinguished Professor Award? He’s too good to be true.

Edward “Sandy” Ives, folklorist, scholar and professor emeritus at the University of Maine, created the character to symbolize the perfect professor that the faculty in the anthropology department strives to be. Whenever a member of the department publishes a book, Boyington’s walking stick — a silver-tipped cane that has been passed around UMaine’s anthropology department since 1987 — comes to them in honor of the achievement. Ives also wrote a short story to be read during the small celebration that marks each passing of the cane.

“We all know the man doesn’t exist,” explains Stephen Hornsby, associate professor of anthropology and Canadian studies and the most recent recipient of the award named for Boyington. However, Hornsby is pleased to receive it. “It’s a fine cane,” he says.

Hornsby, who also is director of the Canadian-American Center, received the cane recently for publishing a new book, “New England and the Maritime Provinces,” an examination of the relationship between New England and its neighbor to the north. “New England and the Maritime Provinces” discusses the relationship between the two regions have had for the last 10,000 years and the evolution of the area through border changes. It also addresses common themes throughout the area’s history.

Ives has an essay in the book about the folklore of Maine and the Maritime Provinces, specifically in the logging camps. Loggers sang ballads called “Come-all ye’s,” and Ives explores the works and their meanings.

The cane is passed around only within the anthropology department, which includes the Maine Folklore Center. It is passed from author to author in a ceremony hosted by the present holder. There also is a plaque in the department office, to which the newest recipient’s name is added with each ceremony.

Hornsby also was a previous caretaker of the Boyington walking stick for an earlier book, “British Atlantic, American Frontier: Spaces of Power in Early Modern British America.” Previous recipients include professors Alaric Faulkner, Paul Roscoe, Kristin Sobolik and James Acheson.

The goals of the Canadian-American Center, since its establishment at UMaine in 1967, include teaching Canadian studies, conducting research on Canada, making Canadian information available to academic and business communities, and providing Canadian speakers and performers to the general public. In 1979, the U.S. Department of Education designated it a National Resource Center on Canada. The Canadian-American Center coordinates an extensive program of undergraduate and graduate courses, promotes cross-border research in many disciplines, provides outreach nation-wide to K-12 teachers, publishes Canadian-American Public Policy and occasional scholarly papers, and supports a major research library on Canada. The Center also houses a cartography lab currently producing the Historical Atlas of Maine and the Ice Age Trail Map. For more information, visit the website at

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