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.”