Great-Great-Granddaughter of One of UMaine’s First Graduates to Earn Diploma

Five generations of the Haskell family have graduated from the University of Maine since it opened its doors in September 1868.

Edwin Haskell was first in 1872. In fact, he was one of the six men in the first-ever graduating class at the university, then called the Maine State College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts.

This year, on May 9, Haskell’s great-great-granddaughter Johanna Haskell will be among the approximately 1,700 people receiving their diplomas at UMaine’s 150th anniversary year graduation.

Edwin’s focus was in elective studies. Johanna will earn her bachelor’s degree in English, with a concentration in technical writing.

“I think the UMaine legacy is a source of pride for my family,” says Johanna, adding that when she used to walk around campus she’d often think about how her parents met at the university and about how the property would have looked when Edwin studied and worked on the farm on site.

“It was a personal goal for me because of the value placed on graduating college in my family and the love of UMaine.”

Edwin’s direct descendants who graduated in the 143-year span between he and Johanna are his son, Benjamin in 1912; his grandson, Rev. Stanley Haskell in 1966; and his great-grandson, (Johanna’s father), John in 1971.

Edwin’s commencement was held at a church in Orono. Johanna will graduate in the first of two Saturday ceremonies at the multipurpose Harold Alfond Sports Arena.

For Edwin, attending school included working on the campus farm three hours a day five days per week. To gain admittance from 1868 to 1871, students had to be male, at least 15 years old and pass an exam that included arithmetic, geography, English, grammar, United States history and algebra as far as quadratic equations.

For Johanna, a licensed cosmetologist who operates a hairdressing business and is raising three children — Darcy, 6, Daphne 4, and Miles Edwin, 2, with husband Sean Tardif — attending school required excellent time management skills.

Being able to set her work schedule was key, she says, as was the support of her extended family and the opportunity to take online courses.

She credits faculty adviser Charlsye Smith Diaz, associate professor of professional and technical communication, with being a difference-maker. “She was in my corner and was so helpful and knowledgeable,” says Johanna. “She cared.”

When Edwin was a student, M.C, Fernald, professor of mathematics and physics, was acting president until Charles Allen came on board in 1871.

Johanna was a student during the administrations of three presidents — Robert Kennedy, Paul Ferguson and Susan J. Hunter, the university’s first female president.

Johanna, who graduated from Hampden Academy in 2002, first went to cosmetology school. Then she began taking college courses when she was 21 with a personal goal to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 30.

“I just sneaked in,” she laughs. “I turn 31 in August.”

She says she particularly enjoyed writing a blog about hairdressing for her senior project. “I’ve always been interested in writing and good at it and I wanted to develop that and find an application for practical professional writing,” says Johanna. “This was a good blending of my interests.”

Johanna isn’t the only Haskell family member to be a nontraditional UMaine student.

In 1966, her great-grandfather, Rev. Stanley Haskell graduated one semester before his son, Benjamin II and five years before his son, John.

Stanley, says John, worked in banking for more than two decades before attending UMaine and Bangor Theological Seminary.

Johanna’s father, John majored in music at UMaine. After earning a master’s at Boston University, the professional pianist played at venues around the world.

He says he’s extremely proud of his daughter.

“She was determined the whole way through,” John says. “I think it’s great. It’s inspiring.”

Edwin went on to found Haskell Silk Mills in Westbrook and become a trustee of the university.

Johanna says, for now, she will continue to rear her children and operate her hairdressing business. In the future, she says she may earn an advanced degree or put her technical writing skills to use.

The list of Edwin’s direct descendants who graduated from UMaine are his sons, Ralph (1905), William (1911), Benjamin (1912) and Theodore (1914); grandsons, Donald (1939), James (1944) and Stanley (1966); great-grandsons, Benjamin II (1967) and John (1971); great-great-grandchildren, AbbyLynn Haskell Campbell (1996), Rebecca Haskell Bagley (1998) and Johanna Haskell (2015).

Edwin’s great-granddaughter Elizabeth Haskell Clancy also attended UMaine but did not graduate. Two Haskell spouses also graduated from UMaine, including Benjamin II’s wife, BettyAnn Coulton Haskell (1969) and John’s former wife and Johanna’s mother, Jan Parsley (1972).

Johanna’s sister, Jessica graduated in 2003 from the University of Southern Maine.

With such a heritage at UMaine, it’s no surprise that Benjamin II and John received the 2006 Fogler Library Legacy Award from the University of Maine Alumni Association. The award is presented annually to a family with a long tradition of attending UMaine.

From UMaine’s first graduation in 1872 to its graduation in its 150th anniversary year, the Haskell family legacy is unmatched.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777