Allan Arch: Celebrating UMaine for 50 years

Allan Arch, a 1965 University of Maine alumnus, was a student during the university’s 100th anniversary. This October, he is experiencing another UMaine milestone as the institution celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Arch of Fort Lauderdale, Florida returned to campus Oct. 7–8 for his 50th reunion.

“I remember the 100th as a special year,” he says. “There were a lot of celebrations, some parades and most athletic events had some kind of related event. I am very excited to be part of the 150th.”

Arch, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history, looked forward to his visit and seeing the changes from the last time he made it to his alma mater about 10 years ago.

“We had a great time and went to a football game; watched the game from the President’s skybox,” he said of his 40th reunion.

One of Arch’s fondest memories as a student was helping run the campus mayoral campaign for his Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity brother, Sarge Means.

While Arch and Means were students, campus mayors were elected each spring to lead pep rallies in the fall before and during football games. Means looked “remarkably like Archie Andrews of comic book fame,” Arch says. So as part of the campaign, Means ran as Archie and was joined in a 50-car parade and skits by students who looked like the characters Jughead, Veronica and Betty, Arch recalls.

“I had a Model T Ford, Sarge had a raccoon skin coat, and we drove around campus with everyone hanging on. The characters looked just like the comic book characters,” he says.

When their opponent, a student who looked like Teddy Roosevelt, rode horses down the Mall like the Rough Riders, Arch says he thought their campaign was in trouble.

“We didn’t win by much and it was, we were told, the most hard-fought, energetic, most student engaged of any campaign in the history of the mayoral competitions,” Means says. “What a super time.”

As campus mayor, Means welcomed the freshman class to the university during orientation, instilling the importance of the “Maine Hello” and encouraging excitement for school activities.

“I suppose the office would be called the keeper of the school spirit and the leader of the enthusiasm, especially around the athletic programs,” he says.

While visiting his brother, who graduated from UMaine in 1959, Means saw the then-campus mayor working the crowd at a football game.

“Right then I said I wanted to do that,” he says. “As for why, I can’t be sure, but I’ll have to honestly say it was most likely ego and the love of attention — wanting to be noticed and, hopefully, liked. Thanks to Allan [Arch], my fraternity brothers, and many, many classmates and friends who gave so much time and effort to our campaign, my dream came to fruition and I’ve never regretted that honor.”

Arch remembers the excitement the campaign brought to the community.

“It was great fun for the whole campus,” he says. “It was certainly one of the best times that I remember.”

Besides holding various fraternity offices, Arch belonged to several singing groups on campus, including the Maine Steiners, UMaine’s oldest a cappella group. He also was recruited to become a cheerleader when Means decided there needed to be males on the team.

Other than being campus mayor, Means was vice president of his class (1966) all four years, a founding member of an intramural hockey league, a Sophomore Owl and a Senior Skull. He also played fraternity sports, was a member of the freshman cross-country team, and served on planning committees for activities including Maine Day and Winter Carnival.

One of Arch’s most memorable moments at UMaine, apart from the day Archie Andrews aka Sarge Means won the election, was being in constitutional law class when he learned President Kennedy was killed. It was about a month after the president visited campus on Oct. 19, 1963 to address the UMaine community on the football field in his last major foreign policy speech.

Upon graduation during the Vietnam War, Arch joined the Navy, and met his wife Susan, a Virginia Beach teacher. In 1968 after leaving the Navy, he began his career with the family business, Southern Gear & Machine, Inc., an employee-owned company in Miami that manufactures open custom gearing. Arch, who continues to work at Southern Gear, has been married to Susan for 47 years, has two daughters, a son-in-law and two grandchildren.

“When you graduate you don’t take a test on the way out to see what you learned or how well you are prepared for life after college — but I know that I got a great education at Maine because at Navy Officer Candidate School I graduated in the top five of 130 guys, and I competed with people from all around the country and from every level of colleges,” he says. “Maine tuned up my mind and taught me how to learn and to learn quickly. In my business life since then I have been doing gear engineering and again I have used the Maine education to learn quickly and well.”

He credits his UMaine education with helping his business grow.

“I continue to use my UMaine education every day,” he says. “I also wear my UMaine T-shirt and sweatshirt on a regular basis, and a UMaine bear and stein sit on my desk as a daily reminder.”

Over the past few years, Arch has been involved with the Engineering School and has been connecting with Dean Dana Humphrey ever since his company donated gear machines to the machine shop on campus.

“It has been a great connection and I hope it will continue,” he says. “To get benefits from my UMaine education 50 years later simply is remarkable and appreciated.”

Means joined the Army upon graduation and retired in 2005. He spent the majority of his career involved in Army aviation as a pilot, instructor pilot and instrument flight examiner in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

“My experience at the University of Maine set my course in life,” Means says. “If not for participating in ROTC, I really don’t know what I would have done.”

Since retiring, Means, who lives in Florida with his wife and has two grown children, returns to Maine every five years for class reunions.

“I have made all of them since the 25th,” he says, adding that he plans to attend his 50th reunion next year.

Aside from reunions, Means remains in touch with about 10 classmates.

“Campus life was everything to me, and I just felt like it was one big family,” he says. “So much so that whenever I see a Maine license plate or meet someone who attended the University of Maine, I immediately feel they are family. Maine had that ‘small town feel’ to me. I don’t know if larger universities are like that, but I am thankful Maine was that for me.”