UMaine’s newest graduates encouraged to be engaged in civil public discourse

The University of Maine’s newest graduates “have a key role to play in restoring the high ideals of civil discourse,” according to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, the speaker at UMaine’s 216th Commencement ceremonies May 12 at Harold Alfond Sports Arena on campus.

“Courage, civility, principles and even wit are increasingly rare commodities in our discourse today,” Collins told the more than 1,650 graduates and the over 10,000 spectators in attendance. Among the graduates was her nephew — the fourth generation in the Collins family to receive a UMaine degree.

“I believe that choosing civility and pursuing compromise can yield tremendous results that strengthen our communities and sustain our democratic institutions,” Collins said. “Fixing problems rather than affixing blame does not happen by chance. It takes deliberate, thoughtful actions.”

Collins told the graduates to be risk-takers, step out of their comfort zones, and engage in their communities and with all levels of government.

“You’ll find that seeking common ground doesn’t have to mean ceding all of the ground you’re standing on,” she said. “Rather, it can lead to discovering different ways of thinking, new friendships that you never envisioned and fruitful frontiers. You may even discover that the person with an opposing viewpoint occasionally has valid points worth listening to.

“Believe in yourself. You control your own destiny. Your future will be affected by the decisions that you make,” Collins told the graduates, who gave her standing ovations.

Sharing the stage with Collins in the morning ceremony was women’s rights advocate and former Maine lawmaker Mary Cathcart, who also received a standing ovation upon receiving her honorary degree.

Baccalaureate and doctoral degree candidates in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Human Development, the Maine Business School and the Division of Lifelong Learning attended in the morning; those in the College of Engineering and the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture attended in the afternoon.

In addition, more than 255 master’s degree and Certificate of Advanced Studies candidates participated in the Graduate Commencement Ceremony May 11.

The 2018 valedictorian is Graham Van Goffrier of Norwell, Massachusetts and the salutatorian is Brianna DeGone of Turner, Maine. Van Goffrier received a bachelor’s degree in physics, with minors in electrical engineering, mathematics and nanotechnology, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering — both earned during his four years at UMaine. DeGone, who also is the Outstanding Graduating Student in the College of Engineering, received a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, with a minor in business administration.

UMaine’s top annual faculty award winners for 2018 also were honored during Commencement and at a mid-day luncheon.

This year’s Distinguished Maine Professor is Frank Drummond, an internationally recognized entomologist whose decades of research on insect pests, bees and reproductive biology of the blueberry plant have contributed to the growth of Maine wild blueberry production.

The three Presidential Award winners are: Yong Chen, professor of fisheries population dynamics, is the 2018 Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award. Senthil Vel, the Arthur O. Willey Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is the 2018 Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award. Ivan Fernandez, professor of soil sciences and forest resources, is the 2018 Presidential Public Service Achievement Award.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745