BANGOR, Maine — A man who has left his mark on the region’s cultural and historic landscape received the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s highest honor Wednesday during the Chamber’s annual awards dinner at the Bangor Civic Center.
John Rohman, a former Bangor City Council chairman whose passions range from arts and culture to education and community service, was named this year’s recipient of the Norbert X. Dowd Award. The presentation of that honor, which aims to recognize a creative, socially conscious individual who has made significant contributions to the community and its businesses, brought the crowd of almost 600 to its feet.
As often is the case with leaders, Rohman spent most of his time at the podium recognizing others who made his own accomplishments possible, including his wife, Lyndy, other family members, his colleagues and friends.
As CEO and president of Bangor-based WBRC Architects-Engineers, Rohman has designed a number of signature buildings, including the Buchanan Alumni House at the University of Maine, his alma mater. He and his firm also have helped preserve others, including the historic Bangor Opera House.
But as many of those who attended the awards dinner saw it, Rohman’s biggest legacy arguably was the work he did to bring the National Folk Festival to Bangor.
In his remarks, Rohman recapped how the festival came to be here and what it took to get the effort off the ground.
“Bangor is large enough to have much of what we need to satisfy even demanding citizens,” he said, citing the city’s century-old symphony, live theater, waterways and forests, to name a few.
“But at the same time, we’re small enough so that one individual or group can have a real impact,” he said, referring to the first few movers and shakers who needed to be convinced that bringing the National Folk Festival here was not pie in the sky, and that it “would be, and could be, the transformation element for the city and for our community.”
Landing the national event for a three-year run, from 2002 through 2005, put Bangor on the nation’s arts and culture map. After the national event moved on, Rohman helped transform it into the American Folk Festival, which continues to draw tens of thousands to the Bangor Waterfront each summer.
“It’s hard to believe that it is now nine years ago that the initial plans were put together for the National Folk Festival to come to Bangor, the smallest community that was ever considered,” he said.
Other award recipients were:
• Volunteer of the Year, Anne-Marie Storey.
• Community Service Award, George F. Eaton II.
• Pro-Bono Award, Irv Marsters.
During Wednesday’s banquet, this award was renamed in honor of Arthur Comstock, who has lent his talents to numerous local institutions.
• Catharine Lebowitz Award for Public Service, U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, who accepted via video because he was detained in Washington on the nation’s business.
• Nonprofit of the Year, Bangor Humane Society.
• Business of the Year, Miller Drug.
Also Wednesday, Chamber members said farewell to outgoing board president Ken Huhn and welcomed his successor, John Diamond.
More information is available in a special insert inside today’s Bangor Daily News.