FORT KENT, Maine — The University of Maine at Fort Kent awarded its first-ever postgraduate degree when it conferred three masters of science in education diplomas during the annual commencement ceremony Saturday.
“It feels amazing,” Meranda Hafford Castonguay said after the event. “This represents three years of hard work paying off.”
Castonguay, who teaches at Dr. Levesque School in Frenchville, was joined by Julie Lee Kelly and Scott Voisine in earning the master of arts degree.
“I am interested in teaching in a university setting,” Castonguay said. “I knew I would need this degree to help me get to that point.”
In all, UMFK awarded 200 baccalaureate and associate degrees Saturday in addition to recognizing a former chancellor with an honorary degree and a local arts teacher with a distinguished service award.
Outgoing UMFK President Richard Cost presented a posthumous Doctorate of Humane Letters to Anne Woodbury, the wife of the late Dr. Robert Woodbury.
“Bob was an educator, a leader, a builder and a good friend,” Cost said. “He served the people of Maine and higher education with distinction for many years.”
In addition to serving as the system chancellor from 1986 to 1993, Woodbury was president of the University of Southern Maine from 1979 to 1986.
“As a chancellor Dr. Woodbury was a strong advocate for the total system and a champion and advocate for the smaller regional campuses,” Cost said. “He remained a strong lifelong supporter and friend to the University of Maine at Fort Kent.”
Doug Clapp, theater and arts teacher at Fort Kent Community High School, was presented the university’s distinguished service award for his decades of working with the area’s youth in the performing arts.
Over the years Clapp has written and staged original productions, directed high school theater groups in St. Agatha and Fort Kent school systems, collaborated with UMFK faculty on productions and brought more than $20,000 in visual and theater arts grants into the area.
“The arts are vitally important to this community and you have been a steady and consistent champion for these programs,” Cost said. “All of us who live here are in your debt for the strength of these entertaining, artistic and educational offerings that add so much to our lives.”
Before the diplomas were awarded, Cost, who gave the ceremony’s keynote address, advised the graduates to be accountable to themselves and others.
“Whether you will be teaching, staffing a hospital ward, working for yourself or for a large Fortune 500 corporation, here is my advice: Act responsibly,” the president said. “Whatever your job or office you hold is expected to accomplish, become personally responsible to meet that goal [and] make it your own.”
The university also awarded professor emeritus status to retired faculty members Charles Closser and James Killarney.