FORT KENT, Maine — A noted historian, writer and editor urged the newest University of Maine at Fort Kent graduates on Saturday, May 7, to love and be proud of their country and to take pride in the fact that they were educated in Maine.
Dr. Douglas Brinkley delivered his remarks to an estimated 1,200 people at the UMFK Sports Center, where he gave the keynote address at the university’s 129th commencement ceremonies and also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
In his keynote address, Brinkley, who is a history professor at Rice University with six award-winning books named New York Times Book of the Year, talked about noted Americans, including Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, and how they made their marks on history. He also reminded the graduates of historical figures who have found solace, comfort and renewal in Maine, including Theodore Roosevelt and Henry David Thoreau.
He urged students to be “very proud of the localism of being from Maine and of living where you live.”
“Come back here often,” he continued. “You are the custodians of this community and the future.”
Students also were given advice from two UMFK alumni, one of whom was honored with the UMFK Distinguished Service Award.
Norman Fournier, who graduated from UMFK in 1967 and is now vice president of the University of Maine System board of trustees, told the graduates to be proud of the education they received at UMFK and to return often to the campus and the community.
“Now that you’ve been given the tools to build the rest of your lives,” he said, “it is up to you to do it.”
Bernard Paradis, another member of the Class of 1967, also was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award. The educator and longtime volunteer taught and coached sports for several years at Eagle Lake Elementary School. He went on to earn a master’s degree and taught physical science at Fort Kent Community High School and science courses at UMFK. He still teaches part time at the college.
Paradis has served on numerous boards and organizations, including the Maine Education Association board and Tenth Mountain Ski Center board and as a director of the UMFK Foundation board. The crowd gave him a standing ovation when he received his accolade.
University President Wilson G. Hess presided over the ceremony that conferred 177 bachelor degrees and 18 associate degrees.Sixteen area professional educators received master’s degrees in education, conferred by the University of Southern Maine.
Hess was formally invested as UMFK’s 10th president in a brief ceremony officiated by Fournier.
Before the graduates were handed their diplomas, they were advised by commencement speaker Brinkley to talk about “the virtues of Maine and how character is being built here,” especially if their career took them out of state.
“Talk about your experiences, and your education,” he said Saturday. “And wherever you go, never forget the University of Maine at Fort Kent and what it has done for you.”