PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — It was graduation day at the Star City’s two institutions of higher learning where 234 students earned their degrees from the University of Maine at Presque Isle and 274 marched at the Northern Maine Community College commencement exercises.
Dr. Anthony D. Cortese addressed the UMPI graduates as this year’s commencement speaker. During the graduation event, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was presented to Cortese.
Cortese is one of the pioneers in the effort to integrate sustainability principles and programs into higher education in the U.S. He is the president of Second Nature, a nonprofit organization he co-founded in 1993 with Massachusetts U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Teresa Heinz with a mission “to develop the national capacity to make healthy, just, and sustainable action a foundation of all learning and practice in higher education.”
“It has been another remarkable year at the University of Maine at Presque Isle,” said President Don Zillman. Achievements noted included a national award for institutional excellence in climate leadership; a $750,000 grant received for the Pullen Hall renovation project; capacity audiences at Wieden Auditorium for the UMPI production of John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine”; qualification of its first skier, freshman Welly Ramsey, for the NCAA National Men’s Skiing Championship; and the announcement that Keren Morin, a 2011 graduate, was selected by the Maine Community Foundation as a member of the Maine Policy Scholars 2010-11 class.
“We are very pleased about the successes we have enjoyed this academic year,” said Zillman, “and excited for our graduates as they build on their successes here and prepare to follow the thousands of University of Maine at Presque Isle students before them in making their own unique mark on the world.”
The NMCC Class of 2011 included 14 graduates from the wind power technology program. The academic offering is the first of its kind at a postsecondary education institution in New England.
Also graduating were 18 former displaced workers who began their studies at the college in March 2009. At that time, NMCC offered an entire special semester of course offerings tailored to laid-off workers. The classes were designed mainly for those in the forest products industry who had received furlough notices in the days before or weeks after the traditional start of the college’s spring semester that January.
Sharing advice and words of wisdom with the graduates was featured speaker Gerard Chasse, president and chief operating officer of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.
“Education is the foundation of a progressive society. It is also one of the cornerstones of a vibrant and growing economy,” Chasse told the graduates. “Today you are helping to cement Maine’s future as a healthy, prosperous economy. Today also marks the end of your student life here at Northern Maine Community College and the beginning of a long career filled with optimism and opportunity.”
NMCC President Timothy Crowley encouraged the students to become engaged citizens.
“These are challenging time for many people in this country [and] how you approach your future determines to a great extent your success,” he said. “I wish you the best and encourage you to see your cup as half full. Be confident in knowing that you have the ability to make a difference and expect great things. Your community, your state and your country need you to be engaged. Participate in our democracy; it is your right and your responsibility.”