BANGOR, Maine — Howard Frye was homeless the first semester he took classes at the University of Maine at Augusta-Bangor.
Frye, 47, of Veazie on Saturday was awarded his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration at a ceremony in Augusta.
“I was homeless in the fall of 2006 and living at the Hope House,” he said Friday in an interview on the Bangor campus. “The bus stop then was on campus in front of the admissions office. I just walked in there one day and told them what I wanted to do and they walked me through the [admissions and financial aid] process.”
The next semester Frye was a full-time student but still living atwhat was then called the Acadia Recovery Community, a nonprofit agency that serves people dealing with alcohol and substance abuse addictions, many of them homeless, according to previously published reports. He finally was able to obtain housing in Veazie in the summer of 2007, he said.
Earlier this month he was the co-recipient of the UMA Bangor Baccalaureate Student of the Year Award. He also received the UMA Bangor Business Program Baccalaureate Student of the Year Award and the Outstanding Cornerstone Student Award.
Frye was born and raised in Sullivan, where his father was a self-employed fisherman. He became a welder and ran his own business until his life began spiraling out of control in 1997 when both of his parents died within eight months of each other. His marriage eventually fell apart, and he lost the business and his home, he said.
As a low-income, first-generation college student who had been out of high school for at least five years, Frye qualified for the Cornerstone program at UMA-Bangor. The federally funded program provided him with tutoring, a mentor and helped him connect with educational resources. It also has a book-loan program to help keep down the amount of money spent each semester on textbooks.
“The hardest part of going back to school was having been out of school for 20-plus years,” he said. “I had to take developmental English and math classes before I could take college-level classes for credit.
“It became easier as I went along,” Frye continued. “The developmental classes were like building blocks, and other classes built on top of those. It really was a building process.”
Frye said that without the support of the Cornerstone program and Betty McCue-Herlihy, its assistant director, his educational journey would have been much more difficult.
“I can still remember the day when he first came to Cornerstone to find about the program,” McCue-Herlihy said at a ceremony honoring Frye as the Cornerstone Student of the Year. “[A co-worker] looked at him and said to me, ‘We are going to have to work with this one! He needs help.’” “We hired him as a computer monitor and he has worked with us his entire time at UMA,” she said. “He has gone from a computer monitor to a computer tutor to a business tutor for Cornerstone students.”
Becky Crooker, a staff associate with the program, was a student when Frye began attending UMA-Bangor.
“I’ve watched Howard come through this,” she said last week. “He used to be very shy, but I’m pleased to see he’s come out of his shell quite a bit.”
On May 31, Frye will begin taking classes at Husson University toward his master’s degree in business administration.
“My confidence has grown,” he said. “I don’t feel as intimidated walking into that as I did when I started here.”
Frye is the only college graduate in his immediate family, but he has a 12-year-old son he expects will follow in his footsteps.
“I want him to go to college too,” Frye said. “I hope I can inspire him to go on and get his degree after high school.”