BANGOR, Maine — Bangor resident and literacy volunteer Phil Locke is being honored for his service to the Greater Bangor community.
Locke received the John W. Coombs Award last month during the 2 Those Who Care ceremony sponsored by WLBZ 2 at Husson University’s Gracie Theatre. The event will be broadcast on Channel 2 at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Locke is a retired math professor with an extensive 40-year career, which he served mostly at the University of Maine. Today he spends his time serving the community teaching English to those struggling to learn the language, maintaining the Orono Bog Boardwalk and collecting critical wildlife data for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Since he began volunteering with Literacy Volunteers of Bangor in 2004, Locke has helped more than 20 adults improve their reading, conversational English and math skills.
Although retired, Locke remains passionate about teaching and works independently with four to five adults. According to the Literacy Volunteers of Maine Executive Director Mary Lyon, Locke averages more than 300 hours a year of service and has conservatively donated more than 2,200 hours of time since he started working with Literacy Volunteers.
Locke’s service isn’t limited to working with Literacy Volunteers. He also has taught English to a group of South Americans, works with foreign language students studying at the postgraduate level at UMaine, travels to a local dairy farm to teach basic English to Central American workers, and has taught math in preparation for the GED diploma to incarcerated women at the Women’s Re-entry Center in Bangor.
Locke worked with one student for five years. Hoang Lam, a Vietnamese immigrant, struggled with conversational English when he first met Locke in 2006. Three years later, with Locke’s help, Lam graduated with a degree in electrical and automation technology from Eastern Maine Community College. In May 2011, Locke was present at Lam’s second graduation when he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology from UMaine. Lam is now a naturalized citizen and employed as an engineer.
“Phil is a person who is always interested in learning, and is always looking for new opportunities to learn and help people,” Lyon said in an interview. “Most volunteers will work with one person at a time. Phil works with four or five. He really gets involved in their lives, and takes a personal interest in their success. Every inch of that person is all about giving back to the community, and giving more then what you take. Most people cannot afford a private tutor. Phil makes a real difference in people’s lives.”
Over the past seven years, Locke has tutored students from all over the world.
“I volunteer because I meet lots of interesting people and I feel like I am giving back to the community,” he said in interview on Wednesday. “You really help the students out, and you have fun doing it.”
For more information about the award and other award recipients, go to http://www.wlbz2.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=175363.
For more information on Literacy Volunteers of Bangor, visit www.lvbangor.org, or contact Mary Lyon at 947-8451.