FARMINGTON — An inauguration for the 14th president of the University of Maine at Farmington was held Friday in the UMF Fitness and Recreation Center.
Although she’s held the office for more than a year, Kathryn A. Foster was officially welcomed Friday by faculty, staff, students and community members.
As the university approaches its 150th anniversary, with a charter signed Oct. 9, 1863, University of Maine System Chancellor James H. Page officially welcomed Foster and challenged her to lead with clarity, compassion and conviction.
The welcomes from representatives of the board trustees, students, faculty, staff and town officials portrayed Foster as a woman of flair, energy, warmth, personality and a spirited leader who has already made her mark on the university and community.
“In one year, she has established her position as an integral part of UMF,” senior Natalie Dumont said.
From taking time to talk with students to helping them move into student dorms this fall, “she has connected with us,” Dumont said.
She is a woman with a strong knowledge of education who has made an impression on the University of Maine System and state since her first interview for the position, Marjorie Murray Medd of the UMS board of trustees, said.
Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis welcomed Foster on behalf of the residents and acknowledged hopes for a continued partnership between the university and the community.
“She’s a true leader, someone you want to spend time with,” Craig Larrabee, UMF Class of 1992, said. “She makes you want to be a better person. She has that gift.”
Page acknowledged the 13 past presidents who served over the span of the 150 years, including the 13th president, Theo Kalikow, and interim President Sue Huseman who attended, along with inaugural delegates from universities and colleges from across the country.
“Foster’s impact is out of proportion for one year,” Page said after officially announcing her role as president with a medal placed around her neck.
Foster, with 30 years of experience as a scholar-educator, acknowledged her parents, who impressed on her and her siblings the importance of school.
Although she had never been a university president, vice president, provost, dean or even a full professor, she decided to apply for this position, she said.
“My decision to come here — that decision that disrupted my life — has become the best decision I’ve ever made,” Foster said in her inaugural address.
She spoke of change, something the university has embraced over the past 150 years. Changes brought it from Farmington Normal School to Farmington State Teachers College to the University of Maine at Farmington.
The changes are apparent in the growth of university buildings, geothermal wells and academic changes from preparing students to teach to adding preparatory programs in the arts and sciences and other fields.
“There’s not a year goes by that the campus stays the same,” Foster said. “Change is one of our constants.”
While history plays an integral part this year for the university, “a strategic planning process has been started to set our priorities in a changing world,” she said.
During the celebratory service, Foster was presented with university artifacts, a class roster and list from the first class in 1864, by Laurie MacWhinnie of the UMF Mantor Library.
The Portland Brass Quintet played a new composition written by UMF professor Philip Carlsen.
Poet Laureate of Maine and UMF professor Wesley McNair closed the program by reading the poem, “My Town.”
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