Filmmaker screens Roosevelt documentary at University of Maine at Presque Isle

Posted Oct. 06, 2010, at 8:53 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:50 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — An award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker who spent four days this week at the University of Maine at Presque Isle educating students and the community about his work, treated residents to a showing of his newest documentary film on Wednesday evening.

Darrell Dorgan, who also serves as the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, arrived in the city Sunday and is departing campus today. Dorgan served as UMPI’s 2010-2011 Journalist-Professional Communicator in Residence.

Dorgan assisted with student media programs, spoke to university classes and local service organizations and showed his new documentary, “Theodore Roosevelt: A Cowboy’s Ride to the White House.” The film, which was broadcast in the UMPI Campus Center, showcases Roosevelt’s time in the West and how it molded the president’s character.

“I’ve really had a great time here,” Dorgan said during an interview Wednesday. “This is the second time I have been to campus, and it has been great interacting with the students, answering their questions and talking about my work.”

Jacqui Lowman, an assistant professor of English at UMPI, hosted Dorgan’s visit. She said that people have continually asked officials to bring Dorgan back to campus since his first visit two years ago. Dorgan kicked off the Journalist-Professional Communicator in Residence program in 2008.

The program brings journalists and professional communicators to UMPI to advise and guide students, as well as lecture and speak in the greater community. During his last visit, Dorgan helped to establish the Darrell Dorgan Community Journalism Scholarship.

Dorgan spent more than 25 years working in the journalism field. His most recent journalism-related work was as a producer, anchor and writer for “Prairie News Journal,” which is an hourlong news program viewed in three states and two Canadian Provinces. Dorgan also continues to write and produce historical documentaries for television.

Dorgan has received more than 50 awards for journalism excellence, including an Emmy nomination in 1992 and a National Associated Press award for Reporting Beyond Reproach.

Dorgan said he worked on the Roosevelt project for more than three years, shooting video across the United States, speaking to Roosevelt experts and even to Roosevelt’s relatives. He said he had once heard a rumor that Roosevelt brought a camera with him when he came to North Dakota and had taken some pictures.

“I never really knew if that was true,” he said. “So I was doing research at Harvard University and asked the curator of [The Theodore Roosevelt] Collection if he knew anything about that. The staff found a dozen pictures that Roosevelt took, and I used them in the documentary. It is the first time that some of those photos have been seen” [in a public forum].

Dorgan also noted Roosevelt’s connection to Maine.

“He came to Maine as a young man and met two hunting guides,” Dorgan said Wednesday. “Those two went on to be his ranch foremen, and they stayed with him for years before eventually returning to Maine.”

Dorgan noted that the only other place the film has been shown thus far is in North Dakota. It has been picked up by the National Education Television Association and is slated to air on up to 150 public television stations nationwide beginning in November.

Dorgan has served as the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame since 1997. The $3 million facility, which opened in 2005, is the interpretive center for the history of Native Americans, ranching, rodeo, and the western lifestyle of the Plains and Badlands. It features a Hall of Honorees, an interpretive center with permanent and traveling western culture exhibits, a 45-seat theater and a multipurpose meeting area for use by visiting groups.

Most recently, Dorgan was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama as a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

He said Wednesday that he finds Roosevelt to be a “fascinating” historical figure.

“I have always been interested by him,” said Dorgan. “In North Dakota, I am exposed to the same sights and landmarks that he saw on a daily basis. He really is a fascinating individual in our nation’s history.”

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