ORONO, Maine — Half a century ago, University of Maine students dressed as Teddy Roosevelt and about 20 of his Rough Riders stormed the campus mall as part of the campaign for campus mayor.
That’s one of the most vivid memories Allan Arch, 71, has of UMaine’s centennial year.
Arch, a 1965 graduate who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, returned to campus last week for his class’ 50th reunion, which happened in the midst of the university’s sesquicentennial celebration. More than 60 members of the Class of 1965 returned to participate in reunion events.
In his senior year, Arch ran the campus mayoral campaign for one of his fraternity brothers, Sarge Means. The campus mayor was elected by students each spring to act as a sort of face of the university, lead pep rallies and promote school spirit. The tradition died out over the years.
“The campaign itself was great fun,” Arch said.
Leading up to the election, candidates participated in parades and other events in which they vied for the attention and votes of their peers. It was during that parade where Means and Arch faced off against a competitor impersonating Teddy Roosevelt. Campaigning typically meant picking a theme and dressing, and acting, the part.
Means ran as the comic book character Archie, and several friends helped by putting together a 50-car parade, dressing up as characters from the Archie comics and driving around campus in a Model T.
In the end, Arch helped his friend beat out the Teddy Roosevelt impersonator for campus mayor honors in what turned out to be a tight race.
Another strong memory Arch has of his years at UMaine was sitting in a constitutional law class and learning of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Kennedy had visited UMaine to deliver a foreign policy speech about a month before his death.
“The university gave me a great education,” Arch said. “It taught me to learn quickly, and that’s what I needed to do.”
Standing on the campus mall during the interview, Arch said he didn’t see much in his immediate surroundings that had changed. The library was still a focal point, most of the buildings were essentially the same, but the programs had moved around a lot. He hadn’t yet seen some of the newer facilities on campus, such as the new Emera Astronomy Center and Advanced Structures and Composites Center.
Arch went on to earn a history degree at the university, but he never used it in his career. He joined the Navy after graduation, in the midst of the Vietnam War. He left the Navy five years later and married his wife of 47 years, Susan.
Arch later took over a company started by his father, Southern Gear and Machines, which designs and builds gears and components for everything from the Gatling gun on an A-10 Warthog to printing presses.
While in Orono, Arch met up with old friends and had lunch at Pat’s Pizza.
“When you’re 1,800 miles apart, it’s hard to stay connected,” Arch said of his friends. Though, he’s still in regular touch with Means.
“It’s nice to be back,” Arch added.
More events are coming up as UMaine celebrates its 150th year.
The biggest is Open University Day on Saturday, Oct. 17, where the university will lead tours of campus facilities including Alfond Arena, the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and the Emera Astronomy Center.
UMaine also hosts homecoming that weekend, complete with tailgating, a craft fair, performances, a Family and Friends Weekend jazz brunch and more.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.