BANGOR — After the announcement by Gov. Janet Mills that COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings would be relaxed, Husson University decided to move forward with two traditional Commencement exercises this year. The Commencement ceremony for graduate students will take place outdoors at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 8 at the Winkin Sports Complex. Undergraduate students will begin their graduation exercises at 2 p.m. that day at the same location.
The highlight of the morning’s Commencement ceremony will be when Husson University pays special tribute to Waldron “Tom” Sawyer, Jr., by awarding him an honorary doctorate of business administration. Sawyer first joined the Husson Board of Trustees in 1987 and has been an active contributor to the success of the University ever since. In addition to recognizing Sawyer’s dedication to entrepreneurship and philanthropy, this honorary degree pays tribute to Sawyer’s 34 years of service to the University.
“The W. Tom and Bonnie Sawyer Library here on our Bangor campus would not have been possible without Tom’s generosity of spirit and his dedication to serving the greater Bangor community,” said Robert A. Clark, PhD, CFA, president of Husson University. “His business prowess, commitment to social responsibility and our state make him more than deserving of this high honor.”
Assisting with the hooding of the honorary degree recipient will be John Rohman, chair of the Husson University Board of Trustees. “Honorary degrees are the highest honor Husson University can bestow. The selection of Tom as this year’s honorary degree recipient is certainly fitting,” said Rohman. “He has tirelessly supported numerous causes and organizations in our area. Both respected and liked, he is one of those people who helps make the world a better place.”
Born and raised in Bangor, Waldron “Tom” Sawyer, Jr. graduated from Bangor High School and earned his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Denver in 1972. He is recognized as a leading entrepreneur and philanthropist throughout the Greater Bangor area and nationwide.
Sawyer owned several businesses. They included the Sawyer Environmental Recovery Facility, the Breakwater 1904 Inn (1991-98), the Pine Tree Landfill (1974-1996) and the Southwest Harbor Boat Marina (1993-98). As a successful business owner, he has also helped develop the potential of others by successfully investing in projects and businesses including the Bangor Historic Raceway and the Turtle Head Marina.
Sawyer has contributed his time and energy to many boards and organizations. These include the Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility, the Anah Highlanders (Drum Major) and the Maine Community Foundation Board of Directors. Sawyer has also served as an honorary trustee of the Jackson Laboratory, and an officer in the Penobscot Bay Sail and Power Squadron. Other area organizations he has helped to support include: The United Way of Eastern Maine, The Bangor YMCA, Greater Bangor Chamber of Commerce (11 years), Maine Community Foundation (nine years), Eastern Maine Development Corporation, Penobscot Maritime Museum, Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company, Bangor Jaycees, Bangor Rotary Club, Maine Blue Cross & Blue Shield (10 years), Merrill Bankshares, Maine Public Policy Institute, Maine Robotics (17 years), Action Committee of 50, Bangor Target Area Development Corporation, John Bapst Memorial High School Foundation, Maine Economic Growth Council and Maine Public Policy Institute.
His professional accomplishments are numerous. Sawyer was a member of the Bangor City Council from 1986-93 and a Bangor Education Foundation member from 1987-94. He also served as the mayor of Bangor in 1989 and was a Maine State Senator from 2000-04.
Sawyer was named the vice chair of the Husson University Board of Trustees in 1987 and was awarded an honorary bachelor’s degree that same year. He was elected chair of the Board of Trustees in 2004, and served in that capacity for two years.
In 1990, the U.S. Small Business Administration awarded Sawyer the National SBA Entrepreneurial Success Award and the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He was also inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was named a Maine Audubon Wildlife Conservation Champion. Other honors bestowed upon Sawyer include: Phi Delta Kappa, Education Honor Society, Denver University, 1970; Granville B. Johnson Award in Education, Denver University, 1972; Newcomen Society for Study of History of Engineering & Technology Inductee, 1988; Who’s Who in Finance & Industry, 1991 and 1993; Hall of Fame Inductee, Bangor YMCA, 1997; Honorary 33rd Degree, Scottish Rite, 2000; Honorary Class Spokesman, Maine Development Foundation’s Leadership Maine, ETA Class, 2000; Husson Chief Award, 2001; Sigma Beta Delta, International Honor Society in Business Management, Husson College, 2002; Honorary Associate of Science in Communications, NESCom, 2003; Who’s Who in American Politics, 2004-05; and Chesley H. Husson, Sr. Award, Husson College, 2005.
Sawyer is recognized as a Master U.S. Merchant Marine Officer and holds a 100-ton Master’s License. He is also a Flotilla Commander for the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. Sawyer is proud to serve his country and continues to be an active member of the Auxiliary. He is also a past squadron commander for the U.S. Power Squadron, and has raced his own schooner to Bermuda four times. Never one to stray far from the sea, Sawyer is also the owner of a 39-foot yacht called the “Dirigo Pilot.”
He currently lives in Florida with his wife Bonnie. The couple has two children, Shannon and Patricia, and three grandchildren. Bonnie Sawyer is a retired major in the Army Nurse Corps.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, students will be only allowed to invite two guests. Anyone who cannot be present at Husson’s Commencement exercises will be able to watch a streaming video of the event available at Husson.edu on the day of the event. This includes the honorary degree presentation to Waldron “Tom” Sawyer, Jr.