FARMINGTON — Under a clear blue sky Saturday morning, more than 335 bachelor’s and master’s graduates participated in the 2016 commencement ceremony of the University of Maine at Farmington.
UMF President Kathryn A. “Kate” Foster welcomed everyone including several members of the 50th reunion Class of 1966.
“Thank you for keeping UMF in your heart and, by your presence, for modeling where our current graduates may be 50 years from now,” Foster said, addressing the standing alum of 1966.
Foster joined UMF in the fall of 2012, so this year’s graduates were especially special to her.
“We were first-years together, green and a little clueless, but we dove in, worked hard and got involved,” she said, adding, “Four years later, here we are.”
Of the 365 graduates of UMF this year, about 13 percent of the class came from a New England state beyond Maine, led by 19 from Massachusetts and 12 from New Hampshire. Eight were from farther afield, including two from California and one each from Alaska, New Jersey and Ohio. International graduates in the Class of 2016 included one each from Hong Kong and Cote d’Ivoire.
Emily Rumble, a student from York graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in secondary education/English, was the senior class speaker.
“Chase your dreams and don’t ever change,” Rumble said. She then spoke fondly of her professors with allusions to Gifford’s Ice Cream, saying, “The people who really deserved a two-scoop cone, with all the toppings, are our professors. Thank you for challenging us, for believing in us, for inspiring us.”
Continuing with the retail theme, she exclaimed, “Who knew UMaine Farmington would be a better Maine adventure than Reny’s could ever be?!”
The commencement address was presented by Alan Shaw Taylor. Born in Portland, Taylor is a Colby College alum and subsequently earned his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 1986. As a well-respected American historian and author specializing in early United States history, he has won two Pulitzer Prizes, the Bancroft Prize, and the National Book Award for nonfiction for his work.
Taylor drew laughter from the graduates and guests when he spoke initially with his native Maine accent but poked fun at that “taking twice as long. So I will mostly use my outside voice.”
He went on to speak of Jedediah Peck, a historical figure of Cooperstown, N.Y., during the 1790s. Peck was “a common farmer and carpenter and sometime preacher,” Taylor said.
Peck ran for office and made state funding for public education his driving issue.
“He wanted to bring improvement within the reach and power of the humblest citizen,” Taylor said. “When Peck wrote, there were no public school systems beyond New England.”
Speaking of how things evolved in publicly funded education, Taylor said, “The change came because voters and political leaders pushed for change and paid for it with tax dollars. Imagine how poor our nation would be today if there had been no Jedediah Pecks, or if they had failed.”
Taylor urged graduates to think about the current state of higher education.
“You can attest to the benefits of education and to the hardships of its rising costs,” he said. “Speak up, speak clearly, be persistent. Let everyone know that you care about education not just for yourself but for everyone.”