ORONO (AP) – Erik Perkins said that if he could complete a 12-mile run with a heavy rucksack on his back, he could also handle a demanding academic challenge.

The four-year Army veteran on today receives his diploma as valedictorian of the University of Maine’s Class of 2007 with a 4.0 average. He has a double major in physics and mathematics.

In the case of the 26-year-old Albion native, “we are talking about a supreme intellect who is able to connect all the dots related to science and math,” UMaine physics Professor Neil Comins said.

Perkins enlisted in the Army after graduating in 1998 from the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone.

rage that propelled him to the military fueled his intellectual drive as an undergraduate at UMaine.

Recalling his long Army runs while carrying a rucksack, Perkins said, “I learned I could push myself beyond dropping.” He credits high school classmate Kevin Roberge, who is now seeking a master’s degree in math, with goading him to take the most challenging physics and math courses at UMaine.

Henry Perkins believes the Army taught his son to channel his internal energy to a good purpose.

“He was always a very bright person, but the Army changed him enough. It made him look at things differently,” said the top scholar’s father.

After graduation, Perkins heads to the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a goal of obtaining a doctorate in theoretical physics. His long-term goal is to unify general relativity and quantum theory.

Perkins will lead 1,950 graduates in the UMaine class on Saturday.

Commencement ceremonies are also scheduled Saturday at other University of Maine System campuses, including Augusta, Farmington, Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Machias and the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

Information from: Morning Sentinel, http://www.onlinesentinel.com/

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