FARMINGTON —  A retired Foreign Service officer with many years of experience in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia will be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2017 at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Louis D. Sell will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the graduation ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 13, behind the Olson Student Center.

Chris Coyne, Maine entrepreneur, tech innovator and designer, will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. 

Sell served under six U.S. presidents from 1971 to 1998, beginning with Richard Nixon. He was present in Moscow at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union and served in Yugoslavia during the political crisis that split the country apart. 

“Louis Sell is a policy historian and diplomat, a voice of calm during a time of great political turmoil in the world,” Kathryn A. Foster, UMF president, said. “He has made a valuable contribution to international diplomacy and in the higher education classroom, and we are honored to have him address our Class of 2017.”

Sell was a principal founder of the American University in Kosovo that opened its doors in 2003 and served as executive director of the American University in Kosovo Foundation from 2003 to 2007.


He is the author of two books, “Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia” and “From Washington to Moscow: US-Soviet Relations and the Collapse of the USSR.”

Sell earned his bachelor’s degree from Franklin and Marshall College and his master’s from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has been a part-time member of the UMF faculty since 2001.

A South Portland native, Coyne and his business partners created, a website acclaimed by Yahoo as Best of the Web, and SparkNotes, an online study guide, while attending Harvard University. The study guide and discussion forum were purchased by Barnes & Noble in 2001. 

Coyne and his partners created OkCupid, an online dating, friendship and social networking website that focused on using mathematical algorithms to match people. Listed in Time magazine’s 2007 Top Dating Websites, the platform was acquired by in 2011.

Coyne is working on Keybase, an open source encryption application that offers online users tools to manage their identity, create secure chats and share files privately.

In 2012, he and his partners received the Harvard Humanist of the Year award.


“Since his college days, Chris Coyne has combined the best of math smarts, teamwork and entrepreneurship,” Foster said. “We are delighted to honor his past and ongoing inventiveness as inspiration for the Class of 2017 and assembled guests.”

Graduating senior Zack Peercy will give the student address. A gifted writer, Peercy is graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre: Writing and Performance. His work has been published in online and campus literary journals and blogs, including Slashfilm, Every Day Fiction, Toasted Cheese, The Sandy River Review and Eunoia Review.

He was raised in northeastern Pennsylvania. After graduation, he will be moving to Chicago to continue his pursuit of playwriting and comedy.

Foster and Eric Brown, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will confer degrees to this year’s graduates. Mark R. Gardner, member of the University of Maine System board of trustees, will deliver greetings to the graduates.

Louis Sell

Chris Coyne

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