Alumni Week brings graduates together

This past week was Alumni Week at the University of Maine. UMaine alumni from the classes of 1951, 1956, 1966, 1971 and Senior Alumni — alumni who have reached the 50th anniversary of their commencement — returned to campus to celebrate the past, present and future of UMaine. The UMaine Alumni Association (UMAA) was behind organizing and coordinating the Alumni week.

Founded in 1875, the UMAA is an independent nonprofit organization. Any UMaine student who was enrolled for at least two full semesters is considered a member. The Alumni Association currently has 107,000 members.

“We work to promote the value, quality, and reputation of a UMaine education,” John N. Diamond, president of the Alumni Association, said in an email.

UMAA holds social and professional networking programs with various chapters around the country. Last weekend, the Greater Rochester UMaine Alumni held a lobster bake fundraiser and social in Rochester, N.Y. Diamond and UMaine Women’s Basketball coach Richard Barron were featured speakers at this event.

Despite being located on campus, the Alumni Association is not run by the university. Still, it works closely with the university’s admissions office to encourage prospective students to choose UMaine. Additionally, UMAA produces Maine Alumni Magazine, which is sent to UMaine alumni biannually.

Last week, alumni had the chance to reconnect with old friends and meet new acquaintances. Alumni were given group tours of various campus facilities such as the Memorial Union, the New Balance Recreation and Fitness Center, the Emera Astronomy Center and more. Last Thursday, an all-alumni banquet in the Wells Conference Center was held for 300 alumni and their guests. President Hunter was the featured speaker.

The Alumni Week also included class meetings at which each class discussed ways it could raise money to help fund scholarships for current and future UMaine students.

“Two-thirds of the donations that UMaine receives to support scholarships, facility improvements, and programs come from UMaine alumni,” Diamond said. “They contribute their time, talent, and money to UMaine as a way to make sure that current and future UMaine students receive a high-quality, affordable education.”

A panel of current UMaine students from different academic majors presented a talk to the alumni about the issues facing current students.

“The purpose of that panel was to help our alumni understand the challenges and perceptions of current students so that alumni can target their time, energy, and donations in ways that are beneficial to students as a whole,” Diamond added.

A celebration of Lyle Jenness’ legacy was among various events that happened on campus as part of Alumni Week. Last Friday, UMaine’s chemical and biological engineering department celebrated the life and work of Lyle Jenness, who came to the UMaine to teach mathematics in 1923. Three years later, he became a chemistry instructor and later was became head of the chemical engineering department. Jenness retired from the university in 1966.

Greg Campbell, Bob Hamilton and Kim Mumme are graduates of the Class of 1966. Last Friday, they spoke at Jenness Hall about Lyle Jenness’ impact on their engineering careers.

“If it hadn’t been for him, I would’ve never gotten into the program,” Greg Campbell, professor emeritus at Clarkson University, said.

Despite his low grade-point average, Jenness encouraged Campbell to straighten up his grades and apply to UMaine’s then newly established Ph.D. program in chemical engineering.

Speakers emphasized the value of Jenness’ teaching.

“Importance of process, that’s one of the things that Jenness established here,” Bob Hamilton, whose two children graduated from UMaine’s Chemical Engineering Department, said. “Jenness emphasized practical connection, taking a look at the equipment and looking how to start it up. Those skills do fall back onto process and understanding the fundamentals of engineering,” Hamilton added.

Fourth-year bioengineering student William Patrick Breeding took close note of what the speakers had to say.

“They were in our position fifty years ago,” Breeding shared. “They didn’t even do very well at the beginning and now they’re deans and really important influential people. They started out as normal undergrads as us. It’s really cool to be able to relate to that,” Breeding added.

Lauren Tingley, a fourth-year chemical engineering student, was very interested to hear the stories of students who have gone through the program before her.

“It’s nice to be able to meet them. It gives me some perspective for where I could go with my career.”

Tingley is looking to find an engineering job in the pulp and paper industry. Coming from Madawaska, a mill town, Tingley could see first-hand how mills impacted her community.

Amber Boutiette, a fourth-year bioengineering student, was glad to hear the stories of the speakers at the celebration.

“It’s really inspiring to hear how far they came, having roots in this program and how much they were able to do with their degrees,” Boutiette said.

Reunion Week concluded Saturday night with the performance by Capitol Steps, the political satire troupe, at UMaine’s Collins Center for the Arts.

The Class of 1961 will hold its 55th reunion on campus from Sept. 28-30.

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