Saluting Judy Ryan

Please join me in wishing Judy Ryan, vice president for human resources, well as she leaves USM for the University of Maine in Orono where she will continue to fulfill her commitment to the University of Maine System and play a decisive role in workforce development.

Judy has dedicated nearly a lifetime of service to USM, and she will be dearly missed by her many friends and colleagues. She has performed many different functions at both USM and the System level, diversifying her professional portfolio, gaining extensive experience, and contributing to the transformation of this university.

We pay tribute to her unceasing willingness to seek new professional challenges, and we look forward to continuing to work with her at our sister university.

Posted by on February 17th, 2012 Read More No Comments

Celebrating One of USM’s Best Friends and Advocates

One of the greatest joys of being a leader is launching people into areas where their heart and soul lie so that they have opportunities that fulfill their most heartfelt aspirations.

Meg Weston, our Vice President for Advancement, is taking the presidency of Maine Media Workshops + College in Rockport. Meg has been a transformative figure in Advancement and a wonderful advocate for USM. She has also offered me sound strategic advice over the three years of her tenure here.

I have to admit that when she came to tell me the news, we both teared up at the reality that we would not be working closely together. But Meg is a gifted photographer, and there is no position more fulfilling for her than that of President of MMW+C.

She may be leaving USM, but Meg will not be leaving our hearts.

Posted by on February 9th, 2012 Read More No Comments

MLK Breakfast

Selma Botman, NAACP presents MLK Breakfast

Selma Botman, NAACP presents MLK Breakfast

This week’s 31st annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast, sponsored by the Portland branch of the NAACP, was a wonderful affirmation of Dr. King’s legacy, and the the sense of community here in Maine. I also was moved by the involvement of USM faculty. Professors Lynne Miller and Eve Raimon offered thought‑provoking presentations on the breakfast theme, “What Does Equity Look Like in Maine?” Professors Nate Hamilton and Rob Sanford, and collaborators, showcased their work to uncover the history of Malaga Island.

Posted by on January 17th, 2012 Read More No Comments

Thanksgiving Wishes

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, recent events have prompted me to reflect on how precious life is and how deeply affected each of us is by the welfare, health, and happiness of those we care for. We want the university to be a safe place to grow in wisdom as well as life experience, and consequently those of us who work at USM commit ourselves to doing everything that we can to ensure that our students will grow, both personally and intellectually, and flourish.

Sadly, despite all that we do, tragedy touches us. The losses we have experienced this fall as an academic family have been hard to bear, but they have also provided an opportunity for us to reach out to each other, to listen more intently, and to respond with greater sensitivity to those who are troubled.

I hope that each of us will pause to reflect on those we love and whose lives we treasure, to reaffirm our commitment to fostering a safe and nurturing environment for everyone on our campuses. Please join me in thanking the staff members in University Health and Counseling, Student Life, Residential Life and Public Safety for their care of and commitment to our students and community during this past week.

However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving, I wish you a safe and peaceful holiday.

Posted by on November 21st, 2011 Read More No Comments

USM’s New Hannaford Field Opens

USM has a new turf field! Athletes, friends, and members of the university community gathered at USM’s new Hannaford Field on October 22nd for a BBQ, field dedication, and men’s soccer game. Before the arrival of the new turf at the start of this academic year, USM was one of the last institutions in our athletic conference to play on a grass field. This posed serious implications for our athletes. One by one, competing teams let us know that they did not want to play on USM’s grass field, threatening our schedule and our ability to participate in competitive sports. That is all history now!

Hannaford Field is beautiful—just what our soccer, field hockey and lacrosse players and their coaches deserve. Come watch a game and cheer our teams on. All of us can really be proud of these terrific scholar athletes and their dedicated and caring coaches.

Posted by on October 24th, 2011 Read More No Comments

Senator George Mitchell on the Middle East

Recently, Senator George Mitchell gave a splendid talk at USM on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the dramatic changes taking place in the Middle East. The Senator’s comments were based on his long and extraordinary experience in the region.

The quintessential mediator, Senator Mitchell expressed a balanced and informed view of the Middle East. He finds right on both sides of the historic divide between the Palestinians and Israelis and is optimistic about the future of peace between these two peoples. His optimism is the result of a belief that the status quo is untenable and that an end to the conflict would benefit both parties. A settlement could give the Israelis the security they require and the Palestinians the state they are entitled to.

The awakening we are witnessing all across the Middle East and North Africa is reflected in Israel and the Palestinian territories where people are politically restless and economically distressed. In fact, the paralysis of the local economies all across the area is stoking the flames of discontent.

Meanwhile, people across the Arab world are risking their lives as ruthless regimes turn their weaponry on their own populations. Although each country is different and is experiencing the Arab Spring in varied ways, common themes do exist: the call for constitutional reform, social justice, economic development, and a free civil society in which citizenship has real meaning.

Senator Mitchell personifies the high caliber of American diplomats and envoys who represent our country and seek to advance peace in the world. USM was delighted to host him and give him a forum so that he could offer his views to the Greater Portland community.

Posted by on October 14th, 2011 Read More No Comments

Remembering September 11th

Ten years ago on September 11th, America suffered a crushing blow that altered the way we live our lives and think about the world. The tragedy that killed three thousand people conditioned us to rethink our security systems, modify our foreign policy, and heighten our attention to foreigners who visit our country or immigrants who seek to make our country their new home.

Just about anyone old enough to understand the shattering events of that September remembers where he or she was when the first tower fell. I was visiting a colleague at another university when his assistant stepped into the office, ashen and agitated, and conveyed the news. I left only to find the city of Boston at a virtual stand-still.

Were other major American cities soon to be hit? Would the attack on the World Trade Center be followed by attacks on the nation’s critical infrastructure? More urgently for those of us with friends or family in New York City, who had been affected, who killed, who survived the terrible odds?

What surprised me at the time was the incredible heroism of ordinary New Yorkers who rushed to the aid of their fellow citizens. The massive outpouring of support and grief from around the world gave America a moving sense that we were not alone, that good people everywhere—Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever—were equally horrified at this assault on what it means to be a civilized nation.

Even now, a decade later, the wounds remain raw, the hurt lingering and painful, if also often subliminal, and the loss of life still shattering. What lessons do we draw?

I think that we would do well to recall the immediate reactions of so many ordinary New Yorkers and Americans in the days following the attack. While evil and criminal behavior is present in this world, we still hold on the goodness of humanity. We refuse to let the crimes of terrorists predispose our attitudes to the far more numerous good people who share a nationality, an ethnicity, or a religion with those criminals. Despite our pain or our outrage, we know that inhumanity must not beget cruelty or contaminate the values we hold sacred in our democracy.

The real lesson of September 11th lies in the outpouring of sorrow and solidarity that poured in from around the world during the days and months that followed. Civilized people everywhere saw this tragedy as their own, and that empathy bound us closer together as a world that most of us would have imagined possible. A crime against Americans innocently going about their lives and jobs became an emblem of the darkness that hovers on civilization’s borders, a reminder of the alternative to the rule of law and to our cherished moral imperative of respect for the rights of others.

This tenth anniversary of September 11th is a powerful opportunity to think of the ways each one of us can contribute to our communities and to the common good. Let us then act upon them to make this world a better, safer, more just place for all.

Posted by on September 9th, 2011 Read More No Comments

New Beginnings at USM

The first week of the school year is always an exciting time for me. The relative quiet of the summer gives way to the fresh expectations of the fall. Our campuses come alive as the offices and classrooms begin to buzz with renewed energy, and our dorms and green spaces once again fill with students.

I was immersed in this stimulating atmosphere during move-in day on the Gorham campus. I toured our lovely new turf field, visited the library’s new Info Commons, and explored the impressive renovations underway in Corthell Hall. Wherever I went throughout the day, students continually captured my interest and aroused my hopes for the year ahead. From new students tentatively exploring an unfamiliar campus to returning students eagerly reconnecting with friends and professors, the anticipation and enthusiasm of a new semester registered on the face of every person I met.

In one particularly serendipitous encounter, I had the opportunity to speak with a transfer student, fresh from Rutgers, interested in studying the Middle East. I chose precisely the right time to walk by the student success office in Gorham and found myself rewarded with a fabulous conversation about my favorite area of study. With so many motivated and fascinating people coming together in one place, I imagine there were similar conversations happening all over campus.

As always, I encourage all students to explore the many academic and social opportunities available on campus. From poetry clubs and sports teams to student government and study groups, there are a variety of experiences that can add greatly to joys of the academic year. Every conversation, meeting, and class session offers a unique chance to learn and to grow.

A USM education offers so many opportunities. I urge everyone to take advantage of the exciting range of possibilities available here.

Posted by on September 6th, 2011 Read More No Comments

A USM Star Comes Home

I recently had the opportunity to witness first-hand the extraordinary success of a former University of Southern Maine student. Ashley Emerson, a graduate of the USM School of Music, returned to Portland’s PORTopera to perform in the comic opera “The Daughter of the Regiment.” Ashley played the lead role, a young girl named Marie, who is found on a battlefield and raised by soldiers in Napoleon’s army. Her performance was as delightful to watch as it was to hear, displaying her charismatic stage presence as well as her remarkable vocal talent.

Ashley’s career, from her first opera to the present, has been truly inspiring to follow. While attending USM she was selected as a PORTopera Young Artist, and after graduating from USM in 2006 she went on to win First Prize in the Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition. Her impressive rise continued as she was selected for the Lindemann Young Artist Program at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Ashley’s singing has received fantastic reviews, both nationally and internationally.

As I sat in the Merrill Auditorium, listening to this wonderfully talented young woman deliver a spectacular performance, I began to consider the many talented individuals who have passed through Maine colleges and universities. Seeing a rising star like Ashley is always a welcome reminder of how much potential Maine students have to embrace and influence the arts. I look forward to following Ashley Emerson’s future career just as I look forward to following the future fame and success of so many other USM students.

Posted by on August 5th, 2011 Read More No Comments

Rejecting Messages of Hate

As many of you know, anti-Semitic remarks were scrawled on a student’s door in the Upper Class Residence Hall in Gorham. This hateful speech arouses a number of strong feelings in me.

As the president of USM, I think immediately of the hurt intended by those remarks and how vulnerable and wounded they make our students feel.

As an educator, I am shocked that this sort of thing has happened at an institution of higher learning.

However, as a human being, as a person of conscience, I grieve for the person who committed this odious act, who is so thoughtless and blind to the hateful implications of his or her actions.

I wonder how such a person rationalizes this behavior to him- or herself, and I am saddened by the lack of decency and moral character that this act displayed.

Nevertheless, this moment also offers an opportunity for teaching the historical implications of this form of hate, for analyzing the context which inspired the graffiti, and for remembering that hate speech, no matter on whom it is directed, demeans us all and threatens those ties which bind us together within the human family.

What we must carry away from this ugly occurrence is a renewed commitment to mutual respect and understanding, to our responsibilities to each other as human beings who deserve respect for who we are, and to our obligation to make a better world than the one we inherited.

Let us join hands and say: the University of Southern Maine rejects all messages of hate directed at any of its students, faculty, and staff.

Posted by on May 5th, 2011 Read More No Comments