AUGUSTA–The University of Maine at Augusta will hold its commencement exercise at 10:00 a.m. on May 12, 2018 at the Augusta Civic Center. Over 500 students are eligible to graduate this spring and over 350 are expected to participate in the graduation ceremonies.
The ceremony will include a commencement address by the Honorable George J. Mitchell, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader.
“UMA is honored to have Senator Mitchell participate in our Commencement activities,” said President Wyke. “His dedication to supporting Maine students who seek to further their education and pursue a post-secondary degree is unparalleled, and at the heart of UMA’s mission.”
Senator George Mitchell has had a long and distinguished career. He served for several years as Chairman of DLA Piper, now Chairman Emeritus. Before that he served as a federal judge; as Majority Leader of the United States Senate; as Chairman of peace negotiations in Northern Ireland which resulted in an agreement that ended an historic conflict; and most recently as U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East.
In 2008 Time Magazine described him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Senator Mitchell is the author of five books. His most recent books are a memoir entitled The Negotiator: Reflections on an American Life, published in May 2015 and A Path To Peace, published in November 2016.
Lynn Merrill, who will receive a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies, is the student speaker. Merrill had a connection to UMA from its first inception, accompanying her father as a child to the ground breaking a little over 50 years ago. She is an adult learner who came to UMA after raising her family and a career in hospital administration.
Merrill sought her degree to further her advocacy work. Since losing her sight, she has focused on raising awareness and ensuring accessibility for all. She currently serves as First Vice President of Pine Tree Guide Dog Users, a state affiliate of Guide Dog Users, Inc.; a gubernatorial appointee to the State Rehabilitation Council for the Division of the Blind and Visually Impaired; and a member of the University of Maine System IT Accessibility Committee, among other organizations. Upon graduation, Merrill will continue her advocacy.
UMA will recognize Genie Gannett with an Honorary Degree in Humane Letters. Gannett is President and Founder of the First Amendment Museum at the Gannett House. A granddaughter of a prominent Maine publisher, Guy P. Gannett, she and her family have a deep and lasting commitment to UMA, its students, and its mission. A tenacious advocate for UMA, she has served on the Board of Visitors and supported many UMA philanthropic initiatives.
UMA will also recognize Carmen Bragg, a Bachelor of Arts in Biology candidate, with the Kathleen Dexter Distinguished Student Award. This honor is awarded to a student who demonstrates scholarship; participation and leadership in co-curricular activities; and service to the wider community. The award is named for former UMA Dean of Students, Kathleen Dexter who retired in 2006 after 29 years with the university.
Bragg, an honors student, is also co-captain of the UMA Women’s Basketball Team. She served as an Admissions Ambassador and as a member of the Student Government Association, among other student groups. Bragg also volunteered for the Hallowell Food Bank and supported food drives and blood drives on campus. She was a member of the 2017 Team Haiti, joining other biology majors to raise funds and to work at a center for malnourished children. Upon graduation, Bragg intends to continue her education and become a physician’s assistant.
The UMA Distinguished Alumni Award will also be presented on Saturday. This award honors a member of UMA’s alumni for outstanding achievement in either their profession, or for their service to their community, state, or country. This year’s recipient is Elisa Paylor Ellis from the class of 2007.
Ellis obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, as well as her certificate in Human Resource Management from UMA in 2007. She followed her undergraduate accomplishments by obtaining her Master of Business Administration from Thomas College in Waterville, and then attended Maine Law. Upon graduation, Elisa received the school’s Pro Bono Publico Award for providing over 80 hours of pro bono service during law school. Ellis has continuously demonstrated a commitment to her community. She sits on two nonprofit boards, Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Children’s Center in Augusta, and works as a court-appointed mediator. Raised in Oakland, Maine, she now resides in South China with her husband, Jason and their daughter. An avid outdoorswoman, Elisa enjoys hiking, kayaking, fishing and snowmobiling.