UMF graduates told to proceed with ‘energy, gusto’

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Dot White, 89, stands to wave at the crowd after being introduced during commencement ceremonies at the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday. (Michael G. Seamans/Kennebec Journal)

By Doug Harlow, Kennebec Journal

FARMINGTON — Happy Mother’s Day, Dot White. You certainly have earned it.

Dorothy Barker White, 89, of Jay, is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and as of Saturday, a graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in music.

Not bad for the woman who first starting taking college classes in 1970. Forty-eight years later, she’s got her diploma.

“Today I have completed what I aimed to do way back there,” White said. “I didn’t make the decision to graduate until probably 10 years into when I started, and I said, ‘I guess I’ll try to finish,’ so today is quite an accomplishment for me. I just wanted to learn more. I wanted to have learning enrichment. I had three children — a girl and two boys.

“Now I have six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. I’m very excited to be graduating.”

White was born in Jay, in Franklin County, and has lived there her whole life, she said from Dearborn Gymnasium on the UMF campus, where graduating students were assembling for the march to commencement, accompanied by bagpipes and drums.

In her welcome to the friends and families of the Class of 2018, university President Kathryn A. Foster said there were 400 graduates this year, about 370 of whom were marching Saturday. Eighty percent of the graduating class is from Maine, she said.

Dot White, 89, stands to wave at the crowd after being introduced during commencement ceremonies at the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday. (Michael G. Seamans/Kennebec Journal)

White, who walked the entire route with her class Saturday, despite her sore feet, came to Farmington with 28 credits from the University of Maine at Augusta.

“I enjoy Shakespeare,” she said. “Macbeth,’ it’s kinda spellbinding.”

White said she worked as a young mother in a bank, then took nine years off to raise her children and be home with them. She next went to work in the office at “a brand-new school” that had opened — Jay Elementary School — and stayed there for the next 31 years.

“I thought it was a good job for a mother with children,” she said.

White said she is still very active in her church, playing the organ and the piano, and she plans to keep on keeping on.

Her next course of study?

French, she said, noting that she already has completed French I and French II, so French III is in her sights.

After greetings Saturday from James O. Donnelly, a University of Maine System trustee, and James H. Page, chancellor of the system, senior class speaker Bryce Neal told the gathering that he switched his major at UMF from English to geology after seeing Maine’s western mountains for the first time. He said the rocks and pebbles that make up the mountains taught him how to lead a meaningful life and can compare easily to the diverse group of people one comes to know at a university.

University of Maine at Farmington President Kathryn Foster welcomes graduates, friends and family to commencement ceremonies at UMF on Saturday. (Michael G. Seamans/Kennebec Journal)

“Mountains, like people, are much more than what meets the eye,” he said. “Often, as we scale mountain peaks, our eyes focused only on the summit ahead, we tend to step over these gentle nuances — the glimmer of quartz in the sun.”

After receiving an honorary degree from the college, commencement speaker William C. Green — host of TV’s “Bill Green’s Maine” — gave his cheerful take on life in the broadcast world and how it compares to life after college.

Green told graduates to go out and see the world, but to please come home to Maine.

“It is often said that our home, Maine, is a big small town. It is,” he said. “It’s our great small town. It’s our small town and you are an important part of Maine and its future. Maine needs you. Maine needs young leaders who are willing to work, shape our future, build families and communities.

“Grab your ticket to the greatest show on Earth, and do whatever you darn well please with energy, gusto and elan,” he said.

A mortarboard emblazoned with the message, “Finally,” is one of many personal messages on the caps of graduates during commencement ceremonies at the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday. (Michael G. Seamans/Kennebec Journal)
Jeremy Webster waves to his partner, Kristen Hannaford, and their daughter, Mia, during commencement ceremonies at the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday. (Michael G. Seamans/Kennebec Journal)
Bagpipers lead the procession of graduates to their seats during commencement ceremonies at the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday. (Michael G. Seamans/Kennebec Journal)

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