Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward

Merritt “Ritt” Conroy ’60 and Jean Lorraine White Conroy ’57, ’60G

Through their own life experiences, Jean and Ritt Conroy knew there were UMaine students who could use a helping hand. They decided to “pay it forward” by providing support for future UMaine students by creating two scholarships.

Ritt and Jean met each other at the University of Maine. Ritt took a shine to Jean and would arrive at his class early so he could greet Jean as she was leaving that classroom. Between school years, they started dating when both of them happened to have a summer job at the same insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut.

They married in July, 1961.

Their First Scholarship: The Maine Vocational Rehabilitation Thank You Scholarship Fund

Ritt grew up on a farm in Aroostook County and attended Washburn Academy. Farming was not in Ritt’s plans. He dreamed of leaving the farm and going to the University of Maine. In his senior year of high school, Ritt contracted tuberculosis. He was incapacitated by that disease for three years. To make matters worse, during that time, his father passed away.

Ritt’s dreams of going to college were not over. With the help of the Maine Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and support from the Helen B. Hemingway Scholarship, part of UMaine’s privately funded scholarship program, Ritt was able to attend UMaine. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education in 1960, earning membership in the Kappa Delta Pi Honors Society each year. Ritt went on to become a computer systems analyst. He spent much of his career at the University of California Irvine where he relished improving the systems used by students and faculty there.

In 2007, Ritt and Jean created the Maine Vocational Rehabilitation Thank You Scholarship Fund to help UMaine students with disabilities, with a preference for those students participating in Maine Vocational Rehabilitation Division programs. After Ritt’s death in 2017, Jean included this scholarship fund in her estate plans.

This scholarship has touched the lives of many UMaine students. One recipient said that getting this award made it possible “to believe more in himself.” He said he was “grateful that there are people like [the Conroys] who help out other people in need” and that he hopes to be able to help others in the future.

Sara Henry, Director of UMaine Student Accessibility Services, said:

The staff and students at Student Accessibility Services are grateful for Jean and Ritt Conroy and the Maine Vocational Rehabilitation Thank You Scholarship which will continue for many years to come. The scholarship funds that have been awarded to students with disabilities over the years have helped them to get their education and affirmed the University’s commitment to access for students with disabilities.

Jean Creates a Second Scholarship Fund: The Merritt and Jean Conroy Fund

Jean’s own life path led her to create a second scholarship to help UMaine students – this time with a different focus. Jean grew up in Bangor, Maine in a family with deep UMaine connections. Her dad, James F. White, attended the University of Maine in the late 1920’s and was awarded the Block “M” award for his exceptional service to UMaine as an alum. Her brother, Leigh J. White ‘70, also attended UMaine.

While a student, Jean was an active Black Bear. She was a sister in Phi Mu, served as an editor of the Prism yearbook, and joined Future Teachers of America, Math Club, and German Club. She was also invited to join Phi Beta Kappa her senior year. At UMaine, Jean earned her Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics in 1957 and went on to obtain her Master of Arts in Mathematics in 1960. Jean was the only female graduating with an advanced degree in Math in 1960. Indeed, she appears to have been one of only four women in UMaine history, prior to 1961, who had graduated with an advanced degree in mathematics.

Jean went to California and continued to be a trailblazer. She was the first woman to receive tenure in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at California State University, Long Beach. She later moved into administration where she served as the University’s Coordinator for Single Subject Teacher Education Program. Jean also served on various committees including as a member and chair of the Board of Institution Reviewers for the State of California Credentialing Commission. Jean later wrote that it was the “[t]he great education I received at UM that opened doors for me to have many important professional experiences.”

In her role preparing future secondary teachers, Jean learned about some of the financial difficulties faced by students during their student-teaching experiences. She understood that the rigors of student teaching made it difficult to hold another job so students often forego outside, paid work. In addition Jean knew that student expenses are often increased during this time: Students may incur additional costs of commuting to their assigned school or, if too far to commute, then for additional room and board nearer to their school.

When it came time to work on her estate plans, Jean decided that, in addition to her support for students through the Maine Vocational Rehabilitation Thank You Scholarship, she also wanted to help UMaine students studying to be secondary level math teachers, especially while they are student teaching. To accomplish this, she worked with staff at the UMaine Foundation to create a new scholarship: the Merritt and Jean Conroy Fund. She then worked with her attorney to include a bequest to both scholarship funds in her trust.

Unfortunately, Jean passed away in January 2020; but her legacy of kindness will help generations of future math teachers.

“The college is grateful for the support provided by Jean Conroy through the Merritt and Jean Conroy Fund,” said Mary H. Gresham, interim dean of the College of Education and Human Development. “Mathematics literacy is essential in the world today, and this contribution will help encourage more teachers in this area,” Gresham added. “In addition, the student-teaching experience is an important part of training new teachers, but it can be financially challenging. This gift will touch the lives, not only of UMaine’s future math teachers, but also their students’ lives.”

Paying It Forward

Jean and Ritt were grateful for the support they had received and believed that extending a helping hand to those who followed was a way of paying it forward. The permanently endowed funds that they created at the University of Maine Foundation will do just that for many students to come.

Geddes Simpson Lecture to feature UMaine Professor Emeritus Malcolm Shick

Geddes Simpson Lecture to feature UMaine Professor Emeritus Malcolm Shick

University of Maine Professor Emeritus of Zoology and Oceanography Malcolm Shick, will present “Where Corals Lie: A Natural and Cultural History” for the 19th annual Geddes Simpson Lecture. Schick will also address how corals are a familiar and potent cultural symbol and historical object lesson of the fragility of ecosystems and human societies in face of the environmental disaster of global climate change.

This event is free, open to the public and will be delivered online via Zoom on October 16, 2020 at 2:30 PM.

The Geddes W. Simpson Lecture Series features speakers of prominence who provide significant insight on the intersection of science and history. 

In 2001, Simpson’s family established the Geddes W. Simpson Lecture Fund at the University of Maine Foundation. Simpson was a well-respected faculty member whose 55-year career in the College of Life Sciences and the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station began in 1931. He chaired the Entomology Department from 1954 until his retirement in 1974.

Register here for this free event.

UMaine Museum of Art Receives Naming Gift

A $1.3 million naming gift from education leaders and arts supporters Donald and Linda Zillman will expand and enhance the University of Maine Museum of Art.At its March 16 meeting, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees approved the expansion plans and naming opportunity made possible by the gift. The museum is now the Linda G. and Donald N. Zillman Art Museum – University of Maine. 

A portion of the gift will be included in University of Maine’s $200 million Vision for Tomorrow comprehensive campaign, led by the University of Maine Foundation. The campaign is scheduled to be completed by June 30.

University of Maine Foundation presents awards to six alumni at 85th anniversary celebration

University of Maine Foundation presents awards to six alumni at 85th anniversary celebration

L-R: Hon. George Z. Singal ’67, Eric M. Venturini ’06, ’15G, Matthew R. McHatten ’90, Anthony F. “Tony” Paine ’96, Bruce W. Albiston ’72, Betsy MacGregor Webb CAS ’00, Ed.D. ’08 – 2019 Harris Award winners.

As part of its “Celebrating Success” 85th anniversary luncheon, the University of Maine Foundation presented one alum from each of UMaine’s colleges with the President Abram W. Harris Award. 

The award was established in 2003 by President Harris’ grandson Abram Pete” W. Harris III ’50 and his friend Marion Waterman Meyer ’51. Each award recipient demonstrates exemplary and extraordinary leadership, contributions to his or her community and/or service to UMaine — the essence of Harris’ efforts as the president of the University of Maine from 1893 to 1901. 

“These six outstanding UMaine alumni represent a sampling of the outcomes of a University of Maine education,” said Foundation President/CEO Jeffery N. Mills. “Our work in fundraising helps to ensure that a UMaine education can become a reality for more outstanding alumni. In 85 years, funds held at the Foundation have supported thousands of UMaine students with scholarships and other resources.”

Meet the awardees

Bruce W. Albiston ’72

Co-Founder, Aphasia Center of Maine and the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center 
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Bruce’s career began at Maine Oxy in 1972, and in 1983, he became owner and CEO. Maine Oxy became an employee-owned company in 2005 and six years later, Bruce completed the sale of the company to the employees. During his tenure, he founded Firesafe Equipment and the nonprofit New England School of Metalwork. In 2011, he co-founded the Aphasia Center of Maine and the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center with his wife, Annemarie. He currently serves as executive director. Bruce has served on several boards and has volunteered with many organizations.

Matthew R. McHatten ’90

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of MMG Insurance
Maine Business School

Matt received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance in 1990. Upon graduating from UMaine, he worked for KeyBank’s Commercial Lending division for 11 years. In 2001, he joined Maine Mutual Group, holding a variety of senior leadership roles. Matt has been involved with many civic organizations, including the Maine TREE Foundation, Presque Isle Rotary Club, Central Aroostook Association, and Aroostook Partnership.

Anthony F. “Tony” Paine ’96

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, HighByte 
College of Engineering

Tony is leading the design and development of HighByte’s initial software product offering. He has contributed to a variety of technical working groups, helping shape the direction of standards used within the automation industry. A strong advocate for STEM initiatives, he currently sits on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the University of Maine College of Engineering where he provides industry insight and evangelism around education in the area of technology. Tony is currently enrolled in the university’s Online MBA program and expects to complete his degree by summer 2021.

Hon. George Z. Singal ’67                

District Judge, District of Maine, United States District Court, US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge
Honors College

George graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maine and received his JD degree cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was a Felix Frankfurter Scholar. He practiced law in Bangor for 30 years. George has served as a U.S. District Court judge, District of Maine, since July 2000 and as chief judge from 2003-09. Since induction, Judge Singal has held numerous national appointments made by Chief Justices William Rehnquist and John Roberts, including the Judicial Conference’s Committees on Judicial Resources and on Codes of Conduct.

Eric M. Venturini ’06, ’15G   

Pollinator Biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and a Partner Biologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture
College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture

Eric works to increase awareness and capacity for pollinator conservation in New England. In this role he has spearheaded an inter-agency, collaborative, cooperative agreement to prioritize pollinator conservation across all of New England. Previously, Eric was a graduate student, then a researcher at UMaine studying pollinators and wild blueberries. His greatest joy is his wife, Julia (whom he met at Colvin Hall in 2002), and their two young children, Mariella and Teo, who keep him laughing, and who give him perspective and motivation to make positive change in their world.

Betsy MacGregor Webb CAS ’00, Ed.D. ’08

Superintendent of Schools for the Bangor School Department
College of Education and Human Development

Betsy has led the Bangor School Department since 2008. Through her leadership, the district has seen increased academic achievement with the implementation of a 10-year strategic plan emphasizing academic excellence, professional excellence, quality instructional programs and an environment for success. Throughout her career, Betsy has received numerous awards, including 2013 Maine Superintendent of the Year. She has served on the Dean’s Council for the College of Education and Human Development, and on several national, state and local boards.

UMaine College of Education and Human Development announces scholarship opportunity for graduate students in Oxford County

UMaine College of Education and Human Development announces scholarship opportunity for graduate students in Oxford County

The University of Maine College of Education and Human Development is now accepting applications for a scholarship of up to $25,000 available to Oxford County residents seeking their master’s degree in education at UMaine.

Susan Hathaway Glines, who worked as an educator in Oxford County for many years, has provided a generous donation to the University of Maine Foundation to establish the Susan Hathaway Glines Scholarship. Ms. Glines was the beneficiary of a scholarship herself during her time at UMaine, where she earned her degree in 1969.

“This is my way of paying it forward,” Glines says. “With this scholarship I hope to support future Maine educators and motivate others to do so as well.”

The deadline to apply for the scholarship is November 1, 2019.

Read more.

Donors celebrating 55th UMaine Class Reunion to name engineering building

Donors celebrating 55th UMaine Class Reunion to name engineering building

Skowhegan natives E. James “Jim” Ferland and Eileen P. Ferland are the anonymous donors whose $10 million investment will help construct the Engineering Education and Design Center at the University of Maine.

The new facility will be named in honor of the couple.

The announcement was made by University of Maine Foundation president and CEO Jeffery Mills at the UMaine Alumni Association 2019 Reunion dinner Sept. 12 on campus, where Jim Ferland was celebrating his 55th class reunion.

The E. James and Eileen P. Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center (EEDC) will house the Biomedical Engineering Program and Department of Mechanical Engineering, as well as teaching laboratories for mechanical engineering technology, and provide space for all UMaine engineering majors to complete their senior capstone projects.

Read more.