Alexandra Albert ’09 named Salutatorian

Class of 2009 Commencement Ceremonies Held at UMaine

UMaine News

More information about UMaine commencement, including the text of the commencement speech and details about the honorary degree recipients, the valedictorian and the salutatorian, is online at

ORONO — Encouraging graduates to embrace America’s entrepreneurial spirit and to approach their careers with passion and enthusiasm, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration told the University of Maine Class of 2009 that “this economy will not define you.”

Karen Gordon Mills of Brunswick, confirmed last month as the federal SBA administrator, addressed the approximately 1,871 graduates at two ceremonies inside UMaine’s Alfond Arena.

Mills, whose career is characterized by notable successes in managing various kinds of businesses and in raising capital to support entrepreneurs, had an upbeat message for graduates entering the job market during difficult economic times.

“You will succeed,” she said, “and your success will define you and the future of America.”

Mills pointed to passion as the defining characteristic of successful business owners, particularly in the context of small business operations.  She noted that small businesses are responsible for half of private sector jobs and that they have created 70 percent of new jobs in the past decade.

“Passion is the driver of America’s successful small businesses,” she said.  “It is the basis for our country’s entrepreneurial spirit.  And I strongly believe that this class has both an opportunity — and a responsibility — to discover and pursue your passion.”

UMaine President Robert Kennedy presided over the ceremonies, which were held at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.  An estimated total of 12,000 people attended the ceremonies.

“We hope your time at UMaine has inspired in you a lifelong passion for learning and a concern for the future of our state, our country, and our culture,” Kennedy said in addressing the graduates.  “Power and responsibility come with your education.  Use them to make the most of your life, to enrich those around you, and to return the gifts that have been bestowed on you to the society that bestowed them.”

Adrienne Sturgeon, an elementary education major from Bangor is the Class of 2009 valedictorian.  She earned her degree with concentrations in history and social studies, and a minor in sociology.  An honor society member who is active in university and community service activities, Sturgeon is planning to move to Germany where she hopes to teach at a Dept. of Defense school.  Eagle Lake native Alexandra Albert is the class salutatorian.  Also a member of UMaine honors societies and an Honors College graduate, Albert is a double major in biochemistry and molecular/cellular biology, with a minor in biochemistry.  She plans to enroll in a Ph.D./M.D. program where she will continue to work in scientific research, as she had done throughout her time at UMaine.

University of Maine faculty members also played a prominent role in today’s commencement ceremonies.  James Acheson, an anthropology and School of Marine sciences faculty member who is the 2009 UMaine Alumni Association Distinguished Maine Professor, delivered the traditional Celebration of Academia address.  The ceremony also featured recognition of three UMaine professors honored earlier this week with UMaine’s top annual faculty awards: Prof. Leonard Kass of the Dept. of Biology and Ecology (Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award); Prof. Owen Smith of the Dept. of New Media (Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award); and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Kathryn Olmstead, a Dept. of Communication and Journalism professor (Presidential Public Service Achievement Award).

The ceremony featured the conferral of honorary doctorates on two distinguished Maine residents. Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Gregory “Grog” Johnson, a 1968 UMaine graduate who grew up in the northern Maine town of Westmanland and now lives in Harpswell, was recognized at the morning ceremony  A member of the UMaine Board of Visitors, Johnson’s distinguished 36-year military career included service as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, and Commander in Chief, Allied (NATO) Forces Southern Europe.  In the afternoon Passamaquoddy Tribe elder David Francis of Pleasant Point was similarly honored.  Francis has been active for decades in developing a written form of the Passamaquoddy language.  Francis was a lead collaborator in the creation of a Passamaquoddy-Maliseet dictionary, published last year by the University of Maine Press.

William Johnson of Saco brought greetings from the University of Maine System Board of Trustees at the morning ceremony, while Wayne Newell of Princeton filled that role at the afternoon event.  Suzanne Hart, chair of the University of Maine Alumni Association board of directors, welcomed the new graduates to the ranks of the nearly 95,000 UMaine alumni.