Recent News


Uncomfortable Subjects Are This Professor’s Specialty

Sandy Caron doesn’t shy away from topics that many people are reluctant to discuss. In fact, she regularly tackles intimate matters in lecture halls with hundreds of students.

She knows that discomfort with discussions about human sexuality, along with a lack of knowledge, can lead to a range of problems. As a professor of family relations and human sexuality and adjunct instructor for women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, she provides the UMaine community with an informed counter-balance to pop culture’s portrayal of human relationships.

Caron was delighted to join the faculty at her alma mater in 1988. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UMaine, where she belonged to Pi Beta Phi sorority and The Women’s Center. Caron received her doctorate in human development at Syracuse University and taught at Cornell before her former advisor and mentor, Prof. Lloyd Brightman, phoned her with a suggestion. He was about to retire, and encouraged her to apply for his position.

Caron especially enjoys the opportunity to make a difference on the UMaine campus and beyond, and she has been working both in and out of the classroom for nearly three decades to help students understand issues ranging from dating relationship dynamics to sexual health. Her popular upper level human sexuality course, which enrolls 350 students, typically has a waiting list.

Her particular area of research focuses on the social-sexual development of young people, and during her nearly 30 years of teaching at UMaine, she has gathered data on students’ attitudes and behaviors. Her research is widely published in academic journals and she has written four books related to human sexuality. With a commitment to service and a goal of helping students understand diversity and develop positive, healthy relationships, she has reached out to the community in multiple ways. She previously hosted a call-in program on UMaine’s radio station WMEB, and for two decades she wrote “Sex Matters,” a column for the Maine Campus. She also reaches students through her website

Caron has hosted hundreds of “Sex at 7” evening discussions in UMaine’s residence halls, and she founded three nationally recognized peer education programs: Athletes for Sexual Responsibility, Greek Peer Educator Program, and Male Athletes Against Violence. The programs, which train students to educate other students on topics such as safer sex, bystander intervention, and sexual assault have been widely adopted by other universities and colleges.

Caron has been recognized for her passion for education and her accomplishments. She received UMaine’s Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award in 1998 and the Presidential Public Service Award in 2002.

As both an alumna and a professor at UMaine, Caron offers four key pieces of advice for students. Get involved, discover your passion, find a mentor, and find happiness. “The key to finding happiness is in giving of yourself, listening to others, and helping others,” she observes.

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.

Katie Doyle: Using engineering, theatre education in concert tour design career

Katie Doyle ’16 was raised by a family of engineers who encouraged her to tinker and ask questions.

“My grandfather gave me my first electronics kit when I was 5, and I made every project in the book,” she says. “Engineering was always kind of on my radar as being something I would enjoy.”

Doyle’s family also had an affinity for the arts, and frequently took her to shows, including the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

“I remember staring in awe as dancers were raised effortlessly from below the stage,” Doyle recalls of the performance. “I couldn’t stop looking around trying to figure out where the lights were coming from and how everything worked.”

She pursued both disciplines while at the University of Maine where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology and minors in electrical engineering technology and theatre.

“Theatre has always been a big part of my life, and when I realized that I could make a career out of creating those magical moments using technology, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she says.

Today, Doyle is a mechanical design engineer at TAIT Towers, a company headquartered in Lititz, Pennsylvania that designs, constructs and delivers live event equipment. She works on a team in the touring department to design staging and automation equipment for some of today’s top concert acts.

“Our shows travel all over the world and are experienced by millions, if not billions, of people every year,” she says.


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Alumni Board Welcomes New Members

Bob FittaStacey Harris






Four alumni with diverse backgrounds in business, marketing, and communications have been elected to three-year terms on the UMaine Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Robert D. “Bob” Fitta ’83 has spent the last 15 years as director of advertising at Harvard Magazine. In that role he is responsible for revenue generation for the university’s bi-monthly print publication, which reaches 255,000 readers. A broadcasting major, Bob and his wife reside in Danville, NH.

Stacy (Gomm) Harris ’11 is the project superintendent at Consigli Construction Co., a leading construction firm and contractor with offices throughout the northeast U.S., including Portland. Stacy earned a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering at UMaine and earned her MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She and her husband live in Windham.

Kristen McAlpine ’06 a business development and corporate sales officer for First National Bank. She previously worked as operations manager at Bank of America and as a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. Krinsten studied business administration and management at UMaine, earning two bachelor’s degrees.

JoJo Oliphant ’00 is a businessman who owns Bell The Cat, a popular café in Belfast. He also co-owns his family’s mortuary business.  While at UMaine JoJo earned a degree in business management and was a four-year letter-winner on the Black Bear football team. He and his family live in Belfast.

For a full listing of the current Board of Directors, click here.

Donald Hodler '80

Tony Award-Winning Alumnus

Donald Holder ’80 was nominated this year for his 12th Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Play for Oslo, which on June 11th won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play.

Holder, a world-renowned theatrical and architectural lighting designer, created the dramatic lighting for Oslo. The play recounts the surprising behind-the-scenes events during the 1993 peace talks that led to the Oslo Peace Accords between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Holder earned his degree in forestry at UMaine, and later pursued his interest in theater and music at the Yale School of Drama. Though he did not win the Tony in 2017, he previously won two Tony Awards, one for The Lion King in 1998 and one for South Pacific in 2008.

Perry Clough

Longtime UMAA Board Member Steps Down

Matt Ciampa ’10, ’12G (left) thanks Perry Clough ’63 for his many years of distinguished service to the UMaine Alumni Association. Perry served on the board from 2005-2009 and 2011-2017, including a term as vice chairperson.

Abby Bennett

Community and Opportunity Define UMaine’s Abby Bennett

Choosing the University of Maine came naturally for Oxford, ME, native Abby Bennett.

Of all the colleges I visited and toured, UMaine felt the most optimistic and homey,Bennett said. I loved that there were so many opportunities in a school that maintained a close community feel. I wouldnt want to be anywhere else.

Bennett, a junior majoring in financial economics, said that UMaine’s in-state tuition rate made it possible to her to go to college without going into debt. UMaines six-year tuition freeze resulted in the university having the lowest in-state combination of tuition and fees among New England’s six state flagship universities, something Bennett said has made staying in Maine for college even more attractive to her and other state residents.

Bennett notes that her UMaine experience has given her the knowledge, experience, and tools she needs to be a successful leader, fundraiser, and public speaker–all essential qualities for someone with public service and political aspirations. Currently Bennett chairs the statewide Maine Federation of College Republicans, and previously served as president of the UMaine College Republicans student organization.

In addition, she is a vice president of Student Portfolio Investment Fund (SPIFFY), UMaine’s student-run investment organization, which manages almost $2.5 million in investments. Bennett is also a member of the International Affairs Association and the class historian of the Class of 2018. Bennetts favorite event on campus is Maine Day. She loves the tradition associated with the day, and the sense of community that it evokes. Its so unique to UMaine, and its something everyone who has ever attended UMaine can relate to.

Because of the countless opportunities on campus to get involved, Bennett says her hardest challenge has been learning to manage her schedule–and how to say no” to taking on new projects. Her advice to current and future UMaine students is to “not get caught up in what others want you to be or do.

“Its so easy to get off the path you set for yourself and to forget your goals when you feel like you need to please others,” she offered. “Work hard and stay on track.

Bennett cites many UMaine faculty members within and outside of her academic major who have advised and influenced her during her three years at UMaine. She said two members of the School of Economics have been particularly influential: professors Mario Teisl and Karen Moffett. Her overall university experience has made her a committed advocate for her alma mater.

I work to be a positive part of the UMaine community by being involved and advocating for the school beyond its [campus] borders,Bennett said. For example, in 2015 traveled to the State House to testify before the Maine Legislature’s Appropriations Committee to urge increased funding for UMaine. More recently she organized a bipartisan group of student leaders to attend a legislative reception in Augusta and advocate for UMaine’s funding needs.

When she has free time from schoolwork and political activities, Bennett enjoys hiking, kayaking, skiing, running, spending time with her family, and reading. The most recent book she read was Michael LewisThe Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. The book is the true story of two psychologists whose research launched the field of behavioral economics and whose groundbreaking work challenged conventional assumptions about human behavior and decision making.

As for her future, Bennett said she hopes to attend graduate school, run for public office, and work in the private sector.

I want to live and work in Maine for as much as my life as I can,Bennett said.

—Aliya Uteuova ’18

UMaine Alumni Dirigo Award

The UMaine Alumni Association’s Dirigo Award, granted with support from University Credit Union, recognizes an undergraduate student who exemplifies the academic and civic ideals of the University of Maine.

MLB’S Letendre Receives Alumni Honor from UMaine

Rookie crop

In recognition of Mark “Rookie” Letendre’s decades of outstanding leadership and service to his college alma mater, the University of Maine Alumni Association has awarded him the Block “M” Award, one of its most prestigious awards.

Letendre, a native of Manchester, New Hampshire, was presented the award on February 22 at an alumni event in Scottsdale, where he and his wife Judy now reside.

Currently Major League Baseball’s Director of Umpire Medical Services, Letendre had a successful career as team head athletic trainer for the San Francisco Giants, and was part of the team that won the 1989 National League pennant. Prior to joining the Giants, he served as an athletic trainer at the Major League and Minor League levels for the New York Yankees.

“Rookie has maintained strong ties to the University of Maine since his graduation in 1978,” said John N. Diamond, president and executive director of the UMaine Alumni Association. “He has been a leading force in building our network of UMaine alumni in Arizona, has been philanthropic in support of UMaine initiatives, and has been a terrific ambassador for the university wherever he goes. He sets a great example for all former, current, and future Black Bears.”

Each year a committee of UMaine alumni selects recipients of the association’s top awards based on dozens of nominations submitted. Letendre’s selection was based on his nomination by two members of UMaine’s Phoenix area alumni chapter: Donald Aldrich of Scottsdale and Prudence Pease Meader of Sun City. In their nomination of Letendre, they cited his character and integrity as well as his leadership and support as reasons why he deserved the award.

“I am humbled by this award and thank everyone involved in the awarding process. My learning experience at UMaine by quality educators, afforded me the necessary knowledge and skills to become a contributing member of the athletic training profession over my 40 year career in professional baseball.”

Dr. John Mahon

Dr. John Mahon Always Feels at Home

Born and raised in Philadelphia, UMaine’s John Mahon always had a burning desire to explore the world.

“Whatever country I’m in, I find it fascinating,” said Mahon, professor of management in UMaine’s Maine Business School and its John M. Murphy Chair of International Business Policy and Strategy. “I love the smells, the sounds, the noises, the musicality of languages. I have wanderlust, and I’ve been absolutely blessed in that ability to see the world.”

Mahon has taught in Australia, Canada, China, England, Germany, Korea, and Japan, and led trips to Belgium, England, Germany, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Russia. In May he will lead a group of UMaine business students to South Africa. To no surprise to those who know his passions, Mahon was the the founding director of UMaine’s School of Policy and International Affairs, which was established in 2007.

Mahon has been selected as the February recipient of the Alumni Association’s Faculty Excellence Award. Colleagues and students alike view Mahon as a “scholar’s scholar.” He has authored or co-authored more than 300 published papers and book chapters while maintaining a prominent reputation for being available to advise and consult with students and colleagues at UMaine as well as around the globe. Mahon has won numerous awards for his teaching excellence, including the 2011 University of Maine Presidential Research and Achievement Award.

Mahon has also distinguished himself as a campus administrator, having served as UMaine’s interim provost, director of Maine Business School, and dean of the College of Business, Public Policy, and Health.

Mahon joined UMaine in 2001, following 23 years as a faculty member in the School of Management at Boston University, a large, urban, and private institution. One of the attractions of joining UMaine was the opportunity to work with a more socioeconomically diverse student body, a hallmark of public land-grant universities.

“I identify more with a lot of students here than I did at Boston University,” Mahon shared.

UMaine’s winter weather and rural nature were attractions, he said. He and his wife, Julie, enjoy winter sports and the outdoors.

“If you’re someone who doesn’t like snow, don’t come to Maine,” Mahon quipped. The Mahons also enjoys the variety of campus events available at UMaine, such as guest lectures, the International Dance Festival, and concerts by UMaine a cappella groups the Maine Steiners and Renaissance.

—Aliya Uteuova ’18

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.

UMaine Senior Eddie Gonnella

UMaine Senior Eddie Gonnella is Engineering His Career

When this month’s Dirigo Award recipient, Eddie Gonnella, departed for college in 2013, he didn’t journey very far—just a five-minute drive from his home in Old Town.

But following his graduation from UMaine on May 13th, long-distance travel will be a regular occurrence for him as he takes on an unexpected opportunity, one he earned as a result of his co-curricular involvement on and off campus.

Gonnella, a member of the UMaine chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity (“SigEp,” as it is known), has been selected by the organization’s national office for a one-year paid position as a regional director. In that role, he will advise and mentor members at 15-20 of the 242 SigEp chapters located throughout the U.S.

For the civil engineering major, his selection presents a unique opportunity.

“The chance to serve SigEp in improving other chapters, to represent UMaine on a national level, to get paid to travel the country, and the opportunity to grow my relationship with SigEp and get to know so many other people was impossible to pass up,” Gonnella explained.

As Gonnella understands, not all students are interested in joining a fraternity or sorority. (At UMaine, 14% of undergraduate students belong to a Greek organization.) But he believes there is a student group on campus for everyone. For him, SigEp has defined his time at the university, and it’s been a life-changing experience.

“When I joined SigEp, my strengths and weaknesses were put to the test,” he recalled. “My ability to interact with other people was challenged and leadership opportunities were endless. I grew, learned, and experienced so much due to these aspects of SigEp and it really provided me with the avenue to develop into who I am today compared to who I was when I first arrived at UMaine.”

Gonnella cites several examples: earning Dean’s List status in one of UMaine’s most challenging academic majors; being a finalist in the UMaine business challenge; traveling on SigEp’s 10-day leadership development Tragos Quest to Greece; student leadership roles on campus; and civic and community involvement as a volunteer and youth sports coach. His contributions have not gone unnoticed.

“There are not enough Eddie Gonnellas on this earth,” stated UMaine junior Zachary Goulette, an electrical engineering major. “Eddie is a leader who over and over again gives selflessly of his time, talents, and effort.”

“A few words I would use to describe Eddie are devoted, trustworthy, philanthropic, focused, driven, and scholarly,” added Joshua Stanhope ’13, ’16G, UMaine’s assistant director of campus activities and student engagement.

Gonnella says he is not sure what path he will take after finishing his one-year appointment with his national fraternity. Possibilities include taking an engineering job in Maine, grad school, more travel, or yet another unanticipated opportunity. No matter what, he says he is ready.

“I feel as though my experience at UMaine has helped me develop a wide variety of skills and interests,” he shared. That experience has “opened doors for me and set me up for success in the future.”

UMaine Alumni Dirigo Award

The UMaine Alumni Association’s Dirigo Award, granted with support from University Credit Union, recognizes an undergraduate student who exemplifies the academic and civic ideals of the University of Maine.

UMaine Alumni Association Faculty Excellence Award Recipient Professor Douglas Allen

Professor Allen, Mentor and Activist

Philosophy Professor Douglas M. Allen never planned on making Maine his home. Decades ago, after being fired from Southern Illinois University (SIU) for his Vietnam/Indochina antiwar activism, Allen joined the faculty of the University of Maine in 1974. Although he had the support of SIU faculty and students, won a lawsuit against SIU, and was offered his job back, he decided to stay at UMaine.

Twenty-five years later, in 2000, Allen received UMaine’s highest faculty honor, the Distinguished Maine Professor Award, a recognition based on outstanding performance through teaching, scholarship, and service to the public.

The importance and practice of activism—social, political, and economic—has long been part of Allen’s academic and personal focus.

During his first year at UMaine Allen helped found the Maine Peace Action Committee. He played an instrumental role in the movement that resulted in UMaine’s divestment of nearly $3 million from corporations and banks that did business in apartheid South Africa. In 1982, UMaine became one of the first 10 universities in the U.S. to agree to complete divestment.

“When we won that, we couldn’t believe it,” Allen explained, “because when you’re involved in these big struggles for peace and justice, you usually don’t win.” When asked about his favorite memory at UMaine, Allen recalls a big celebration in the Memorial Union after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. “That was a big moment on this campus,” Allen said. At about that time, Allen was part of a small group of anti-apartheid activists who met with Nelson Mandela in New York.

Allen has a strong reputation among current students and alumni as a teacher and mentor, roles that he enjoys. “Most of the students here are down to earth, and I enjoy having them in the classroom,” Allen said. “A lot of them are appreciative of the opportunity to have an education, and you can see their progress.”

One of the many UMaine alumni Allen remains in touch with is Ashok Jhunjhunwala (’77 G, ’79 Ph.D.), a nationally prominent professor of electrical engineering and telecommunications at India Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) and the 2009 recipient of the UMaine Alumni Association’s Bernard Lown Humanitarian Award. Although Jhunjhunwala was not enrolled in Allen’s lectures, he sat in on many of them, eager to learn more about philosophy.

“We had incredible discussion groups with him; he’s got good values,” Allen said. Allen spent his 2015-2016 sabbatical at IIT Madras, where Jhunjhunwala is widely considered the best-known and most influential engineering scientist.

Throughout his 43 years of teaching at UMaine, Allen has witnessed many changes on campus. Shortly before he joined the UMaine faculty, there were dorm curfews for female students, and college dances had to have adult chaperones.

“It was a different world,” Allen said. “We’ve moved in a much more positive direction at this university, but we’ve given up some things too, such as a deeper sense of community.”

Allen’s advice to young faculty reflects his passion for activism and advocacy.

“Don’t be dominated by the stress of fear and uncertainty,” he tells them. “There are always people who have power over your life and your future. It is horrible to allow that to control how you teach, do research, or live your life. You have more freedom to live consistent with your values than you often think you have.”

—Aliya Uteuova ’18

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.