Announcing the 2024 DMP and UMaine Alumni Award Honorees

A brilliant UMaine entomologist and community servant, and a highly accomplished educator, mentor and advocate in the field of social work in Maine lead an impressive class of honorees that will be recognized by the University of Maine Alumni Association at our Alumni Achievement Awards Dinner in April.

Alumni Career Award
From his twenty years of serving on his local school board to his twelve years of serving as both a State Representative and a State Senator in the Maine Legislature, entomologist Jim Dill ’72, ’74G has been chosen to receive the Alumni Career Award, the UMaine Alumni Association’s highest alumni honor. Dill has led the life-saving UMaine Cooperative Extension Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, more affectionately called “The Tick Lab,” in investigating ways to reduce the incidences of Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases not only in Maine but throughout our country. Jim’s work with Integrated Pest Management is well known and highly respected, as he has been the UMaine Cooperative Extension pest management specialist since 1981. In his more than 40-year career, Dill has been instrumental in growing and developing Maine’s pest management and pesticide safety education initiatives, serving as an extension professor. Jim is currently serving in the Maine House of Representatives representing Old Town and neighboring communities.  He currently serves on the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and Marine Resources committees in the 131st Maine Legislature.

Distinguished Maine Professor
Dr. Sandra Butler, Director of the School of Social Work and MSW Coordinator for the University of Maine, has been named the 2024 Distinguished Maine Professor, the Alumni Association’s most prestigious faculty award. Butler teaches courses in social welfare policy, with research focusing primarily on the health needs and social welfare experiences of low-income women across the life span. Sandra was a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar from 2001 to 2003, which allowed her to expand her teaching, scholarship, and community service in the area of aging. In 2010, she became a Hartford Faculty Research Mentor. Since its inception in 2001, she has been affiliated with the University of Maine Center on Aging, participating in several research and service projects. She received a career recognition award from the University of Maine Rising Tide Center in 2015. Since 1963, the University of Maine Alumni Association has presented the Distinguished Maine Professor award to recognize a faculty member that exemplifies the highest qualities of teaching, research, and public service.

Spirit of Maine Achievement Award
Michael Shepherd ’12 has been chosen to receive the Spirit of Maine Achievement Award. The award recognizes an individual who graduated within the past 15 years and has achieved outstanding professional success. It took Michael less than 10 years to rise from his position as editor-in-chief of The Maine Campus student newspaper to his current role as political editor of the Bangor Daily News, where he has established himself as one of Maine’s most reliable and reputable media authorities on government and politics. Shepherd’s coverage of several races of national importance, including the 2020 Senatorial campaign between Senator Susan Collins and Sara Gideon, has established his national prominence. Most recently, Michael assumed a lead role in reporting and coordinating his newspaper’s coverage of the October massacre in Lewiston. Two weeks prior to the Lewiston tragedy, Michael received the Maine Press Association’s 2023 Journalist of the Year Award.

Suzanne Kay Hart ’68 Alumni Service Award
Meredith Strang Burgess ’78 has been selected to receive the Alumni Association’s Suzanne Kay Hart ’68 Alumni Service Award, which honors an individual whose leadership and service have advanced the organization’s success and reputation. Meredith’s roots at UMaine are as well known as her business accomplishments. She serves the Class of 1978 as its president with enthusiasm and a sincere effort to engage her classmates of UMaine. Meredith has long been an advocate for alumni interests through her current and past involvement with the University of Maine Alumni Association board, the UMaine Board of Visitors, the Southern Maine Executive Club of UMaine, Portland Alumnae, and the UMaine Alumni Chapter of Southern Maine. For many years Meredith was active in Maine politics as a volunteer, organizer, and multi-term state legislator. Meredith is a respected businessperson and marketing expert, and for decades she shared her valuable experience in support of UMaine and the Alumni Association in both volunteer and paid consulting roles.

Champion of UMaine Award
John and Suzi Miller have been selected as the recipients of the Champion of UMaine Award. The award recognizes individuals who, though not UMaine graduates, have been strong and effective advocates for UMaine. John and Suzi’s commitment to the University, and specifically the Collins Center for the Arts is generational. In fact, last year, the Miller Family received the CCA’s highest volunteer recognition – The Wilma Award – which recognizes and honors “….extraordinary commitment to the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine.” The family’s support for the University has been loyal and wide-ranging, including the creation of the Miller’s Café at the Collins Center for the Arts and the establishment of endowed funds that provide scholarship support as well as support for the arts. Beyond financial support, their volunteerism runs deep, as John has served on the CCA Advisory Board since 2014 and is currently Vice Chair, while his wife Suzi is a member of the CCA’s gala committee.

Fogler Legacy Award
The Morrison family has been selected for the Fogler Legacy Award. The honor is awarded annually to a family with multiple generations of Black Bear graduates who have been actively engaged in volunteer service on behalf of UMaine, their community, and/or their respective professions. Four generations of the Morrison family have used their University of Maine degrees to not only further themselves but also bring recognition and honor to the University of Maine System. The family legacy began with Viola Purinton Giffin ’31 and Alvin Giffin ’31, and continued with their daughter Alola Giffin Morrison ’59, who is now the oldest living member of the Giffin/Morrison family of Black Bears.  Alola and her late husband Joseph Morrison ’59, ’67G  had two sons and several grandchildren who have carried on this Black Bear legacy. Their commitment to excellence, education, and service is evident through public service, professional accomplishments, military service, and many volunteer positions each generation has held.

Rising Star Award
Kelsey Stoyanova ’14, ’18G was chosen to receive the Alumni Association’s Rising Star Award in recognition of her efforts in the education system in Maine. She was named Maine Teacher of the Year in 2022 and continues to advocate for students and the teaching profession as a member of the Educate Maine Board of Directors. Stoyanova has continued to be an exemplary alumna of UMaine by pursuing a master’s degree in education in literacy (M.Ed.). Stoyanova currently teaches English at Bangor High School.

Award recipients were selected through a formal nomination and review process that concluded in January. A standing committee of alumni and campus leaders conducted the review. Recipients will be honored at the Alumni Association’s annual Alumni Achievement Awards Dinner and Celebration to be held on Friday, April 26 at Wells Conference Center on the University of Maine campus. The event is open to the public, and ticket sales will begin in March. For more information, please contact or call 207.581.1146.

Established in 1875, the University of Maine Alumni Association is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the interests of UMaine and its 110,000 alumni.