Class of 1949 Winter 2022 Class Note

Our delayed 2020 gathering was once again postponed, now to 2022! Kudos to the Alumni Association and the university for their efforts to include input from Senior Alumni, class presidents, and reunion chairpersons in reaching their very difficult decision. Their careers are dedicated to bringing us together while COVID has kept us apart. Your homework assignment? Stay safe, well, and plan to join us next year! (Editorial note from me: PLEASE, get vaccinated so we can get back to celebrations together again!) 

Continuing my introductions, here is another person who’s giving of his time and talents:

Senior Alumni 1st vice president, James Varner ’57, a native of Princeton, NJ, said his high school track coach, a graduate himself of UMaine, convinced Jim to apply for admission. With a Rotary Club scholarship in hand, and the offered assistance of then-President Arthur Hauck in securing additional financial aid, Jim headed for Orono to begin working toward double majors in chemistry and education. (Athletic scholarships were not common during the early ‘50s. As a brother of Phi Eta Kappa, Jim worked in the fraternity kitchen to earn money to pay for his room and board.)

It was at PEK that Jim and Rod Spearin ’57, ’61G became friends, brothers, and fellow athletes on the UMaine track team. Jim’s specialty was high and low hurdles, and the broad jump. As a member, also, of the UMaine football team, Jim played offensive right halfback and defensive safety. 

Jim married Florence Ann Johanson, who attended UMaine briefly, and they shared 51 years of marriage and raised three sons and one daughter, all of whom went on to successful careers of their own. Jim’s granddaughter, Elle Varner, is a Grammy Award-winning vocalist.

Following military service, Jim taught science and chemistry in Trenton and Plainfield, NJ, and later joined Drew University, where he taught social studies.

Jim became executive director of the Morris County Human Resources Agency, working to establish anti-poverty programs, expand Head Start educational opportunities, and develop minority economic development centers. His work to establish the Dover, NJ, Spanish-American Federal Credit Union was soon recognized as a model for financial investment opportunities among minorities.

Drawn back to Maine in 1992 to help care for his wife’s aging parents, he was hired by the university’s admissions office, where he worked to expand minority recruitment. Throughout his career, Jim has worked for social justice, educational opportunities, and economic advancement for underserved and minority populations. 

On a sad note, we honor the memory of a man whose generosity and vision helped to bring our amazing Buchanan Alumni Center to fruition. Dr. Robert Buchanan ’44, a native of Caribou, ME, went on to Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, graduating in 1946. See the tribute to him elsewhere in this issue.

Another loss to Senior Alumni is the passing of Dr. James Donovan ’45. Jim entered the university in 1941, and his education was interrupted by World War II. After his discharge, he returned to the university to complete his degree. A Sophomore Owl, Senior Skull, president of his fraternity, and president of the Class of 1945, Jim was also a running back for the UMaine football team and third baseman for the baseball team.

After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1952, he completed his orthopaedic surgical residency and moved with his wife to Glastonbury, CT, where they raised five children. Jim dedicated 35 years of service to children’s, general orthopaedics, and sports medicine.

Jim continued throughout his lifetime to support his class, local alumni events, and campus activities. The Donovan Family Scholarship, established by Jim and his sisters, Alice Anne Donovan Poeppelmeier ’40 and Fran Donovan ‘43, awards scholarships to UMaine students from Aroostook County. 

Stay safe. Stay well. And keep in touch with each other and with me, please!