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Enrollment & Advancement Center • University of Maine at Fort Kent • 23 University Drive, Fort Kent, ME 04743

UMFK Announces 2021 Commencement Speaker & Honorary Degree Recipient

April 9, 2021

Note: this is an archived news release. As such, the information provided may no longer apply.

Kathryn Olmstead commencement speaker and honorary degree 2021The University of Maine at Fort Kent is pleased to announce that author Kathryn Olmstead will be the keynote speaker for the 139th commencement ceremony held online on May 8, 2021. During the ceremony, Ms. Olmstead will be awarded an honorary degree from UMFK.

“We are honored to have Ms. Olmstead speak at our celebration,” said UMFK President and Provost, Dr. Deb Hedeen. “Her passion, positive energy and commitment to community has made Kathryn an excellent recipient of this prestigious award.”

Kathryn Olmstead, Associate Professor Emerita of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine, served 25 years on their journalism faculty, the last six as associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She is currently a writer and editor living in Caribou, Maine. A native of Battle Creek, Michigan, she earned a BA in English from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and an MA English and Education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

She moved to an abandoned farm in Westmanland in 1974, after teaching high school English in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and Concord, New Hampshire, where she and her husband directed a residential college preparatory program for minority students. In 1988, she co-founded Echoes: Rediscovering Community, a quarterly magazine celebrating the quality of life in Aroostook County, which she later published from her home in Caribou until 2017.

She is the author of True North: Finding the Essence of Aroostook, and the editor of Stories of Aroostook: The Best of Echoes Magazine both published in 2020. She also wrote a biweekly column about northern Maine for the Bangor Daily News and co-authored a WWII memoir, Flight to Freedom: World War II Through the Eyes of a Child, with Philomena Baker, who began her career as a photographer in Fort Kent, Maine, in the 1950s.

Before joining the UMaine faculty in 1984, she served as regional representative for Senator Bill Cohen in Presque Isle, edited the weekly Aroostook Republican and News in Caribou, and was a correspondent for the Bangor Daily News and two agricultural newspapers based in Vermont and Kansas. She also taught journalism and photography at UMS campuses in Fort Kent and Presque Isle.

Founder of the Maine Center for Student Journalism for high school journalists in 1993, she received the UMaine Presidential Public Service Award in 2009 and was inducted into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame in 2018.

She serves on boards of Maine Public Broadcasting, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and the Caribou Public Library, and is a member of the UMaine Board of Visitors, the McGillicuddy Humanities Center Advisory Committee and the American Association of University Women.

For more information about UMFK’s commencement, go to or call 834-7500.