2024 Commencement Speaker

publicity headshot of author Kathryn Olmstead
Kathryn Olmstead will be the Commencement speaker at UMFK’s 142nd commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024.

The University of Maine at Fort Kent is pleased to announce that author Kathryn Olmstead will be the Commencement speaker for the 142nd commencement ceremony held at the UMFK Sports Center on May 4, 2024.

Kathryn was presented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at UMFK’s 139th Commencement Ceremony on May 8, 2021.

“We are honored to have Ms. Olmstead speak at our celebration,” said UMFK President and Provost Dr. Deb Hedeen. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 commencement ceremony was online, and so was Kathryn’s commencement speech. We are pleased that she will serve as the commencement speaker this year and will have the opportunity to address the graduates in person.”

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 in 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 the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Penobscot Theatre Company, and the Caribou Public Library. She lives, writes, and skis in Caribou, Maine.