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UMFK to honor 94-year-old alumna at 122nd commencement May 8

April 23, 2004


A graduate of the Madawaska Training School Class of 1926 will be honored with a distinguished service award from her alma mater, the University of Maine at Fort Kent, during commencement exercises on Saturday, May 8.

Ninety-four-year-old Genevieve Jalbert Bouchard will don a cap and gown for the first time in nearly eight decades, as she joins UMFK's class of 2004 at the university's 122nd commencement exercises where she will be presented with the final honor of the St. John Valley institution's year-long 125th anniversary celebration.

The distinguished service award is bestowed annually at the university's commencement, to a deserving recipient or recipients who have rendered service to the campus, community, St. John Valley, Aroostook County, and State of Maine.

This anniversary year, the university will honor an individual who has involved herself with the campus as a student, alumna and close friend for the past 80 years.

"Receiving this award is too much for me. I don't deserve that" said a humbled and appreciative Genevieve Jalbert Bouchard, upon hearing that she would be this year's recipient. "My schooling always meant a lot to me and I always felt close to the school."

Bouchard was born in Fort Kent on August 14, 1909, one of four children of Frank and Clara Jalbert.

She attended the St. Louis Parochial School and graduated from the eighth grade before attending M.T.S. in the mid 1920's.

In 1926, after completing two years of normal school work, she graduated from the Training School, earning her teacher's certificate.

"My graduation was quite an accomplishment. In those days, it was an even bigger honor to graduate with a teaching certificate. Living in the dorm was also very exciting for me," said Bouchard.

The near centenarian has vivid memories of her days at M.T.S. She recalls the institution's second principal, Mary Nowland, who served as administrative head from 1897 through 1926, as an exact disciplinarian with an often hidden gentle and caring side.

After earning her teaching certificate, Bouchard taught for four years in "little red school houses" in the Fort Kent area.

In 1929, she married Louis Bouchard, also of Fort Kent, and the couple raised three children, Jack, Charles and Linda on their farm on the New Canada Road.

A true life-long-learner, Bouchard would often take classes at night and during the summer for personal enrichment and to remain current with her certification.

Her passion for learning would be her saving grace when her husband passed away in 1959, and Bouchard decided to return to teaching.

Bouchard spent the next 13 years teaching at the Market Street School in Fort Kent until her retirement at the age of 63 in 1972.

Throughout this time and through the present day, Bouchard would remain an active and committed alumna of the University of Maine at Fort Kent, rarely missing an alumni association event.

Her devotion would not go unnoticed, as the UMFK Alumni Association would honor her with the "Outstanding Alumni Award" at their annual banquet in 1979.

As the years passed Bouchard would become the repeat winner of the "Pop Hoyt" award at the annual banquet. The honor is bestowed each year on the "oldest, yet youngest at heart alumni" attending the event. Bouchard again took home that award at last September's 125th anniversary gala banquet.

However, the crowning achievements in Bouchard's list of honors came in the early 1990's when she saw two of her granddaughters earn degrees from the same institution that holds such a special place in her heart.

In 1991, Leah Martin Bouchard and in 1993, Susan Bouchard Devoe both earned bachelor of science in nursing degrees from UMFK.

Bouchard also boasts that another granddaughter, Jill Bouchard Cairns attended UMFK and now is employed as assistant director of admissions, helping the institution recruit future students.

Bouchard will join a distinguished group of past UMFK distinguished service award recipients that include Congressman Michael Michaud, former State Senator Judy Paradis, State Senator John Martin, community leaders Norman Fournier, Rose Nadeau, and Martin and Sandra Bernstein, former Governor John McKernan, retired educator Paul Bouchard, Fort Kent entrepreneur Carl Theriault, and Franco-American cultural advocate Marc Chasse.