May 1, 2008
The University of Maine System’s Board of Trustees will confer an honorary Doctor of Human Letters degree upon Virginia S. Pinkham at the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s 126th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10, 2008.
The degree will be conferred upon Mrs. Pinkham through the recommendation of UMFK’s President, Dr. Richard W. Cost, and University’s faculty.
The University also will present its 2008 Distinguished Service award to Rita Cannan during the commencement exercises.
Virginia Pinkham was born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where she graduated from high school. She commuted to New Brunswick College for Women for one year before starting a three-year nursing program at New York Hospital’s School of Nursing.
Pinkham obtained a registered nurse degree from Cornell University School of Nursing in New York City and later obtained a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Nursing from Columbia University.
While working as a visiting nurse for Standard Oil of New Jersey, she met Tom Pinkham, who was visiting his city cousin. Tom and Virginia were married the following year, while he was serving in the Air Force.
During the war years, Virginia Pinkham worked as a nurse in her hometown and at Gould Memorial Hospital in Presque Isle as a part-time private duty nurse. Following the war and Tom’s discharge, the Pinkhams moved to Fort Kent where Tom joined his family in lumbering. Virginia worked as an office nurse in Fort Kent, and as a general duty nurse at Eagle Lake Hospital. In April 1953, Virginia gave birth to a son, Thomas Pinkham, III.
Over the years Virginia helped with Tom’s growing business, working the payroll and bookkeeping at their home office. She also did volunteer public health nursing in the Fort Kent schools, and formed a Future Nurses Club at the high school. Her attempts to start nursing classes at Fort Kent Teachers College in 1960 were unsuccessful.
Virginia also stayed busy with church work, health and nursing activities, the American Cancer Society, Business and Professional Women (BPW), the Rotary, and the Boy Scouts. She also taught a health class for one year for college freshmen.
During the late 1950s through the early 1980s, Pinkham Lumber opened mills in Ashland, Nashville Plantation and Eagle Lake. The Pinkhams gave back to the community by building health centers in Ashland and Eagle Lake.
Virginia carried on Tom Pinkham’s philanthropic works after his death in 1983. The Pinkham largess touched schools, scholars, churches, hospitals, health centers and businesses.
At an age when most people have retired, Virginia Pinkham made some of her largest contributions to her community and to Aroostook County.
She served for three years as school nurse in Ashland, Masardis and Portage; she served as administrator at Aroostook Valley Health Center (AVHC) for five years, retiring at the age of 75.
Virginia continued her service to AVHC for seven years as a board member, and has remained active with the Rotary, as a Visiting Nurse Association board member, as a member of The Aroostook Medical Center board and health group, with the BPW of Fort Kent, and a director of the University of Maine at Fort Kent Foundation.
Virginia is a proud grandmother of seven, and is a great-grandmother three times. Today, she is an active nonagenarian.
Rita Cannan was educated at Sacred Heart Academy in Dalhousie, New Brunswick, Canada. In her early career years in Fort Kent, Rita worked as a clerk and bookkeeper at the Fort Kent Drug Store; as a switchboard operator for Fort Kent Telephone and as a bookkeeper and customer service representative for Daigle Oil Company. For 34 years she was owner and operator of Bee-Jays Tavern on West Main Street.
Rita’s community involvement and service over the years is extensive. She served as a member of the Fort Kent Comprehensive Planning Board from 1992 to 1993; as a member of the University of Maine at Fort Kent Foundation director from 1996 to 2003; and as a director of the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races from 1992 to 1997 and later as its president from 1997-2008.
Currently, Rita serves as a director of the Greater Fort Kent Chamber of Commerce Board, including serving as its president from 2000 to 2001; as a trustee of the Northern Maine Medical Center; as a member of the Aroostook County Tourism Board; on the American Legion Auxiliary; as a board member of the Fish River Scenic By-Way; as a member of the Fort Kent Rotary, including serving as its president from 2004 to 2005; and as a member of the UMFK Board of Visitors.
Rita Cannan received the Woman of the Year award from the Fort Kent chapter of Business and Professional Women in 1997; the Fort Kent Outstanding Citizen of the Year award in 1999; and the Maine Tourism Regional Award in 2003.