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UMFK 125-year history honored during this weekend's commencement exercises

May 10, 2004


Graduates of the University of Maine at Fort Kent's class of 2004 and the more than 500 other people attending this weekend's commencement at UMFK, were reminded of the institution's 125-years of service to the St. John Valley through the eyes of two Valley natives, who attended the school eight decades apart.

Ninety-four-year-old Genevieve Jalbert Bouchard, who donned a cap and gown for the first time in nearly eight decades, joined the graduates at the university's 122nd commencement exercises where she was presented with a final honor of the St. John Valley institution's year-long 125th anniversary celebration.

The graduate of the Madawaska Training School Class of 1926 was honored with a distinguished service award from her alma mater.

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.

"Throughout her lifetime, Genevieve has remained an active and committed alumna of UMFK, rarely missing an alumni association event," said UMFK President Richard Cost in presenting Jalbert the award. "Genevieve for all that you have given to your alma mater, today we honor you with this Distinguished Service Award."

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.

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 in New Canada.

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.

In addition to recognizing a long-time alumna of the university, President Cost also paid tribute to one of the new graduates of the institution just prior to the end of the ceremony.

"As we conclude our year-long 125th anniversary celebration, we are reminded today of this institution's first commencement in 1882. That first Madawaska Training School class of nine students included a gentleman from Madawaska, who alphabetically, was issued the very first teaching certificate ever granted by this campus community. His name was Theodore Bouchard, and today, 122 years later, his great, great, granddaughter joins us as a member of the class of 2004. Would Jamie Pelletier please stand and be recognized," announced Cost.

Although 21-year-old Pelletier from Madawaska will continue to pursue her bachelor of science degree in elementary education, she had earned enough credits to receive an associate of arts degree in general studies.

Her great, great, grandfather's original diploma, signed 122-years ago on February 24, 1882, by M.T.S. Principal Vetal Cyr and State Superintendent of Schools N.A. Luce has been passed down from generation to generation, and is now in the possession of Pelletier's grandmother, Yvette Pelletier who lives in Madawaska.

Although more than twelve decades has passed since her great, great, grandfather earned his teaching certificate from the Madawaska Training School the connection from one generation to another has not escaped the family.

Pelletier isn't only following in the footsteps of her great, great grandfather; she is also joining her father Robert, who earned a bachelor of university studies degree from UMFK in 1993.

To bridge the past to the present, Pelletier marched into the ceremony side-by-side Bouchard.