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UMFK to use geography of St. John Valley as historic timeline for 125th Anniversary project

October 17, 2003


Residents of communities throughout the St. John Valley have a firsthand opportunity to learn about the 125-year history of the University of Maine at Fort Kent through a series of nine exhibits that form a "timeline" from Van Buren to Fort Kent.

The tri-paneled kiosks, which focus on each of the nine administrative heads of the university since its founding as the Madawaska Training School in 1878, were unveiled at the anniversary celebration kick-off at the Acadian Village in Van Buren in late August and have since been used collectively at a number of commemorative events on the UMFK campus.

For the next two-and-a-half months the displays are dispersed in nine different locations in the St. John Valley, that when traced from beginning to end, form a driving "timeline" of UMFK's history.

"We wanted to involve the entire St. John Valley in this celebration," said Jason Parent, chairperson of UMFK's 125th Anniversary planning committee. "The university has deep roots in this Valley. Not only do we have numerous alumni and current students from each of the Valley towns, but in the first decade of this school's existence under the banner of Madawaska Training School, campuses were located in Fort Kent, Van Buren and Grand Isle."

Accordingly, the exhibit begins in Van Buren with a first kiosk detailing the administration of the first principal of the Madawaska Training School, Vetal Cyr, who served from 1878 until his untimely death in 1897. It is located in the lobby of the NorState Federal Credit Union branch in the Gateway Town, on Main Street across from the public library and Van Buren District Secondary School.

A second display, which looks at campus developments under Principal Mary Nowland, who served from 1897 through 1926, is found west of Van Buren in the Grand Isle Town Office, which is located in the former Grand Isle Elemetary School on Main Street in Grand Isle across from St. Gerard-Mount Carmel Church.

Two kiosks are located at different sites in the Town of Madawaska. The first, placed both in terms of chronology and geography from east to west, features the administrative accomplishments of Principal Richard Crocker, who served from 1926 through 1955. It is displayed in the lobby of the Madawaska Public Library which is located on Main Street near the K-Mart shopping plaza.

The second kiosk in Madawaska, which examines campus developments under President Joseph Fox, the fourth leader of the university who served from 1955 through 1971, is located in the Lobby of NorState Federal Credit Union on Fox Street.

The historical timeline continues with campus milestones realized under the administration of Fox's successor Richard Spath, who served as president of UMFK from 1971 through 1986. This exhibit is found in the St. Agatha Town Office on Main Street in that community.

The St. John Valley Technology Center, located on Main Street in Frenchville, houses the kiosk of UMFK's sixth president, Barbara Leondar, who served the university community from 1986 through 1989.

The final three exhibits, which present the accomplishments of the university's most recent presidents are all located in Fort Kent.

President Richard Dumont, whose years of service began in 1989 and ended in 1996, is featured in the main lobby of Northern Maine Medical Center on East Main Street.

The lobby of the Fort Kent Town Office on West Main Street houses the kiosk detailing the years of Charles Lyons leadership at UMFK from 1996 through 2001.

The last of the nine kiosks, which details the first year of the presidency of Richard Cost and looks ahead to the future of the campus, is located in the main entrance to Cyr Hall, the main classroom and administration building on the UMFK campus.

The seven foot high, three paneled, oak kiosks each include major developments, text and photographs detailing happenings on the university campus during the administration of the featured president.

Constructed by Eagle Lake craftsman Paul Pelletier, the stunning displays hold text and photo panels designed by Neal Jandreau, UMFK's assistant web administrator. Parent served as project coordinator.

The nine displays will remain at each of the Valley locations, forming a historical timeline across the region, through the end of December.

Afterwards, the exhibit will be brought back together at UMFK and prominently displayed during numerous events on campus to commemorate the institution's 125th anniversary. The celebration continues through May 2004.

When the anniversary celebration has concluded, campus officials are planning to place each of the kiosk displays in campus buildings that are either named after the administrative head featured on the exhibit piece or in a building that was constructed during the president's tenure in office.