October 26, 2007
The University of Maine at Fort Kent has opened an exhibit detailing the life and times of one the most influential women to live in the St. John Valley, Marcella Bélanger Violette.
Contributing a Lifetime to Public Service opened this afternoon at the University’s Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes gallery. The exhibit is open to the public, Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through the end of the year.
The exhibit is a collaborative effort of UMFK’s Information Services staff, and Holly and Julia Violette, Marcella Violette’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
The name Marcella Bélanger Violette is interwoven in the history of the St. John Valley over much of the past 50 years. Her influence and commitment to causes was profound and, in many cases, legendary. Mrs. Violette, of Van Buren, directed her energies, passions, beliefs, value of higher education, and support of her native French language.
The exhibit closely mirrors the five major themes of Marcella’s own scrapbooks: University of Maine at Fort Kent; Cultural Preservation; Civic Responsibility; Allagash Wilderness Waterway; and Education/Family/Women. To help capture those themes, the exhibit consists of fifteen wall panels, some of which are accompanied by audio tracks to help bring the exhibit to “life.” To mark the occasion of the exhibit, a DVD entitled “Remembering the Contributions of Marcella and Elmer Violette” has been created. The DVD contains interviews with 15 people who knew the Violettes and the different aspects of their lives: Judy Paradis (Marcella as a mentor); Floyd Harding (lawyer/politician); Don Nicoll (politician/Allagash Waterway); Don Cyr (student/resident of Van Buren); Pat Ezzy (religious educator); Anne Roy (Acadian Village); Louise/Dennis/Marc/Tom (children); Sister Yvette Plante (Good Shepherd sister); Irma Smith (friend); John Martin (politician); Fr. Frank Murray (politician/priest); and Bob Violette (Elmer’s brother).
An electronic index has been created, which will enable researchers to quickly locate areas of interest located within Marcella’s scrapbooks. A link to the index is provided from the Archives website at: http://www.umfk.maine.edu/archives/violette.
The creation of the Contributing a Lifetime to Public Service exhibit project incorporated skills from a number of the UMFK Information Services staff in order to complete the exhibit: Asita Albert, Jenna Beaulieu, Aaron Bernstein, Sofia Birden, Sharon Johnson, Leslie Kelly, and Steve Michaud.
“Marcella Violette was a true champion of the University of Maine at Fort Kent and all of higher education, said UMFK President, Dr. Richard W. Cost. “Together with her husband, Elmer, she personified the spirit of the people of the St. John Valley. Her advocacy on behalf of this institution and of the Franco-American and Acadian culture of the Valley is legendary. When one looks at our three part mission today, which includes a focus on rural communities in America, our Franco heritage and Maine’s woodland environment, one can see a direct reflection of the life and interests of this extraordinary woman. The ‘Contributing a Lifetime of Public Service’ exhibit is a fitting tribute to her commitment to all that this Valley holds dear,” Dr. Cost added.
The University of Maine at Fort Kent recognized Mrs. Violette on several occasions, for championing its regional presence and mission. In 1974, she was invited to deliver the commencement address to graduates. She received the University’s distinguished achievement award in 1984. And in 1991, UMFK bestowed upon Mrs. Violette an honorary doctorate of humane letters. In 1953, Marcella Violette earned a doctorate degree in her own right, becoming the first native St. John Valley woman to earn such a degree.
Today, the 2,000-square-foot UMFK Elmer H. Violette Wilderness Camp serves as a learning center for faculty and students in the environmental studies program and other university classes. It features classroom space and living quarters. The Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes at the University of Maine at Fort Kent documents, preserves, celebrates, and disseminates information about the culture, way of life, and history of the upper Saint John Valley. A repository for manuscript materials, audio-visual documentation, and transcriptions relevant to regional folklore, folk life, and history, the Archives serves the University community as well as individuals and organizations regionally, statewide, nationally, and internationally.
For additional information on the Contributing a Lifetime to Public Service exhibit, please call 207/834-7535.