UMaine’s Ferguson looks to build on institution’s success and create a ‘sustainable’ educational model
At one point during his talk at the December 8 MBTA Holiday Meeting, UMaine President Dr. Paul W. Ferguson called for a show of hands by the UMaine alumni in the room. The fact that more than a few dozen audience members responded was proof for the premise of Ferguson’s talk that UMaine is a powerful force in the state’s economy.
Ferguson was the guest speaker at the 2011 MBTA Holiday meeting at the Black Bear Inn in Orono. Named to the top post at UMaine in March of 2011, Ferguson told the more than 100 MBTA members and friends assembled that the challenge will be how to ensure that the university continues to play an essential role in the state’s future, attracting the brightest minds, securing research funding and encouraging homegrown talent and industries to set stakes in Maine. He spoke of the school’s roots as a land grant university founded in 1865, and its mission to serve the state.
“How do we work together to meet the needs of the state? How do we become a transforming agent for the future?” asked Ferguson. With just a few months at the helm of the state’s largest public educational institution, Ferguson has spent his time getting to know the students and campus and defining just what traits the university has that will serve it best in the future. One of those is what Ferguson calls “the quality of student experience.” He said that all too often he hears that UMaine wasn’t students’ first choice for secondary learning. He believes that it will be essential to better communicate the high level of satisfaction that UMaine students have with their experience at the school to make UMaine “the first choice of every student in Maine.”
The second important factor will be continuing to support world-class research. Whether it is composite technology or tire-derived aggregate, Ferguson spoke of the immense “economic development potential that our research can provide.” He said that already, UMaine attracts $100 million annually in research funding, two times that raised by its peers in New England, making the school one of the top 100 public universities for research in the nation.
The third factor is the quality and dedication of UMaine’s alumni. That was when Ferguson asked for UMaine alumni in the audience to raise their hands. He said to have so many UMaine graduates among the business and community leaders in the room was “an incredible statement” of the university’s critical role in the future of the state.
Still, he warned of several challenges ahead: continuing to attract a strong enrollment; and maintaining a dynamic revenue stream to support the education quality and research so essential to the university’s and state’s future.
In the end, Ferguson said that it all comes down to one thing: UMaine’s ability to create “strategic, practical solutions to improving the quality of life in Maine.”
The annual MBTA Holiday Meeting is one of the highlights of the association’s calendar, and the 2011 meeting did not disappoint. The get together affords members the chance to network and take a look back at the year’s events. The meeting is also a gathering place for community, state and transportation industry leaders, and the MBTA welcomed several current and former legislators: Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing (R-Hampden); Representative Doug Damon (R-Bangor); and former Senator Dennis Damon from Hancock. Carol Woodcock, from Senator Susan Collins’ Bangor office brought video greetings from the senator who spearheaded the successful effort to get a 20-year provision for higher truck weights passed in the U.S. Congress as part of the 2012 appropriations legislation. MBTA President Randy Mace also recognized long-time MBTA member George Thomas of the Sargent Corporation, who will soon be retiring. George, who has been an active member of the organization will be sorely missed – particularly at the annual fall convention, where he has been known to goad his fellow members into bidding up items in order to fatten up the MBTA’s Infrastructure Development Fund.
“George, you are a class act,” said Mace as members showed their appreciation with a round of hearty applause. Mace also recognized Don Raye, a former MBTA president and Maine Transportation Achievement Award winner who has recently reitred after a distinquished career in the industry.
MBTA members got the chance to meet 10 recent MBTA Educational Foundation Scholarship winners from UMaine’s engineering and construction management programs. Mace introduced each, including: Joseph Birckhead; Ian Messier; Benjamin Myers; Nicholas Hartley; Caleb Frederick; Katrina Martin; Christopher Parent; Greg Dexter; Peter Poor; and Erik Bodwell. They were joined by UMaine College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey, Per Gardner, a professor of engineering at the college, Will Manion from the Civil Engineering department and Phil Dunn from the Construction Management Technology department.
As is tradition, the MBTA announced winners of two of its biggest annual events at the December 8 meeting: the annual membership recruitment contest and the Super Raffle. Mace began with results from the 2011 membership campaign, giving high praise to the committee chair Jack Sutton of MRG, Inc., who also was this year’s top recruiter: “His dedication and leadership as chair of the committee were pretty incredible,” said Mace. “Jack has told us for years that transportation touches every possible industry sector, and we should be reaching out beyond the ‘likely suspects’ in the transportation and construction engineering world and bring them into the fold.”
Mace recounted how Sutton did just that in 2011, recruiting Jackson Labs, McCain Foods, Robbins Lumber and the Great Wall Buffet in Augusta. Sutton, with typical modesty, accepted the award, then went on to recognize the other 19 members of his committee that went above and beyond to bring in a total of 22 new corporate members and seven individual members. Top among those were Peter Piattoni of Fay Spofford, who took second place in the membership contest (four corporate members); second place winner Bruce Manzer of Bruce A. Manzer, Inc. (two corporate members); and Kerby Ouellette from the Lane Construction Corporation who placed fourth (one corporate member, four individuals).
The evening concluded with the drawing of the 2011 Super Raffle winner. The raffle is the primary fundraiser for the MBTA Educational Foundation, that every year awards scholarships to students pursuing education in transportation related fields. This year, the raffle sold out before the meeting, raising $17,500 for the fund. To date, MBTA members have raised $93,000 for scholarships through the annual Super Raffle.
The committee sold 500 tickets altogether, and several committee members were recognized for their efforts: Bruce Hubbard of ETTI sold the most – a whopping 161 tickets; John Wardwell of the Lane Construction Corporation sold 63 tickets; Paul Koziell of CPM Constructors sold 56 tickets; and Doug Hermann sold 54 tickets. Other committee members selling tickets included Tom Gorrill, Greg Dore, Lauren Corey, Debbie Dunlap Avasthi and Phil Grondin, Jr.
MBTA Educational Foundation Committee Chair Tom Gorrill called up UMaine President Ferguson to help draw the raffle winners. First place winner was Tim Ouellette of CPM Constructors, who won a $7,000 trip to anywhere in the world. Second place winner was Tom Purington of TP Construction who won a $500 L.L. Bean gift certificate. Bruce Manzer won the third place $250 L.L. Bean gift certificate.
The evening’s 50/50 raffle winner was Rodney Lane of Lane Construction who won half the pot ($242) collected during the opening reception. Rodney very generously donated his winnings, so all $484 in proceeds from the raffle went to the MBTA Educational Foundation. Thank you, Rodney!
Many thanks, also, to all our members who came out this fall and winter to support the MBTA with generous donations of time and money for these very important fundraisers!
2011 MBTA Holiday Meeting
Wyman & Simpson
About the speaker:
Dr. Paul W. Ferguson
Dr. Ferguson, a native of Southern California, is no stranger to the value of a high quality technical education. He earned a B.A. in biology with highest honors at Whittier College in 1974 and a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology at the University of California, Davis, in 1981. He has worked in private industry and taught at the University of Louisiana, Monroe, where he was dean of the Graduate College and professor of toxicology. He also served as senior vice provost and vice president for research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In 2006, he was appointed provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He was named UMaine’s19th president in March of this year.