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|9:00 a.m.||Awards Ceremony – Delano Auditorium|
|7:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.||Graduation Brunch – The Harold Alfond Student Center
|11:00 a.m.||Commencement – Alexander Field House|
|1:30 p.m.||Commissioning Ceremony – The Harold Alfond Student Center|
CASTINE, Maine – Maine Maritime Academy honored twenty-seven individuals associated with the school for their outstanding accomplishments during the annual Celebration of Achievement Thursday, Nov. 8.
This event consisted of several award ceremonies targeted at highlighting the achievements of students, alumni, and faculty members. These ceremonies included the academy’s Wall of Honor induction, Scheel and American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Scholars presentation, and an Excellence in Teaching Award.
The Wall of Honor was initiated in 1997 to recognize alumni who have achieved a high level of success in the professional and civic communities. The Wall serves not only as a tribute to these individual’s accomplishments but is a tool to foster inspiration to current students and alumni to strive for a greater level of personal excellence.
This year’s Wall of Honor induction recognized the accomplishments of Kevin Poitras, president of General Dynamics Electric Boat and MMA class of 1973 graduate, and Steven Durrell, president of Irving Shipbuilding Inc. and MMA class of 1984 graduate. Poitras and Durrell joined fifty-seven other distinguished alumni by having their framed picture and biographical sketch permanently displayed on the Wall of Honor in the Kresge Room of the Student Center.
Poitras and Durrel were selected from nominations made by fellow alumni and the public. For a candidate to nominated they must meet these strict criteria requirements: the candidate must be a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy and own, be a president, chief executive officer, or chair of the board of directors of a company; have been elected to the office of mayor, governor, U.S. House of Representatives or Senate; have achieved the rank of flag officer in a branch of the military; or have achieved significant prominence or lifetime achievements in a chosen field.
In addition, advanced education, professional awards and honors, community service, and voluntary service to MMA are also considered for selection. Every year a committee of members of the Wall of Honor carries out the process of selecting new members for the Wall.
Kevin Poitras graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in 1973. His career highlights include thirty-nine years at General Dynamics Electric Boat. He started out as a Nuclear Construction Support Engineer in 1973 before becoming a Steel Trade General Foreman in 1978, Trident and 688 Class Chief Nuclear Test Engineer in 1980, Chief of Engineering SEAWOLF Class Reactor Plant in 1986, Manager at Virginia Class Propulsion Plant in 1993, Program Manager for CVN21 Design Program, Vice President of Engineering and Design Programs, Senior Vice President for Engineering, Design and Business Development, to his current position as President starting this year.
Poitras’ other distinguishable services include sitting on the Board of Directors for Enders Island and the Naval Submarine League and on the Executive Oversight Board for the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Steven Durrell graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in 1984. His career highlights includes being a Ships Engineering Officer at Kent Line Ltd. from 1984 to 1985, Propulsion Systems Engineer at Saint John Shipbuilding Ltd. from 1985 to 1994, Ship Repair Manager at ISI Facilities in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 1995-2003, Vice President of Irving Shipbuilders Inc. from 2003 to 2008, to his current position as President of Irving Shipbuilding and Fleetway Inc. which he has held since 2008.
Durrell’s other distinguishable services include the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year in 2012, being a member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Association of Defense and Security Industries, sitting on the Defense Industry Advisory Committee for the Department of National Defense for Canada, serving as the Advising Assistant Deputy Minister (Material) on defense industrial issues, sitting on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Shipbuilders Association, and lead the formation of the ShipsStartHere Partnership.
The academy also recognized Courtney E. Dufour, Nicholas P. LaCombe, Tate E. Wagstaff, Dale A. Thomas, III, Charles D. Spear, Ashley N. Burnett, Diana L. Townsend, Chad M. Mills, Aline H. Spear, and Timothy J. DeStefano as this year’s Henry A. Scheel Scholars - the college’s highest undergraduate academic honor. It is awarded to these students because they best exemplify intellectual curiosity and academic achievement.
The scholarship is named in honor of the late Henry A. Scheel, a resident of Rockport, Maine and a noted naval architect who expressed his high regard for MMA by leaving funds to permanently endow to outstanding students.
The Academy also recognized James Belmont, Christopher Brawn, Tucker Doane, Angela Fouquette, Zackary Lawrence, Bryce Lynn, Andrew McHenry, Michael McMahon, Benjamin Russell, and Dale Thomas as this year’s ABS Scholars. Each recipient will receive a $10,000 scholarship in the final two years of their academic career at MMA and provided the opportunity to complete an internship at ABS.
The scholarship was created to award deserving engineering and naval architecture students at colleges and universities that are recognized as national or international leaders in maritime technical education and research. The candidates for the scholarship were selected from those students enrolled in the college’s five-year marine systems engineering program by a committee of MMA engineering faculty and administrators based on their overall grade point average, classroom and academic leadership, and their intellectual curiosity and growth.
MMA also presented the seventh annual Excellence in Teaching Award to Barbara Fleck. The award is the school’s highest achievement award for faculty members and designates a member of the faculty who best exemplifies proficiency in their field of expertise and passion for teaching and student learning. Fleck was nominated by students in the Academy’s three upper classes and the last five years of alumni and chosen by a committee of Emeriti Professors.
Fleck has taught in the engineering department at MMA since 1994. She teaches courses in many areas including thermodynamics, engineering design, statics and dynamics, and recently developed an elective in renewable energy technology. She has also been involved in research projects including the design and testing of a model floating offshore wind turbine and recently completed a ten-day course in Costa Rica on solar electricity system design and installation for the developing world.
With sixty-six companies from around the country, Maine Maritime hosted its largest career fair to date Thursday afternoon in the Alexander Field House. At least 500 of the school’s 900 students attended the event which showcased a variety of employers that were suitable for every major the academy offers.
“Our company representatives were very pleased with the turn-out yesterday, the quality of our students, and the opportunity to return to our campus,” said Amy Gutow, organizer for this year’s event. “For some companies, this is the only career fair they choose to attend.”
Many of the recruiters were MMA alumni themselves and were eager to return to their alma mater because they knew first-hand the excellent experience, knowledge, and work ethic that are the result of an MMA education.
“Maine Maritime has the unique ability of giving people the technical background with the hands-on experience and an unparalleled work ethic,” said Jason Fournier, a recruiter from NAES and 2001 graduate. “There’s no other school that graduates people, that I have ever experienced, that have the unfathomable ability to work relentlessly and appreciate everything their employer provides to them.”
“The maritime academy grads are overwhelmingly some of most the plentiful and best – from a technical perspective, a work ethic perspective, and an easy-to-manage perspective,” said Chad Eslin, a recruiter from Power Industry Consultants and a 2000 MMA graduate. “That’s not a sale’s pitch, that’s a reality. Whether you’re in Oklahoma or West Africa or South East Asia, these young men and women will go anywhere in the world you ask them to go.”
It wasn’t just seniors or graduate students at the fair, students from every class were present to get an idea of what kind of opportunities await them in the near future.
I’m here to prepare for cadet shipping and get my name and e-mail out there, said Mike Sawyer, a freshman. I’ve been told that even with just the first handshake [the recruiters] will remember us next year.
One change to this year’s event the recruiters enjoyed was the relocation of lunch services from the mess deck to the field house. According to Steve Reynolds, a recruiter from NAVSEA Norfolk Ship Support, the change of location gave him the chance to sit down with students in a more relaxed atmosphere and talk about their goals and what his company can do to help them reach them.
Maine Maritime Academy has a strong history of military involvement. The first MMA class reported on October 9, 1941 to World War I naval veteran, Rear Admiral Douglas Dismukes. During World War II, quality U.S. Merchant Marines, deck, and engineering officers were in high demand. MMA gladly accepted and met the challenge by graduating 384 men who served in every theater of operation in the Second Great War.
Although Maine Maritime is not directly affiliated with any branch of the military, and attendance to the school does not require any previous or future military service, the academy is proud of the men and women of the armed forces who have “hung up their boots” as they say and have come to MMA to start or continue their higher education.
“The decision to leave the Army and come to MMA was difficult as I really enjoyed my service and loved my job,” said John Pooler, an eight year Army veteran and a freshman in the Marine Engineering Operations program. “In the end MMA will allow me and my wife, of seven years, Nicole to finally start our family and provide us with the financial and job security we want without having to leave for years at a time.”
“I knew I was going to be leaving the Navy after my first enlistment, and that I wanted to use the G.I. Bill,” said David Chandler, a five-year active duty veteran and New Orleans native. “I eventually decided on going to a maritime academy, but when I started looking more closely at them I decided that I did not want to participate in a regimented lifestyle. MMA's [Vessel Operation and Technology] program is unique, and I thought it best suited me.”
Since 1944 the G.I. Bill has helped service members attend school for little to no money out of their pocket, a great initiative for people to join the military that have the dream of going to college but cannot afford it. However, for many of the veterans here on campus, the military has given them more to use here than just financial aid.
“My military career has taught me a lot about work ethic and time management, which have helped me greatly though my first semester,” said John Spring, a seven-year Marine Corps veteran from Windham.
Of course, not everyone who has served and is attending MMA has left the service. Some, like Maj. Anthony Miller, a native of Orlando, is attending the academy after spending sixteen years on active duty and is now serving in the Army Reserve.
Miller said he came to MMA because it is one of the few maritime academies that offer a graduate program and it has the most picturesque campus.
With the strong military history of the school and the surrounding community, Veteran’s Day is more than just a day off from work and class. For many, it is a time to reflect on departed friends and the memories they made together.
“Veteran's Day represents a day to reflect on my fallen friends, and to help share their stories with those who might not be aware of the sacrifices made,” said Joshua Hale, a five-year Marine Corps veteran from Limington majoring in Marine Transportation Operations.
“[Veteran’s Day] reminds me of all the close friends I made,” said Chandler, a former sonar technician on a submarine. “The extreme close quarters on the sub forces you to make some pretty close bonds. The hardships we endured together and the adventures we had created a sense of camaraderie that cannot be recreated.”
Maine Maritime has grown, changed, and come a long way in its seventy-one year history, but its support for veterans both with enrollment and job opportunities will always be a mark of pride for the academy.
Recently, the school’s athletics department raised money to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project at the last home football game of the season. Maine Maritime has also scheduled a Veteran’s Day ceremony on November 9th on the front lawn of Leavitt Hall at 11:00. Everyone from the community is invited to join the ceremony.
The William J. Mottola Athletics Hall of Fame at Maine Maritime will introduce the 2012 class of inductees at a ceremony September 29 in the Delano Auditorium. This year’s inductees include football alumni Steve Tardif, from the graduating class of 2000, and women’s basketball alumni Alyssa Burns, Michelle Gott, and Julia Knights, all from the graduating class of 2007.
Tardif had an extremely successful football career at the academy. He still holds fourteen records at the school including most career rushing yards (6,099), most rushing yards in a single game (352), and most career all-purpose yards (7,968). He has also been honored as a two-time Hewlett-Packard All American and four-time first team All-New England Football Conference selection.
“Football had always been part of my life from a young man,” said Tardif. “MMA gave me the opportunity to get a great education along with being able to continue to play football at the college level.”
Since graduating from MMA, Tardif has traveled the world working as a Lead Field Engineer for General Electric. During his travels he met his wife in Russia and currently lives with her and her daughter in Saco, Maine.
“Being honored as one of the great football players at MMA along with all the other inductees would only cap my great experience at MMA,” said Tardif.
Michelle Gott, Julia Knights, and Alyssa Burns were teammates on the Mariner’s Women’s Basketball team, coached by Craig Dagan.
“It was honestly a great honor,” said Dagan, “you couldn’t ask for three better women to coach.”
“They helped transcend women’s sports around here,” Dagan added, “they helped bring women’s basketball in to the lime light… they made it cool to be a woman at MMA.”
Michelle Miles (Gott) is the owner of sixteen MMA women’s basketball records. She is the program’s all-time points leader (1,600) and holds most of the program’s three-point records. Miles was named to the North Atlantic Conference first team three times and the seconds team once. She went to the NAC All-Tournament three times and was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player once.
“Shelly’s tough,” said Dagan, MMA’s Woman’s Basketball Coach, “she was our enforcer. She was tough; no one messed with her on the court.”
Since graduation, Miles has worked for her family owned business, Gott’s Disposal, is a real estate broker for Margo Stanley Real Estate and owns Miles Motorsports and Miles Lawn Care with her husband Ricky. She has two children, Cooper and Bentley.
Miles attributes much of her success since leaving MMA to her coaches and teammates.
“The coaches and the other players in the program definitely helped make me who I am today,” said Miles, “we had a great group of people when I played and I couldn't have asked for anything more.”
“They were all very supportive in my personal life, school life and basketball life we all spent a lot of time together in four years between traveling, classes, practices and extras it would be hard not to take something away with that I learned a lot from all of them, they helped me be a better listener, team mate, friend and an overall better person,” Miles added.
Burns’ achievements include being crowned three times as the NAC “Player of the year” and was named to the NAC first team three times, Maine Woman’s Basketball Coaches Association second team All-State twice, MWBCA first team All-State once and as a senior was named a WBCA Honorable Mention All American. She stills holds ten Mariner records.
“Alyssa was quiet,” said Dagan, “she didn’t say much but when the lights came on no one worked harder.”
Knights was an extremely successful player for the Mariners. She is the only player for MMA to have ever scored more than 1,000 points and have more than 1,000 rebounds. Her freshman year she was named the NAC “co-Player of the Year.” She was selected for the NAC first team three times, the second team once, the MWBCA second team All-State, and was a member of the NAC All-Tournament team four times.
“Julia was our glue, our emotional leader,” said Dagan.
When asked about how Gott, Knights, and Burns worked together as a team, coach Dagan complimented their unselfishness and compared them to the likes of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen; “They were our big three.”
The induction ceremony for the four alumni is scheduled to be held during homecoming activities in Delano Auditorium at 10:30.