One hundred and fifty-four students graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Saturday, May 14, during the 2016 Commencement Exercises – the University’s 107th Commencement ceremony. President Linda Schott conferred degrees for the 2015-2016 academic year upon 85 students who participated in the ceremony held in Wieden Gymnasium. 

Nicholas C. Donohue, addressed the graduates as this year’s commencement speaker. During the graduation event, he was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.

Donohue currently serves as the President and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and is leading efforts to reshape New England’s public education systems to be more equitable and more effective for all learners.

During UMPI’s commencement exercises, Chancellor James H. Page delivered greetings on behalf of the University of Maine System. As well, Jefferson Ashby, UMPI Board of Visitors Vice Chair; Jacquelyn A. Lowman, UMPI Faculty Assembly Chair; and Tom Wire, UMPI Alumni Association President, offered remarks on behalf of each organization, respectively.

Shara Gardner hooding

UMPI Director of Community and Media Relations Rachel Rice says this year’s Commencement was live streamed on the University’s website so family and friends who couldn’t attend would have the opportunity to see the Class of 2016 graduate.

Rice says those gathered for the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s 107th Commencement Exercises on Saturday morning became witnesses to a very special moment for two UMPI students when Timothy Babine, member of the graduating Class of 2016, had an important question to ask Fine Art major Hayley Hamilton.

Babine, a Physical Education Non-Teaching major, surprised the entire audience when UMPI President Linda Schott called him to the podium to say a few words, and he made one of the most important announcements of his life. Most in the crowd assumed he had some words of wisdom to share with his fellow graduates. Instead, Babine first congratulated the Class of 2016 and then said he had “a special someone here that I want to do something important with.”

Rice says, having accomplished two very big goals—completing his degree at UMPI and being accepted to his top graduate program choice, Marshall University’s Master’s Program in Exercise Science—Babine said he had just one more thing he wanted to do.

He then strode off the stage and down the aisle toward Hamilton and got down on one knee. Speechless and with her hands over her mouth in surprise, Hamilton shook her head yes and Babine placed an engagement ring on her finger, to the cheers of the crowd.

Babine proposal

Rice says those who have attended University graduation ceremonies for the last quarter century say they believe this is a very first for UMPI. Turns out, Babine had asked the President for special permission to make his very public proposal, and his family members were in on the secret. Not Hayley, though. As people filed out of Wieden Gymnasium after the graduation ceremony, she was still stunned and said that, while they’d talked about an engagement someday, the expectation is that it wouldn’t happen until Babine was done with graduate school.

“He said he was going to wait three years!” she said. “I’m just so happy I’m shaking.”

For the couple and their family and friends, Rice says it was the perfect ending to a graduation that they’ll certainly never forget. And because the event was live streamed, and has been posted as a video on the UMPI YouTube page, anyone can take part in this special moment with the couple.

A few-year-old tradition at this year’s event was the pinning of all marching graduates with a special symbol of campus. Each graduate was given a lapel pin depicting a snowy owl with its wings outstretched in flight. Meant to symbolize how each of them is spreading their wings and soaring on to great heights, graduates were asked during Commencement, “Where will your wings take you?” They will have the opportunity to share their stories—about contributions they make in their career fields, ways that they serve their communities, and adventures that they have around the world—on the Your Wings website. Rachel Rice says all alums, not just this year’s graduating class, are encouraged to add their stories on this site.

A reception for graduates, family and friends was held in the Campus Center immediately following the ceremony.


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