Donald Mortland was the first faculty member hired in 1965 by what was then Unity Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Mortland was remembered by his peers Tuesday at what’s now Unity College as a consummate professional and respected friend.
Mortland, 87, died Thursday.
Mortland was beloved and respected by his students, according to Dot Quimby, who was hired the same year as Mortland to be the college’s librarian.
“All the students at Unity were on a first-name basis with professors, except for Mr. Mortland,” Quimby said. “He was more formal. He was an excellent teacher and the kids respected him. I’ve already heard from about 60 students who wanted to tell me how much they loved him.”
Mortland taught English, college composition and American literature at the college, while also serving as academic dean and chairman of the Center for Arts and Humanities.
“He was drawn to Unity by the orignal mission of the college, to make a college education assessible to those in Waldo County,” according to his obituary, which appeared in Tuesday’s Morning Sentinel.
“From the outset and throughout his service to the College, (Mortland) demonstrated a strong personal commitment to each of his students,” said a prepared statement issued by the the college Tuesday. “He was a gentleman who never raised his voice, was masterful at drawing out the best in his students, and led by example. His commitment to Unity College was exemplary.
“Colleagues remember not only his professionalism, commitment, and gentility, but his optimism and general spirit.”
Mathematics professor Barry Woods began at Unity in 1976, well after Mortland’s legacy had been established there.
“He was a consummate faculty member and professional,” Woods said. “When he became dean emeritus, he was much more proud of the fact that he was professor emeritus because he loved working with his students. He would speak with you and not at you — he was so unassuming. But you better listen to what he said, because he was usually correct.”
An avid reader and writer, Mortland grew up in Searsport and had a keen interest in the Searsport Maritime Museum, according to Woods.
Woods, who still teaches at Unity, which has about 600 students and 40 faculty members, said the students attending the college don’t know the effect that Mortland had on that campus.
“Because we did such a poor job naming buildings after people, his trace has almost left the campus,” he said. “Students today would not know who he was and what he meant.”
The timing of Mortland’s passing was especially painful for Quimby, who, along with Mortland and college chaplain George Fowler, were the first three Unity College hires. All three started in 1965 and were the only three original members to retire at Unity, according to Quimby.
The school has been planning a 50th-anniversary celebration for next year.
“We feel so bad that Don will be missing it,” Quimby said. “I remember when we’d have coffee and we’d sit and gripe and solve all the problems in the world.”