Olympic gold medalist and Maine native Joan Benoit Samuelson will deliver the commencement address at the University of Maine at Farmington in May.

“Joan Benoit Samuelson is the image of discipline, passion and excellence both on the race course and in life,” said UMF president Kathryn A. Foster in a statement. “She is a leader in building awareness of the value of a healthy lifestyle and sustainable environment and its effect on how we live our lives. What a distinct and fitting honor it is to have her share her thoughts with our graduates in a year when we launch Outdoor Track and Field as a new varsity sport and further our commitment to health, wellness and sustainability.”

The graduation ceremony will be 10:30 a.m., Saturday, May 16, at the UMF campus.

Born in Cape Elizabeth, Benoit Samuelson entered the 1979 Boston Marathon as a virtual unknown while a senior at Bowdoin College and set an American women’s record of 2:35:15. In 1983, she again won the Boston Marathon, setting a world record of 2:22:43.

In 1984, Benoit Samuelson won the gold medal in the first Olympic women’s marathon, running the last 21 miles of the race ahead of all competitors. In 1985, she raced to victory in the Chicago Marathon, setting a new American record, and in 2000 she was named a 20th Century Top Athlete by Sports Illustrated.

“In the four decades she has been involved in the sport, Benoit Samuelson has taken every opportunity to give back to the sport and to the community,” the press release states.


She founded the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K road race in Cape Elizabeth that attracts more than 6,000 runners annually and benefits a different children’s charity every year. She is a consultant to Nike and gives motivational speeches and fitness clinics throughout the country.

Graduating senior Chelsea Lear-Ward, of Levant, will give the student address. With a major in community health education and a minor in environmental studies, she is interested in helping to promote health through sustainability, according to the press release.

Lear-Ward came to UMF as a Mitchell Scholar and has been active on campus interning with the TerraCycle recycling program, coordinating events for the Farmington Farmers Market and helping to raise awareness of domestic violence. After graduation, she will be moving to Washington State to work in the wellness field.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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