James Conneely will deliver his second and final commencement remarks as president Saturday during the University of Maine at Augusta’s 49th graduation ceremony.

Conneely resigned unexpectedly last month after less than 18 months on the job. His resignation is effective June 30, and University of Maine System Chancellor James Page expects to name an interim president by the end of May.

“It has been an honor to lead the university during the past one and a half years, and I continue to be amazed with the dedication of the faculty and staff to the mission of UMA and the students,” he said in a statement provided by his chief of staff, Joyce Blanchard.

Blanchard said the university will confer close to 600 degrees and she expects about 350 graduates to attend. The ceremony, where graduates from the university’s Augusta and Bangor campuses, online programs and University College Centers will receive associate and bachelor’s degrees, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

John Piotti, the president of American Farmland Trust, is the commencement speaker. Piotti leads the organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., that has permanently protected 5 million acres of farmland and helped tens of thousands of farmers adopt environmentally-sound farming practices.

He spent eight years in the Maine State Legislature and was the CEO and president of Maine Farmland Trust for a decade.

Jason Ryan, a 2008 graduate and current director of the Open Branch Project in Portland, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes the exemplary achievements of outstanding alumni whose personal lives, professional accomplishments and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.

Senior Kim Carter, a frequent contributor to the Kennebec Journal, will receive the Kathleen Dexter Distinguished Student Award, given to a graduating student who has demonstrated specific contributions and excellence in scholarship, extracurricular participation and/or leadership, and community service outside of UMA. Carter starts a graduate program at Clemson University in South Carolina later this summer.

Zachary Pulsifer, who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in applied science, is this year’s student speaker.

“The graduates have demonstrated a strong desire to be successful, and many of these students have overcome obstacles to that success through perseverance, strong support systems and a clear focus on life goals,” Conneely said. “Having accomplished that, I invite the graduating class to use their education to improve not only their own personal lives, but to also give back to society.”

Conneely’s resignation leaves the school searching for its fifth president since September 2014.

Allyson Handley left the school after six years at the helm to take a job in California. Glenn Cummings, former president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley and the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, took over as interim president at UMA after that; and in June 2015, he was appointed president of the University of Southern Maine. Rebecca Wyke, the University of Maine System’s chief financial officer, took over as interim president after Cummings left.

Conneely came to UMA after having been president of Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore, associate provost and vice president of student affairs at Eastern Kentucky University and assistant vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of Arkansas.

He began his 31-year career in higher education at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. He spent time at Villanova University outside of Philadelphia and Emory University in Atlanta. He moved to Fayetteville in 1993, where he served as Arkansas’ director of residence life and dining services before taking the position in the student affairs department.

Conneely has declined several requests for interviews to talk about his departure from UMA.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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