FARMINGTON — “Good work is what I hope for all of you graduates,” speaker Dr. Doris A. Santoro, Bowdoin College professor of education, told the 2023 University of Maine at Farmington graduates during commencement exercises Saturday.

Good work is different from a high-paying job, or even a career that is well regarded by others. It is about finding an important service to others that can be undertaken ethically in a way that helps and doesn’t harm others, and lives up to the standards recognized by your peers who are also doing the work, she continued. “When we are incredibly fortunate, we get paid to do good work,” she noted.

Santoro asked the graduates to look back to that one teacher of professor who made it possible for them to be graduating. For her, it was her high school English and journalism teacher who issued detentions for her sassiness, but pushed her to take herself seriously as a reporter, she said. “He held me accountable, and his good work made a difference that neither he nor I could totally anticipate at the time,” she noted.

Many educators are overwhelmed, are being threatened by the very communities where they work, Santoro said. More than 90% of students in the United States attend public schools, which can not function without teachers, she said. America is a democratic society, every one has a voice in shaping conditions where teachers can do good work, she stated before adding, “We must raise our voice.”

Senior class speaker Emalyn Remington from Bennington, Vermont, spoke about spending her entire life searching for home. She has moved more than 20 times and been a student at 10 different institutions from Vermont to California.

“I can say with complete sincerity, I didn’t expect Farmington, Maine, to become my home,” Remington said. “I found our campus completely by accident while looking at schools in Maine online. But there was something about UMF that drew me in, called to me, felt different.


“Right away I realized I had made the right choice. I discovered that UMF has faculty who genuinely care about their students and their wellbeing, both in and outside the classroom. I found like-minded individuals and created a family five hours away from my own.”

Remington said she was astonished by the resiliency seen when students were sent packing in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Strength is a word that comes to mind when I think of the Class of 2023,” she said. “Determination is another.” That strength and determination “has carried us over our time at UMF, that we can now gracefully say goodbye, that we can enter the real world prepared for whatever it is going to throw at us.”

Graduation doesn’t happen without the UMF faculty and staff, university President Joseph McDonnell said. “Here, teaching matters,” he stressed. “The university experience is a transformative one. UMF nurtures an inclusive culture, welcomes and values all its students. I hope what you have learned here at UMF is to embrace diversity.”

Students march toward their seats Saturday during the University of Maine at Farmington’s commencement at Narrow Gauge Amphitheater in Farmington. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Professor emeritus Wesley McNair said noted the graduates might be feeling bittersweet to be leaving the college they have grown to love, but at the same time being ready to start their new life at last, come what may.

Mia Spring Michaud, Celia Hart Caravan and Tracy Bunting acknowledged the displacement of Indigenous peoples who once lived along the Sandy River, with much of that area now occupied by the university.

“Class of 2023, you have succeeded despite the pandemic,” University of Maine System Trustee David MacMahon said. “You have completed your education frequently replaced by remote learning. For that I commend you. It’s hard to believe that Zoom, now a household name was launched in 2003. Where would we be without it?”

More than 300 from among 347 graduating students in bachelor or master degree programs were conferred degrees.

“We are ready for any trials and tribulations, because our time here has made us all a little fearless,” Remington stated earlier.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.