Staff and faculty stand and applaud for the 2024 graduating class Saturday during the University of Maine at Farmington’s commencement ceremony. President Joseph McDonnell called the students “extraordinarily resilient” in their efforts to stick with their education in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — More than 300 students marched Saturday as the University of Maine at Farmington gave out diplomas for the 160th time since it first first established itself as the Western State Normal School in 1864.

UMF graduate Leo Eli Goddard performs the national anthem Saturday as part of the University of Maine at Farmington commencement ceremony. Goddard is graduating with a degree in creative writing. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

The UMF class of 2024 includes 280 bachelor’s graduates and 46 getting master’s degrees. A gala commencement ceremony was hosted at the Narrow Gauge Amphitheater in Farmington.

“These graduates are a vivid example of the promise of a college education,” UMF President Joseph McDonnell said in a news release. “The investment of their time, talent and resources have prepared them to be engaged citizens with fulfilling careers. At UMF, they have learned how to learn, which has prepared them to navigate a dynamic world.

“We congratulate them on their achievement, look forward to their successes, and wish them all the best in the future,” he added.

Graduating senior Leo Eli Goddard, a creative writing major from Farmington, performed the national anthem.

During his opening remarks, McDonnell thanked friends, family and staff for their hard work, support and dedication to this year’s graduating class.


“The University of Maine at Farmington nurtures an inclusive culture,” he said. “Everyone here is a member of a diverse community, people from different races, cultures, countries, religions, political persuasions and sexual orientations. UMF welcomes and values all students.”

McDonnell called the graduating class “extraordinarily resilient” as many of the college seniors graduating this year had their final year of high school disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which bled into their first year of college as freshmen.

“But you stayed with it,” he said. “And that resilience will serve you well in the future. At an early age, you learned that life often takes us to Plan B or C, or even D. Life is full of ups and downs — and your capacity to adjust to the unexpected and make the best of it should give you confidence to navigate in a dynamic world.”

Jacob Patrick Turlo delivers the student address Saturday to his peers at the University of Maine at Farmington’s commencement ceremony. Turlo, who is graduating with a degree in political science, shared advice that he got from his grandparents: “In whatever endeavor — have fun.” Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

Graduating senior Jacob Patrick Turlo of Benton gave the student address. 

“When I transferred to (UMF) between the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2022, it was going to be my fourth school in as many semesters,” he shared, stating that in the time since he started attending UMF in his sophomore year, it had given him “new friendships, new memories, and most importantly, not become just another school in my ever-too-long list of schools I have attended throughout my undergraduate career.”

Turlo majored in political science and served an internship with the Maine People’s Alliance. He also attended a Washington, D.C., travel course to examine the political workings of the American federal government. His group met with members of the Maine congressional delegation and visited the White House.


While at UMF, Turlo was involved with the Sustainable Campus Coalition, played ultimate frisbee and applied for a yearlong research scholarship from Maine Policy Scholarship at the behest of professor of political science Jim Melcher.

Award-winning novelist, memoirist and playwright Monica Wood delivers her keynote speech Saturday during the University of Maine at Farmington commencement ceremony. Wood also received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, sharing that she was “grateful” for the opportunity to speak to UMF’s class of 2024.

Turlo ended his speech by sharing the wisdom of his grandparents, sharing they “would both always remind me to have fun. In whatever endeavor — have fun.”

“Whether I was leaving for work, going to school, playing youth sports, whatever it may be the message was always to have fun,” he continued. “If you’re not having fun while doing it, make the necessary changes to ensure that you start having fun. Finish your commitments and obligations, of course, but life is too short to not enjoy what you are doing. And that’s why I didn’t transfer away from Farmington, because I was ultimately having the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Award-winning novelist, memoirist and playwright Monica Wood delivered the keynote speech and was presented with an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Originally from the Oxford County town of Mexico, Wood told the Franklin Journal she was “thrilled” to deliver the keynote address.

She shared of an incident that happened with her and her husband, where the two of them came across an incapacitated man on the streets of Portland many years ago. She recalled that it was her husband who stepped in and asked if he was OK.

“This would be an unrare story of life on a city street except for what happened next,” she shared. “Just as every person walking ahead of us had passed this man by, every person who came up behind us stopped to ask how they might help. One person stepping up gave everyone else permission to do the same.”

She went on to share that she did not know what happened to the man after he was taken to the hospital, but the point of her story was the act of kindness that was initiated by her husband and how it inspired others to do the same. She added that being there and assisting gave her a “sense of belonging.”

She ended her speech with simple advice: sweat the small stuff.

“Nurture those ‘weak ties,'” she shared. “Say please and thank you. Smile at the receptionist when you go to the dentist. Hold the door for the next person. Tip generously. Be the first one to ask ‘Hey, you all right?'”

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