Among the dignitaries
at UMaine's commencement June 20, 1948: left to right, J. Seelye
Bixler, president of Colby College; A.E. Mercker, USDA, Washington,
D.C.; Judge John Peters, Ellsworth, Maine; Edward Chase, Cape
Elizabeth, Maine; Gen. George Carter, Augusta, Maine; Edwin
Sutermeister, Westbrook, Maine; writer E.B. White, North Brooklin,
Maine; UMaine President Arthur Hauck; Rev. John Gowdey, Boston,
Mass.; Edward Roderick, Augusta, Maine; Dr. Lennie Copeland, St.
Archival photos courtesy of Fogler
Library Special Collections
Links Related to this
This year as part of commencement, the
University of Maine will award honorary degrees to three distinguished
community leaders: nutritionist and longtime professor Katherine
Musgrave, wire lobster trap inventor James Knott Sr., and construction
engineer Herbert Sargent. The three are the latest in a long list of
eminent educators, writers, researchers, politicians, artists and
humanitarians to be recognized by UMaine for their contributions.
Through the years, those dignitaries have included President John F.
Kennedy, authors Stephen and Tabitha King, and photographer Berenice
Abbott. In 1948, UMaine became one of seven universities to award an
honorary degree to The New Yorker magazine writer Elwyn Brooks White. By
this time, E.B. White had published One Man's Meat and Stuart Little;
those books were followed in the 1950s by Charlotte's Web and the Strunk
and White edition of The Elements of Style.
White disliked ceremonies and public
appearances. His stepson, Roger Angell, writing last year in The New
Yorker in observance of the 20th anniversary of White's death, described
the day E.B.W., known as "Andy," received an honorary degree from
Dartmouth, also in 1948: "And when the time came for the encomiums and
the enrobing, there in the sunshine at Hanover, he went on, his hood —
'white, quite big, and shaped like a loose-fitting horse collar' —
became entangled with the honoree in the next seat, Ben Ames Williams:
Andy's worst dreams come true. 'When I got seated the thing was up over
my face, as in falconry,' he continues. 'A fully masked Doctor of
Letters, a headless poet.' After that, he stayed home, even passing up
an invitation in 1963 to go to Washington and receive the Presidential
Medal of Freedom from Lyndon Johnson." Luckily for UMaine, which held
its commencement ceremony a week after Dartmouth's, White had committed
in April to come to Orono.