AUGUSTA–The University of Maine at Augusta will hold its commencement exercises at 10:00 a.m. on May 11, 2019 at the Augusta Civic Center. Over 500 students are eligible to graduate this spring and as many as 350 are expected to participate in the graduation ceremonies.
The ceremony will include a commencement address by Judith Meyer, Executive Editor of the Sun Journal, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel.
“UMA is pleased to have Judith Meyer participate in our Commencement activities,” said President Wyke. “Given her background with the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition and a career in journalism, she will provide a unique perspective on our year-long academic theme of ‘Freedom of Speech’.”
Meyer is also executive editor of seven weekly newspapers owned by the Sun Media Group. She has been a journalist since 1990 and is the former editorial page editor for the Sun Journal. She was named Maine’s Journalist of the Year in 2003. Currently, Meyer serves as vice president of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition and is a member of the Right to Know Advisory Committee to the Legislature. She serves on the New England Newspaper & Press Association Board of Directors and was the 2018 recipient of the Judith Vance Weld Brown Spirit of Journalism Award in New England.
Lian Oyerbides of Augusta, who will graduate magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Justice Studies, is the student speaker. Of Korean ancestry, born and raised in China, Lian is fluent in four languages (Mandarin, English, Korean, and Japanese). She arrived in Maine nearly 20 years ago with a teaching degree from China.
Her journey with UMA began when circumstances in her life, including an abusive relationship, required her to seek opportunities to support herself and her son and most importantly to pursue a dream to help other domestic abuse victims by becoming a lawyer. One of the many adult learners at UMA, Lian maintained family and work obligations while navigating her college career and obtaining a degree in Justice Studies. During this time, she undertook various employment positions including starting a language interpretation and instruction business and teaching adult education courses in Chinese language and culinary arts. She also volunteers at the Family Violence Project as a board member and on the helpline and at the Child Protective Division of the Maine State Attorney General’s Office as a legal researcher.
Since 2014, she has been employed as a correctional officer with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office. Upon graduation, Oyerbides will continue her education in Houston, Texas as she pursues her law degree.
UMA will also recognize Oyebides with the Kathleen Dexter Distinguished Student Award. This honor is awarded to a student who demonstrates scholarship; participation and leadership in co-curricular activities; and service to the wider community. The award is named for former UMA Dean of Students, Kathleen Dexter who retired in 2016 after 29 years with the university.
UMA will also recognize Randall Liberty with an Honorary Degree in Humane Letters. Liberty is Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections and a 1998 graduate of the University of Maine at Augusta.
Prior to his appointment as DOC Commissioner by Governor Janet Mills, Liberty was Warden of the Maine State Prison for three years and served as Sheriff of Kennebec County for seven years. Commissioner Liberty is a decorated veteran with a 24-year record of service in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. He taught military history at West Point and served 10 months as a Command Sergeant Major of a transition team embedded with Iraqi infantry in Fallujah.
As Kennebec County Sheriff and Maine State Prison Warden, he developed and instituted innovative programs that serve as rehabilitative opportunities for the incarcerated. Programs at the Maine State Prison include inmate gardening and recycling, a veterans’ pod, yoga instruction, and a hospice program. He is a strong advocate for programs that reduce prison recidivism rates. His innovative approach to those in incarceration was profiled in Downeast Magazine.
Distinguished Achievement Award
The UMA Distinguished Achievement Award will be presented on Saturday to George Smith, author and former Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. The Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes an individual for outstanding achievements in their profession or service to their community, state, or country.
Smith of Mount Vernon has distinguished himself in his profession and service to the community, state, and country. His career includes his long association with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, including 18 years as Executive Director, service in our nation’s capital in Congressman David Emery’s office, advocacy to maintain Maine’s environment, service to the community of Mount Vernon on the planning board and as selectman, and 39 years of dedication to the Dr. Shaw Memorial Library.
He has written a weekly editorial column published in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel for 28 years and columns for The Maine Sportsman magazine since 1977. He writes an outdoor news blog posted on his website and the website of the Bangor Daily News, cited by the Maine Press Association in 2014 as the state’s best sports blog.
Smith has had three books published: A Life Lived Outdoors, Maine Sporting Camps, and Take It From ME, written with his wife Linda. For 13 seasons, he was also the co-host of the TV Program “Wildfire“, a unique television talk show focused on hunting, fishing, conservation, and environmental issues.