A memorial gathering to celebrate the life of Professor Emeritus David Purdy will be held on Saturday, September 21, from 5-7 p.m. at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts (UCCPA) located at 42 Depot Street in Unity, Maine. Purdy passed away on November 26, 2012.
The memorial will be hosted by Unity College. Testimonials will be given by colleagues, alumni, friends and students, and will begin at 5 p.m. with a reception held at 6 p.m. in the event room.
Purdy began his esteemed service to Unity College in the fall of 1976, serving as an associate professor housed in what was then called the Social and Behavioral Sciences Center. He eventually chaired that center and was promoted to full professor.
Over the years, Purdy served in a variety of capacities including as Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees from 1979-1982. He taught Environmental Politics, World Politics, Political Science and Government until his retirement in June of 2001. He taught as an adjunct instructor through the spring semester of 2003.
A Massachusetts native, Purdy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bates College, a Master of Arts from George Washington University, and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1953-1955, attaining the ranks of Second and First Lieutenant.
In retirement Purdy remained an active member of the Unity College community.
A significant philanthropic supporter of Unity College, he created a scholarship fund, the David M. Purdy Scholarship Fund. The in perpetuity fund supports the environmental career aspirations of students. Three $1,000 awards are given annually to current students who have demonstrated significant civic involvement for the betterment of the community, campus and/or beyond. Documented evidence and/or recognition of citizenship, community involvement, and stewardship are considered for potential scholarship awardees. Eligibility requires a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.00.
Many of his significant philanthropic gifts to Unity College were unknown to the College, but positively affected the entire community.
Gary Zane began working for Unity College in 1984 and made the acquaintance of Purdy. He quickly grew to respect his professionalism, developed an affinity for his warm personality, and valued their friendship.
“Dave was a pillar of Unity College,” Zane said. “Everything the College has stood for from its origin relates to who Dave was as an individual. He had as much positive impact on Unity as anyone who has worked here. He was a brilliant scholar with a humanistic approach who radiated a true caring for his students. Dave also possessed pride in all that Unity College is and represents, its roots and environmental focus. When I started here I learned how resonant his pride in Unity was and what an important member of this community he was. Also, Dave conveyed a personal passion borne of his experiences in the turbulent 60s for the importance of politics. He conveyed that to his students and they understood why it is important to be politically active.”
Gloria Sosa ’80, Unity College Trustee from 2005 to June 2013 and Project Manager for the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Region II Emergency and Remedial Response Division (Superfund) in New York City, has fond memories of Purdy.
“David Purdy loved his students and he loved Unity College,” said Sosa. “Dave engaged us fully in his political science class by encouraging complex heated discussions on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, capitalism and socialism. In addition, he invited us into his home for dinner parties where we discussed all manners of political and economic issues. I remember being with Dave after I voted in my first presidential election. Dave was always available to me when I had questions or comments on something I read, or on issues that were close to my heart. Dave went hiking and camping with his students who became his lifelong friends. Not only was he brilliant, he was also a lot of fun! I loved Dave and will honor his memory forever.”
Travis P. Wagner ’83, Ph.D., Unity College Trustee, and Associate Professor of Environmental Science & Policy, Department of Environmental Science at the University of Southern Maine, considers Purdy to be one of the most important formative figures in his life.
“Dave was one of my most important mentors at Unity as he was instrumental in helping me find myself and to find my life's calling,” Wagner said. “When I was at Unity, there was no environmental policy program, as it was still a nascent field. But it was Dave, as a professor of political science, who fostered my interest in environmental policy through his classes, our one-on-one discussions, and his mentoring. Dave encouraged me to go to Washington, DC as an intern through The Washington Center. With Dave's help, I was able to secure an internship at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I quickly discovered that I found my career and I have Dave to thank.”
Wagner tries to uphold the exemplary example for professional performance and personal ethics set by Purdy.
“As a current faculty member, and advisor and hopefully potential mentor to students, I apply Dave's approach to helping students find their way by focusing on being an excellent listener and offering options so that students can find their true passion,” Wagner said.
Wilson Hess, former President of Unity College, echoed Wagner’s sentiments.
"This is a passing of one of Unity College’s stalwarts – a tremendous teacher and passionate believer in our students,” Hess noted. “I was honored during my faculty years to have him ‘across the hall’ and we shared many fond discussions and ‘teachable moments.’ We all learned much from Dave."
Maine State Representative and Unity College trustee, Jeff McCabe ’00 considered Purdy to be one of the most important individuals from his college experience.
“I was in a class with Dave when the clear cutting referendum was being debated,” McCabe said. “Dave told us to go interview those involved. He signed out a van and told us to get all sides and write a balanced objective paper. This changed how I look at all issues.”
“Dave Purdy embodied the Unity College spirit. Dave brought me to the State House in the mid 90s. It was the first time I had ever been to the State House and I still have the same sense of purpose I did that day when I enter the building each day as an elected representative.”
For more, please visit the Unity College Alumni Facebook page.
In recent years Unity College has gained national attention for a variety of achievements including: its focus on sustainability science, the leading-edge of 21st century ecological problem solving and the vanguard in the fight for the mitigation of global climate change; its ground-breaking “green” innovations such as the award-winning TerraHaus, the first student residence on a college or university campus built to the Passive House standard, the most energy efficient building standard in the world; and for being the first college in the United States to divest from investments in fossil fuels, igniting a growing national movement in higher education. Unity College has repeatedly received superior placement in the Washington Monthly magazine annual college rankings, including being named among the top baccalaureate colleges in 2013.
Unity College is a private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education that emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.