They came from near and far to reminisce, reconnect, and learn about the many changes that have transformed the college they support into a borderless enterprise that sends graduates to all points of the globe.
The Pioneers BBQ was held on Saturday, July 26 at Unity House, the net zero campus home of Unity College President Stephen Mulkey and his spouse Michele Leavitt. The event was considered the unofficial kickoff for 50th anniversary celebrations in 2015. The Pioneers BBQ reunited classes from 1965 to 1979.
The guest list included Alumni from the classes of 1965 to 1979, board, faculty and staff.
President Mulkey welcomed those gathered and offered an overview of initiatives and key successes, including the ongoing development of online education and graduate programs slated to be launched in the fall of 2015. He outlined the rapid pace of campus improvement and expansion, which includes the approximately 3,000 square foot, $1 million expansion and renovation of Wyman Dining Commons, and the completion of an approximately 18,000 square foot, 70 bed, $4.2 million suite style residence hall. The residence hall will meet LEED Silver standards. Both projects will be completed by the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year. These projects have been preceded by two years of upgrades that have included comprehensive renovations of all labs and classrooms.
As plans for the 50th anniversary unfold, with Leavitt directly involved, a crown jewel on the horizon would be the building of a sustainability science learning and conference center.
Honoring the Past, Building a Beacon for the Future
As with most every event of this type at the College, soliciting the input of alumni / friends and members of the College community was an important component, along with enjoying the sense of purpose that comes from participation in a community that is dedicated to ensuring the success of Unity College.
“Every opportunity to gather with Unity College alumni and friends of the College is a special occasion,” Mulkey said. “In my time as President I have developed a deep appreciation for the history of this college. I have learned how it has positively shaped the lives of many individuals. It is a pleasure and privilege to host our alumni, faculty, staff, current students and friends who care so deeply about this college and its future. They share an affinity for and commitment to innovation, sustainability, service to their communities and the natural world, and support for Unity College’s strong environmental mission.”
Mulkey shared his insights about Unity’s unique strengths and reasons for its strong enrollment in a series of personal conversations with attendees.
“We are on the right track as the first institution of higher learning in the United States to adopt sustainability science (the leading-edge of 21st century transdisciplinary – collaborative -- environmental problem solving) as our framework for teaching and learning,” Muilkey said. “Our hands-on approach is preparing students to flourish in the green economy and rise to positions of leadership.”
Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, Executive Vice President and Liaison to the Board of Trustees, considers the input of Alumni and community members to be exceptionally important. Such input empowers the College to progress, adapt, and flourish, he says.
“As Unity College prepares for its 50th anniversary, the fact that our pioneer alumni share such strong connections to this institution and care so deeply for its future is nothing short of inspiring,” Khoury said. “They come back to share stories about what makes them proud of Unity College. The stories that our Pioneers and other alumni share that are unique to this institution fill me with a sense of hope and optimism as we anticipate reaching our 50 year milestone, and prepare for our next 50 years.”
Strong Vision, Committed Alumni
Khoury considers the support of alumni to be irreplaceable, a cornerstone upon which Unity College’s future is being constructed brick by brick, decade by decade, graduate by graduate.
“The broad support of alumni in everything, from donations to sharing their thoughts about ways to improve this institution, is one reason why we are continually improving the value of a Unity degree to a point where it will be considered beyond reproach, literally the ultimate standard for degrees offered from environmental colleges in the United States,” Khoury said.
He added that Unity’s sustainability science framework for teaching and learning is providing a measure of national leadership that is unquestionable, blazing a path for higher education to more effectively train graduates to address real-world 21st century environmental problems, including the mitigation of global climate change.
President Mulkey’s emerging national leadership on a host of environmental issues and recently released blueprint for higher education reform is bringing visibility and distinction to Unity College, Khoury says. Such Presidential visibility, vision, and leadership coupled with the achievements of outstanding faculty, many of whom are considered to be young rising stars in their fields, along with exceptional students and dedicated staff who are committed to pursuing lives in service to the natural world, frame a vista for Unity College’s future that knows no boundaries.
Mulkey is sharing stories about Unity College’s past, present, and future during his frequent travels across the United States and internationally. He is an in-demand speaker, addressing high profile groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit in New Delhi, India. No matter where he is, all roads lead back to Unity College for Mulkey, who is quick to note that for all his travels, he treasures the opportunities to connect with alumni and friends of the College during events like Saturday’s Pioneers BBQ.
The reviews of the day are in and they are glowing.
“The day was absolutely perfect, from the weather, the music, the food, and everything!” wrote Liz McMahon, ’73, in an e-mail to Leavitt. “So many of the alums were so delightedly surprised at the festivities. I think we can count on all of them to return next summer and spread the word to others.”
Her comments turned to 50th. “Thank you so much for helping us all reconnect with a past that was so very precious to us all,” McMahon wrote. “I am really excited to plan for the 50th.”
Leavitt considered the event to be an important opportunity to validate the contributions of many from Unity College’s formative years. “At the Pioneers BBQ, Stephen and I were able to honor some of the first people who made Unity great – the students, faculty, and staff who took a chance on a little college in Maine, and made it their own,” Leavitt said. “We are honoring the past, and planning for the future. We can’t know where we are going unless we know where we have been. By bringing people from Unity’s pioneer days together, we hope to reach out to even more pioneers and to honor all the people who have made Unity College what it is today.”