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Mantor Library, University of Maine Farmington

A History of Leadership

Merrill Hall, Farmington State Normal School, ca. 1911

The University of Maine at Farmington was originally the Western State Normal School. Established on October 9, 1863 and opened on August 24, 1864, the school has had several name changes over the course of its long history:

Western State Normal School (1863 - 1878)
Northern State Normal School (1878 - 1889)
Farmington State Normal School (1889 - 1945)
Farmington State Teachers College (1945 - 1965)
Farmington State College (1965 - 1968)
Farmington State College of the University of Maine (1968 - 1970)
University of Maine at Farmington (1971 - present)

The school was referred to as "Farmington State Normal School" (F.S.N.S.) from the beginning, even though its official designation by the state legislature was the Western Maine Normal School. It was later designated as the Northern Maine Normal School by the state in 1878 when a new school in the town of Gorham became the Western Maine Normal School. When another school was founded in the northern Maine town of Presque Isle in 1903, the school in Farmington officially became the Farmington State Normal School.

Originally the school's leader carried the title of Principal. When the institution was designated as a college in the 1940s, the title was changed to President. The following are brief biographies of the school leaders since its founding:

Ambrose P. Kelsey (1863-1864) was the Preceptor of Farmington Academy before being chosen by the State Superintendent of Schools to serve as the principal of the Western Maine Normal School. After seeing the school through its first year, Kelsey left for a position at a school in western New York.

George Gage (1865-1867) was Kelsey’s assistant before becoming the school’s second principal. He had taught in Maine and Massachusetts public schools and served as the principal of the Adams School in Quincy, Massachusetts prior to coming to Farmington. An avid supporter of training schools, he worked to build enrollment to ensure the success of the school during the two years he served as its leader. Gage also founded an education journal called The Maine Normal in 1866, which lead to the development of a new teachers’ association in the state. He left Farmington to become head of the Normal School in Mankato, Minnesota in 1868, but continued to edit The Maine Normal for several years after leaving Maine.

Charles C. Rounds (1868-1883) was principal of Edward Little Institute in Auburn, Maine before he was chosen to lead the Normal School in Farmington. He set high standards for the Normal School students and introduced the practice of daily “teaching exercises” as a way to develop their skills as teachers. He was also instrumental in establishing the Model School, which provided F.S.N.S. students further teacher training experience. The Advanced Course was added in 1880 and consisted of an extra year of studies designed to prepare teachers to work in high schools. That same year, Rounds established the Maine Pedagogical Society, a first of its kind educational association in the state. He left Farmington in 1883 to become principal of the Normal School in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

George C. Purington (1883-1909) had been a teacher and principal in Maine schools, including Edward Little High School, before becoming the fourth principal of the Farmington State Normal School. He was very active in the community and put great effort into marketing the school to increase enrollment and public support. Purington was also a driving force behind the development of a core of energetic and committed faculty. The most significant addition to the teaching staff at this time was the hiring of Lillian Lincoln. Her pedagogical approach to education was rooted in the belief that a good teacher should have enthusiasm for and a broad knowledge of the subject to be taught. In addition to changes in the way the Normal School students were being prepared to teach, there were much-needed improvements in the school’s facilities and new social activities for students, such as a Glee Club and basketball teams for both men and woman. Purington died unexpectedly in 1909 after a brief illness.

Wilbert G. Mallett (1909-1940), who had been the school’s assistant principal, was named as its principal shortly after Purington’s death. During his tenure, the Farmington State Normal School expanded its programs and its reputation as a leader in the training of teachers of education and home economics. There were improvements and additions to its facilities, including new housing for students. Extracurricular activities for students grew to include a Modern Authors club and regular theater performances and musical entertainments. There were also service organizations such as Campfire Girls as well as fraternities and sororities. Mallett hired some of the Normal School’s most talented graduates as faculty for the school or as teachers in the Model School. When a new town school was built in 1932, replacing the Model School held in classrooms in Merrill Hall, it provided greater opportunities for practical experience for the teachers in training. “Pa Mallett” saw the school through decades of change and challenges--including the Influenza epidemic of 1918, the First World War and the Great Depression-- and he was much-loved by the students and faculty. He retired in 1940 after 30 years as leader of the Farmington State Normal School.

Lorey C. Day (1941-1945) was superintendent of schools in Livermore Falls and South Portland before becoming principal at Farmington Normal School. The war brought many changes to the school, including the postponement of implementing a fourth year and Bachelor of Science degree. The school's schedule was changed to five and a half day weeks for 34 weeks to allow earlier release in spring and reduce the cost of education. From 1942 - 1945, Normal School students also participated in a statewide "Cadet Teaching" program, which placed students training to be teachers in Maine schools that were in desperate need of educators after many experienced teachers entered the armed services or gave up their posts during the war. Day left the Normal School in 1945 to become superintendent of schools in Kittery, Maine.

Errol L. Dearborn (1945-1953) graduated from Farmington State Normal School in 1917. After obtaining his degree, he was hired to teach mathematics at the school. He coached the school's basketball and baseball teams for many years and served as vice principal from 1929 to 1945. The Maine legislature approve college status for the school in 1945, making it a four year educational institution granting bachelor of science degrees in education and home economics. The new designation as a college brought a change of name to Farmington State Teachers College and Dearborn became its first President. During this time, the college administration expanded to include a registrar and two new dean positions. A coordinating council and dormitory council were formed to help with governance and administration of school policies. Many of the long-time faculty of the college and the Model School retired during Dearborn’s leadership, but the majority of the new hires also remained faculty of the college for many years.

Ermo H. Scott (1953-1966) was deputy commissioner of education prior to becoming president of Farmington State Teachers College in 1953. His focus from the start was getting the college accredited and, as part of improving the college facilities, the establishment of an expanded and updated college library. In 1965 the college dropped “Teachers” from its name to better reflect its expanded curriculum in special education and elementary education as well as courses in modern languages and other subjects. A graduate program and an adult education program were also implemented during this time. The campus facilities expanded to include a science and home economics building, a library/classroom building, a dormitory and a new gymnasium. The college-run meals program was also replaced by a professional food service. Scott retired in 1966.

Melvin Scarlett (1966-1968) was president during a period of rapid growth and structural change. A new Department of Secondary Education was established after the State Board of Educators granted the college permission to train teachers specifically for high schools. The faculty-student Coordinating Council was replaced by separate faculty and student senates. In 1968, the college was integrated into a state university system and renamed Farmington State College of the University of Maine. Scarlett left in September of that year to become head of Middle Tennessee State college.

Einar A. Olsen (1968-1981) was acting president for a year before his position as president was formally approved by the Board of Trustees. He had a background in health education and was a professor at colleges in Texas and New Mexico before coming to Farmington. He was also the author of a college health textbook and several children’s books on sports and oceanography. Expansion of the campus continued under Olsen with the addition of Scott, Lockwood, and Dakin dormitories and a new Learning Center. A number of houses in the vicinity of campus were purchased. Several were were used to house the president, alumni services and the campus health center; others were raised to make way for additional student housing and parking. By 1981, the Rollo Pond area and its historic bridges has been recreated and the new green space named Abbott Park. In addition to growth of the campus, faculty and student numbers grew to almost double during Olsen’s administration and the college began offering new degrees in liberal arts subjects. The college was renamed University of Maine at Farmington in 1971. Olsen retired from UMF in 1981.

Harlan Phillipi (1981-1982) and Theodore Emery (1982-1983) served as interim presidents at UMF before Judith Sturnick (1983-1987) became president in 1983. She had extensive experience in teaching and administration at several universities. During her tenure, Sturnick focused on three areas of strategic planning for UMF's future: academic excellence, quality of campus life and community outreach. A Developmental Studies Center with writing and math tutoring services for students and placement testing was created and an annual employee recognition night was initiated to honor staff and faculty. Sturnick left UMF in 1987 to become president of Keene State College in New Hampshire.

Sturnick was followed by interim president Norman Crawford (1987-1988) and then J. Michael Orenduff (1988-1992), who had been vice president of academic affairs at West Texas University. Orenduff became president just as the college celebrated its 125th anniversary. Under his leadership, a Development Office was created to increase private support for the school, an enrollment cap (2,000 FTE) was established, a new bachelor of science in early childhood special education was added to the curriculum, and a new Health and Fitness Center opened in 1992. Significant state funding shortfalls during this period led to Orneduff's decision to suspend the Home Economics program (although the program did not officially end until 1995), discontinue the special education speech and hearing program, phase out the dietetics program, and eliminate the Women's Center. He took a sabbatical from UMF in 1992 to head the American University in Bulgaria, then became chancellor of the University of Maine System in 1993. UMF Provost Susan Huseman (1993) served as interim president until a new president was hired.

Theodora J. Kalikow (1994-2012) came to UMF from Plymouth State College, where she had been interim president, dean of the college and professor of philosophy. During her leadership, UMF was recognized as one of the nation’s best colleges by U.S. News & World Report for 15 consecutive years and designated as one of 20 colleges that are national models of educational effectiveness. The college increased undergraduate research opportunities and experiential experiences for students with the creation of an undergraduate research council and the implementation of the Wilson Scholars program with an annual Symposium Day. Student access to outdoor activities expanded through a new Mainely Outdoors program and a Sustainable Campus Coalition was formed to actively promote environmental sustainability on campus and in the community. The college changed to a 4 credit curriculum and added five new majors, new interdisciplinary programs and master’s degree programs in education and early childhood education. A new LEED-certified Education Center, a LEED-certified residence hall and a community arts center were added to the campus. A strong advocate for student-centered learning, “Theo” was respected as a leader both on campus and in the education field. She was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame in 2002 and received national recognition for her excellence in leadership and public service in 2006. She retired from UMF in 2012.

Kathryn A. Foster (2012- 2018) came to UMF in 2012 after thirty years of experience in public higher education and regional policy and practice. During her leadership, the college received a full ten-year accreditation under the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, built a new biomass central heating plant, added a learning commons and coffee bar to the library, and celebrated its 150th anniversary. She left UMF in 2018 to become president of the College of New Jersey.

Provost Eric C. Brown (2018-2019) served as interim president until Edward A. Serna was hired as UMF’s 15th president in 2019. Serna taught information systems and leadership courses for 12 years and was interim chancellor of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith before assuming leadership at UMF.


Sources: First Quarter-Century, 1864-1889. State Normal School Farmington, Maine, George C. Purington © 1889; University of Maine at Farmington: A Study in Educational Change (1864-1974), Richard P. Mallett, © 1974; Profile of Judith Sturnick (ca. 1983); "At 125, UMF to get 12th president", Waterville Sentinel, October 7, 1988; Memos from President J. Michael Orenduff to UMF Community, various dates; Theodora J. Kalikow to retire as University of Maine at Farmington President, UMF press release, September 19, 2011; Inauguration of Dr. Katherine A. Foster program, 2013; President Edward Serna, UMF Website (2019).