UM foundation honors five professors
Friday, October 07, 2005 – Bangor Daily News
Bangor – Five University of Maine professors who helped the state understand that university research could improve the economy were honored Thursday by the University of Maine Foundation.
Dubbed the “Faculty Five,” George Jacobson, Stephen Norton, George Markowsky, Malcolm Hunter and David Smith undertook a grass-roots campaign, beginning in 1995, to travel across Maine spreading the word about the need for greater state investment in university research.
The professors received the first President Abram W. Harris Award during the University of Maine Foundation’s annual meeting at Wells Commons.
They will share a $5,000 prize for making an impact on UM which reflects the transformational change made by President Harris, who served the university from 1893 to 1901.
Efforts by the five professors helped encourage the Legislature to create the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, which allowed UM to hire world-class faculty and graduate assistants and provided seed money for research projects focused on areas that could have the greatest impact on the Maine economy.
In all, between 1998 and 2003, Maine voters approved bonds totaling $204 million directed toward higher education, particularly research and development.
External research and development funding has increased dramatically at UM from $20.3 million to more than $50 million – creating research jobs and fledgling companies that may fuel Maine’s economic growth into the future.
“We would be a very different institution today if it were not for the work of the Faculty Five,” UM President Robert Kennedy said in a written statement. “Like President Harris in his time, their efforts really were transformational. We have more patent activity, more license activity, more economic development than all the other research institutions in the state combined.”
The $5,000 prize, which will be awarded annually, was established in memory of Abram Winegardner Harris with an endowed gift to the University of Maine Foundation from his grandson, A.W. “Pete” Harris III, 50, and family friends.
FACULTY SENATE MINUTES
MARCH 1, 2006
History of MEIF Funding at UMaine
Presentation by Dr. George Jacobson, Professor of Quaternary Biology
Dr. Jacobson opened by reminding the senators that it was ten years ago that the first public expression came from the “Faculty Five” Dr. David Smith, History, Dr. Steve Norton from Earth Sciences, Dr. George Markowsky from Computer Science, Dr. Mac Hunter from Wildlife Ecology and myself, and the group had decided to mount a public campaign to help the Legislature and the people of the State of Maine realize the importance of this institution to the state and to begin to make investments in the university. They wrote an op-ed for the Bangor Daily News, which then-editor Mark Woodward ran in the Saturday edition.
A third of the senators in attendance today were here on campus at the time. By the end of 1995 the university had had nine budget cuts in six years, which meant three came during the fiscal year. We lost 500 positions on this campus, 150 faculty. When the data were collated, they found that at the time of UMaine’s budget cuts, other campuses in the system had actually increased positions. As the elected officials came to understand the problems faced by UMaine, the legislators began to take the budget crisis here seriously. After doing research on what other states were spending on their land grant institutions, they realized that our state needed to be investing at least $20 million more per year in order to bring us up to what our peer institutions were doing.
When the new legislature was voted in with Mark Lawrence and Rep. Mike Michaud as head of appropriations, with the help of Mary Cathcart, Dr. Jacobson had conversations with both regarding funding for UMaine. That began a 4 year process to have specific money to be targeted for our campus. Mark Lawrence created an ad-hoc R&D committee that Mary Cathcart chaired with Rick Bennett. Within a couple of years MEIF was created. The attitude of the legislature changed considerably during this time.
About six years ago the legislature started putting money into the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, with money targeted for R&D. The legislators decided to keep the money separate from funds given to the UMS. That led to this fund. We are nearing $100 million dollars in external funding. With this growth come concerns about who gets what funding, and who doesn’t. Part of our effort as a community is to work together to make sure that as much as possible, support each other and spread around the new resources that become available. There are ways that we can enhance our budget, such as the indirect cost recovery. If we get to 100 or 120 million in external funding, what we have in tens of millions of dollars of indirect cost recovery. This money should be used by all departments on campus.
A question was asked whether the legislature is still being kept informed of the scholarship occurring on campus. Dr. Jacobson said that we still bring legislators to campus, and are still active in promoting UMaine.