By Morgan Clark, Contributing Writer
We all know our UMF: as students, faculty or community members, we know our small, close-knit school. We know our friends, we know our teachers, we know our athletes and we know just about everyone in our university of less than 2,000 students in rural Maine. But, do you know the history of how we got here?
Students have been on this campus since 1864. Back then people still knew the importance of teacher education, as it was the school’s primary focus. “In March 1863, amidst much heated argument, a Normal School Act finally passed into law,” the UMF website states, “and that fall, Farmington was chosen from a list of possible locations for the first normal school, making the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) the first public institution of higher education in the entire State of Maine.”
The first building to be used by UMF was Merrill Hall which was rebuilt in the 1890’s in the same location. It is now the “oldest public building on a Maine campus,” according to the UMF website.
Many of the buildings on campus are named after important leaders of UMF over the past 150 years. George Purington was principal of the school in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was very active in the community and encouraged students to be involved.
Wilbert G. Mallett followed Purington as principal. “He advocated for civic engagement, healthy living, and teacher training through doing,” according to the Maine Memory Network. This was the beginning of UMF’s reputation for teacher education, dating back almost 100 years ago.
“The University of Maine at Farmington has maintained its fine tradition in teacher preparation while adding and enhancing other academic programs in the arts and sciences, health, and rehabilitation,” according to the UMF website.
In 1945 the school name was changed to Farmington State Teachers College under Errol Dearborn. After this the school slowly evolved into what we see today, before becoming part of the UMaine system.
The UMF website says, “The Western State Normal School passed through many incarnations in its first 106 years, finally merging into the University of Maine System in 1968 to become ‘the University of Maine at Farmington’ in 1971.”
One of the most recent buildings to be named after an important figure in our community is the Kalikow Education Center, named in the spring of 2016 after Theodora Kalikow, former president of UMF from 1994-2012. Kalikow was responsible for the building’s construction and leading UMF on a path to better environmental planning.
Today, UMF is not just a teachers college, but it hosts a broad variety of academic majors to a wide range of students with diverse interests. While still proud of the fine teachers who come from UMF, the university has evolved a lot since being the Farmington Normal School.
So, keep in mind the history as you walk throughout campus this fall and the memories the buildings hold within them as you make memories of your own. Remember the people who dedicated their lives to improving this school, both past and present as you step on squeaky boards in Merrill Hall, or do some homework in the lobby of the Kalikow Education Center.