Monday, July 16, 2018

Dear UMF and the greater Farmington community,

On this beautiful summer day in July, we write, in contrast, with deeply sad news. Jim Toner, the Director of the University of Maine at Farmington Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC), died this morning at home, a victim of an unrelenting cancer that was first diagnosed last fall. He was for those who knew him an excellent colleague, and, what is more, a man of remarkable integrity and decency. Indeed, he was cherished by those who worked most closely with him in the FRC, Athletics, and the Student Services departments.

Jim assumed the Directorship of the FRC in 2006, after serving both as the Director of Parks and Recreation and the Director of Public Works in Waterville, Maine, the first position from 1988 to 2004, and both positions from 2004 to 2006. His work at the FRC was exemplary of progressive administration and management in community recreation, resulting in the fair and supportive treatment of patrons and the assembling of a highly talented staff.

From the outset, Jim led the Fitness and Recreation Center through mission-revision and rebranding activities, and ultimately came to serve many more students, student groups, faculty, staff, and community members than under any prior directorship, all the while maintaining a strong position as the community’s fitness center. The FRC is also the largest employer of students on the campus, which Jim valued as an important experiential learning opportunity for students.

Notably, Jim was the enthusiastic founder of the Mainely Outdoors Program, leading many of the trips, and, in any season, introducing newcomers to the majesty of nature, which he so respected and relished. In 2015, Jim acquired space for the Mainely Outdoors program, and spent countless hours rehabilitating the house on Quebec Street, along with students/staff and Facilities Management personnel. He painted, took down walls, put down floor vinyl, and was most excited about coining the now trademarked name, Mainely Outdoors.

He also acquired the SnowCats program at Titcomb Mountain, after the departure of the long-serving coordinator and made certain that UMF continued its commitment to providing youth ski instruction through FRC staff and later Scott Hoisington. Just as with Mainely Outdoors, Snowcats was an add-on responsibility Jim undertook for the good of the community, always his focus.

Separately from UMF, he officiated high school basketball games and became a trainer for area officials, and annually provided an integral role in the New Vineyard Library fundraiser.

Many will remember the annual Sandy River Canoe/Kayak Race and Fun Paddle that Jim launched, drawing people from parts far and wide for a memorable and entertaining time on the water. It became one of his favorite events.

In 2016, Jim was selected by his colleagues to receive the University’s Professional Staff of the Year Award. His was a truly humble nature, and he would squirm were he to hear the words describing his contributions to UMF repeated once again here, but so it must be.

Julie Davis, Jim’s immediate supervisor and friend, presented the award to Jim, characterizing him as “fair and forthright,” and “one who approaches his work in a tireless, optimistic, and even-keeled manner.” His attention to customer service, Julie noted, extended well beyond friendly interactions with patrons to matters of managing and diffusing conflicts that inevitably arise in such a high volume, multi-use facility serving a complex and varied compliment of constituents.

Jim Toner believed in promulgating health and wellness and dedicated himself to these principles for his entire professional career; he believed in his staff, consistently giving them credit for the FRC’s accomplishments; and he believed in the UMF community-wholly, unwaveringly.

As he wrote in his June 19th thank you note for the University’s fundraising activities on his and his family’s behalf, UMF had been his “home away from home” for many years, and his “UMF ’family’” had helped carry him along this ineluctable path. Now his own family-Barbara his wife, Joe and Anna his children, and several grandchildren- and his UMF family are diminished in his untimely loss, but enriched evermore for his gracious presence.

Sorrowfully,

Eric C. Brown, Interim President
F. Celeste Branham, Vice President for Student and Community Services