UMF announces Louis Sell, former U.S. foreign service officer to Soviet Union, to deliver Commencement remarks

FARMINGTON, ME  (April 18, 2017)—The University of Maine at Farmington is proud to announce that Louis D. Sell, a retired Foreign Service officer with many years of experience in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, will deliver the Commencement remarks to the UMF Class of 2017. Sell will also receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at this year’s ceremony, which will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, May 13, on the UMF campus.

Chris Coyne, Maine entrepreneur, tech innovator and designer will also be receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at this year’s UMF Commencement.

Louis Sell

Louis Sell

Passionate about public service, Sell served under six U.S. presidents from 1971 to 1998, beginning with Richard Nixon, a journey that took him to volatile parts of the world that look very different today.

He was present in Moscow at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union and served in Yugoslavia during the political crisis that split the country apart. From 1995-1996, he was political adviser to former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, the first high representative for Bosnian Peace Implementation, and participated in the Dayton Conference that brought peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Louis Sell is a policy historian and diplomat, a voice of calm during a time of great political turmoil in the world,” said Kathryn A. Foster, UMF president. “He has made a valuable contribution to international diplomacy and in the higher education classroom, and we are honored to have him address our Class of 2017.”

Sell served as U.S. representative to the Joint Consultative Group in Vienna, as director of the Office of Russian and Eurasian Analysis, director of the Office of U.S.-Soviet Bilateral Relations, and as special assistant and executive secretary of the U.S. delegation to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks.

He was a principal founder of the American University in Kosovo that opened its doors in 2003 and served as executive director of the American University in Kosovo Foundation from 2003 to 2007.

He is the author of two books, “Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Duke University Press, 2002) and “From Washington to Moscow: US-Soviet Relations and the Collapse of the USSR” (Duke University Press, 2016.)

Sell earned his bachelor’s from Franklin and Marshall College and his master’s from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has been a part-time member of the UMF faculty since 2001.

Chris Coyne

Chris Coyne

A South Portland native, Coyne and his business partners created, a website acclaimed by Yahoo as “Best of the Web,” and SparkNotes, an online study guide, while attending Harvard University. The study guide and discussion forum proved to be an extremely popular online platform and was purchased by Barnes & Noble in 2001.

Following the success of SparkNotes, Coyne and his partners created OkCupid, an online dating, friendship and social networking website that focused on using mathematical algorithms to match people. Listed in Time magazine’s 2007 Top Dating Websites, the platform was acquired by in 2011.

Coyne is currently working on Keybase, an open source encryption application that offers online users tools to manage their identity, create secure chats and share files privately.

In 2012, he and his partners received the Harvard Humanist of the Year award.

“Since his college days, Chris Coyne has combined the best of math smarts, teamwork and entrepreneurship,” said UMF President Foster. “We are delighted to honor his past and ongoing inventiveness as inspiration for the Class of 2017 and assembled guests.”

Graduating senior Zack Peercy will give the student address. A gifted writer, Peercy is graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a B.A. in Theatre: Writing and Performance. His work has been published in online and campus literary journals and blogs, including: Slashfilm, Every Day Fiction, Toasted Cheese, The Sandy River Review, Eunoia Review and others. He was raised in northeastern Pennsylvania. After graduation, he will be moving to Chicago to continue his pursuit of playwriting and comedy.

Foster and Eric Brown, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will confer degrees to this year’s graduates. Mark R. Gardner, member of the UMS Board of Trustees, will deliver greetings to the graduates from the University of Maine System

Additional Event Details

The outdoor ceremony will be held behind the UMF Olsen Student Center and is free and open to the public. Guests of graduates are also welcome to watch the ceremony live in C131 in Roberts Learning Center. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held inside the UMF Fitness & Recreation Center. Admission to the indoor ceremony will be limited to those who have already received “Fitness and Recreation Center” tickets. During the indoor ceremony, guests can watch the event live in C131 and C23 in Roberts Learning Center and in the classrooms and Bjorn Lobby in the UMF Theodora J. Kalikow Education Center. The UMF Commencement ceremony will be webcast live at and broadcast live on Mount Blue TV community access Channel 11 at, whether the ceremony is held indoors or outdoors.

DVDs of the ceremony will be available in early summer for a small fee from the UMF Ferro Alumni Center, which can be contacted at

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Photos can be found at:
Photo Credit: UMF photo
Photo Caption: Louis Sell
Photo Credit: Submitted photo
Photo Caption: Chris Coyne