BANGOR ó Art Jette admits heís old school. Jette, 55, was getting ready to retire when the Dexter machine shop he had worked at for 30 years closed in 2003, and he was offered the opportunity to go back to school as a displaced worker to learn a new trade.
"I hadnít been in school since 1968 and needless to say, everybody could tell I was from another era," Jette said Friday, the day before he earned his associate degree in welding technology from Eastern Maine Community College. "The next closest [in age] in my class was 30 years younger. "Itís not easy going back and getting into a routine of studying and homework," he said. "Things have changed. I had to do a bunch of catching up."
The Garland resident was one of 300 to graduate Saturday at the collegeís 39th commencement ceremony, held this year at the Bangor Auditorium, but was not the only displaced mill worker. Alongside him were four nursing graduates who returned to school after the mills they worked at closed.
Elsewhere in Bangor, 386 Husson College grads walked the stage at the Winkin Sports Complex on campus to get their degree certificates during the schoolís 107th commencement, with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins as the featured speaker.
Woodrow W. Cross, chief executive officer of Cross Insurance and the Rev. Dana Kennedy, retired Episcopal minister and author of "Milbridge," both members of the Class of 1938, were on the agenda to receive honorary degrees.
U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud was the keynote speaker at the EMCC ceremony. The congressmanís message to graduates was to be hopeful and helpful. "I am optimistic about our world and the great promise that each of you holds to make a difference in it," Michaud stated. "The future holds great promise because of the values each of you brings to your communities and the commitment you all hold to a better tomorrow."
North Anson resident Dean Knowles, who earned duel associate degrees in welding technology and pipe fabrication technology, was named the 2006 Student of the Year. "[Knowles] has an outstanding work ethic," Roland Clukey, EMCC welding-pipe fabrication department chair, has said. "He is a hard worker, who is enthusiastic, dependable and honest."
To demonstrate that heís old school, Jette didnít shoulder a backpack while attending EMCC and instead opted to carry his books ó just like he did in high school, which he never completed. Back then, "You could get a job without a diploma," he said.
Jette, who served eight years as a Garland selectmen and tax assessor in the late 1970s and early 1980s, has also been serving on the SAD 46 school board for the past 11 years, a post he resigned from in March.
"I had to put my money were my mouth was," he said, after years of advocating for higher education on the school board.
Now that Jette has his diploma, his goal is to open up a machine shop called "Artís Parts" that offers repair and machine tool grinding, which combines hands-on skills learned working at Fay and Scott Co. in Dexter for three decades and his newly acquired welding skills.
"I went to my daughterís graduation and my sonís graduation, but this is my first graduation," he said. "This is the first time I graduated of anything. Iím just proud to be able to finish with my head up."
Jette earned honors at EMCC and was named "most tenacious" by his peers.
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