John Haley was an Aroostook County native. John received his bachelor’s degree from the Aroostook State Teachers College, which was one of the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s former institutional names prior to joining the University of Maine system. He went on to earn his master’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono. John came back to family farm and worked in agriculture for decades. But his true passion was teaching.
John was a mentor and adjunct instructor at UMPI for 15 years. He taught English and first year seminar/university experience classes, where he influenced and inspired others. “He was the kind of professor who helped us outside of the classroom. He could tell if his students were having a bad day, and he would be the first to try and make everyone else feel better,” UMPI senior Marissa Valdivia Reagle said. “As my English professor, he helped us relate our schoolwork to our personal lives. He always made an effort to talk to us about our lives and how we were doing.”
Dr. Lowman, aka Dr. J, was one of John’s colleagues. “He had this great effect on many people,” she said. “Many people shared stories about how if you were talking to John in the hall, you knew that you’d have this very interrupted conversation because students would come along, and John would have to stop and give them a hug.”
Throughout his time at UMPI, he made a lasting impression by his kindness. Whether it was a quick Hello passing by in the hallway or checking in with his colleagues and students, John was a kind man. “Personally, John was always kind to me,” Dr. J said. “He was always helpful.”
Dr. J shared a story of a time John stopped by her office in Spring of 2020 searching for a tissue. “He was teaching in Folsom/Pullen and he stopped at my door and wanted to know if I had any tissues,” she said. “I said that I was down to literally my last tissue. I had one left in this box and I said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry! I’ve only got one. I can split it with you’…. But I was happy to share.” Instead of taking her last tissue, John politely declined. Later that day, he returned with a surprise. “He had one of those like, your grandfather’s box of tissues,” she said. “Like, this great big box of 300 tissues and then all these little portable packs so that I could take them in with me to class. I don’t remember how many of these that he got, but he got many of these and this giant box of tissues.”
John, known to his students as Professor Haley, was the type of professor first year students felt lucky to have. Students’ first composition class can feel quite daunting, but John made students feel at ease with his stories and jokes. In class, he would encourage students to voice their opinions, fears and/or anything they felt they wanted to share. Nothing was ever wrong, though. He genuinely just wanted to know what his students had to say. “If I had to describe him in one word, it would be caring,” UMPI senior Roni Shaw said. “He was the type of professor to always keep class light and fun. Everyone was just happy with him around. He was a great man.” Dr. J added, “He didn’t go out and conquer the world. But he was so kind. He really cared about people.”