John Haley, the kind and loving teacher at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, died on Sept. 10, 2020. Ever since, the campus has been celebrating his life. As an adjunct teacher and director of University of Experience at UMPI, John was a loved and admired person on campus and in the community.
Born in Aroostook County, John received his bachelor’s degree from Aroostook State Teachers college, which is now UMPI. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono.
Although he was a seed farmer for 30 years, John truly found his passion as a teacher. He was a mentor and instructor at UMPI for 15 years, where he influenced and inspired others during his time. His impact on the people around him was clear on Sept. 18 during a campus memorial service.
In conjunction with UMPI’s Homecoming Spirit Week and Memories Day, people gathered in front of South Hall for the event. During this service, a select number of students, faculty and staff members gathered for a ceremonial tree planting. President Ray Rice and Business Professor Kim Jones shared some brief words about John during the service, as did others. Kim announced that the Excellence Every Day award, which is given each year to an employee who embodies the university’s service excellence
promise, will be renamed the John Haley Service Excellence Award. Due to COVID-19, only a set number of people were allowed to attend. The individuals who did could see firsthand how much John meant to those around him.
“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.”
During the ceremony, attendees were able to write a note about John on a small paper owl ornament and tie it to the freshly planted tree. People could also write a note on a luminary bag. The luminaries were placed along the walkway from Folsom and Pullen Hall to the Campus Center and lighted that night. All of the notes and sentiments were collected afterwards, so they could be shared during UMPI’s commencement ceremony in the spring.
“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.”
John Haley’s life continues to be celebrated around campus as the semester goes on. His spirit at UMPI was strong and anyone whom John affected was devastated by the news. His death reminds us of the importance of cherishing the people in our lives, because we do not know the last time we will see them. John was known as selfless and giving person. Although his physical journey is over, students, faculty and staff members are continuing to embrace his life.