We’re pleased to announce the speakers, marshals, and honorary degree recipients for the 127th annual commencement ceremonies at Thomas College scheduled for May 14-15, 2021:
2021 Class Speakers
Undergraduate Division Speaker
Representing the Undergraduate Division will be Kyle Greene. Greene is from Claremont, New Hampshire, and will be graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. He plans to further his education in the one-year Master’s in Educational Leadership, Principal/Superintendent program at Thomas College.
Graduate Division Speaker & Thomas Scholar
Representing graduate students this year will be Tiffany White. Tiffany is from Barnstead, New Hampshire, and completed her Bachelor of Science in Accounting – Forensic Accounting Concentration degree summa cum laude in August 2020. Based on her perfect 4.0 through her undergraduate career, Tiffany will be the recipient of this year’s Thomas Scholar Award for the undergraduate student graduating with the highest cumulative G.P.A.
Tiffany will be graduating at this year’s ceremonies with her Master of Business Administration– Accounting degree. After graduation, Tiffany will work in the Audit Department of Baker Newman Noyes in New Hampshire, while she works to become a Certified Fraud Examiner and Certified Public Accountant.
2021 Class Marshals
Assisting the graduating class this year as marshals will be Jen Snedeker from Richmond, Maine, and Jose Afonso Luis from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
Snedeker is scheduled to graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology – Forensic Concentration. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school to obtain a master’s in social work. Afonso Luis is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology – Forensic Concentration. His plans after graduation include furthering his education in the field of cybersecurity while also attempting to begin a professional career in the United States.
Jose Afonso Luis
Commencement Speaker & Honorary Degree Recipient
Meredith Strang Burgess
President & CEO of Burgess Advertising & Marketing
Meredith Strang Burgess, President & CEO of Burgess Advertising & Marketing, will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science in Business Administration at this year’s Commencement ceremonies, in recognition of her leadership in and support for Maine’s business ecosystem.
Strang Burgess of Cumberland, ME, is President and CEO of Burgess Advertising & Marketing, a 33-year-old communications company located in Falmouth.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, Strang Burgess is an active and outspoken advocate for cancer awareness and prevention. She is the past President of the Maine Cancer Foundation and helped create the successful Maine pink ribbon specialty license plate program in 2008. She has completed 14 triathlons and has the great honor of being the last finisher at the annual Maine Tri for a Cure triathlon every July, the largest single-day fundraiser in Maine.
In addition, Strang Burgess has served in the Maine State House of Representatives and is a dedicated leader and volunteer for numerous organizations, including the Maine Development Foundation, the University of Maine, Hebron Academy, and the Maine Historical Society. She has also served on the boards of the Maine Cancer Consortium, the Maine Public Health Association, and the Portland Ronald McDonald House.
Honors Convocation Speaker
Danielle Marquis ’99
Co-Owner of Higgins & Bolduc
Danielle Marquis graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration from Thomas College in 1999 and co-owns and operates Higgins & Bolduc Insurance in Oakland, Maine, with her husband and fellow Thomas graduate Matthew Marquis ‘00. Danielle began working in the insurance industry in 1997 at The Boothby & Bartlett Agency in Waterville. In addition to heading Higgins & Bolduc, an agency with family roots, she is a member of the Maine Independent Agents Association (MIAA) Board of Directors. She joined the Thomas College Board of Trustees in 2018 and has been an active volunteer on committees of the Board as well as the College’s Guarantee the Future Campaign Committee and the Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice. Danielle lives in Sidney on Messalonskee Lake with Matt and their son Mitchell.
Honorary Degree Recipient
H. Allen Ryan H’08
H. Allen Ryan will be recognized with a posthumous and honorary Doctor of Science in Business Administration degree at Thomas College’s 127th Commencement ceremonies. This recognition marks the first time in Thomas history that an individual will be awarded a second honorary degree.
Thomas College trustee Howard “Allen” Ryan, of Manchester, ME, passed away on September 21, 2019, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Allen graduated from Bowdoin College in 1964, and soon thereafter, moved to Maine permanently to fulfill his dream of working and raising a family here. He founded NorthCenter-Performance Foodservice Corporation in Augusta and cited his employees and the people around him as key to his success.
He often noted that while he was an incredibly proud Bowdoin alumnus, he came to love Thomas College because its graduates helped him to grow his company. As a lifelong learner and dedicated volunteer, he took great interest and pride in serving on the boards of both institutions, beginning his service at Thomas College in 1994. As a trustee, he was known for his wit, wisdom, and leadership, and was a tireless champion for growing the institution. He was instrumental in the growth of alumni relations efforts at the College, noting how important Thomas College graduates are to its spirit and longevity. One of the most special days of the year for Allen was Commencement and the opportunity to witness students realizing their educational dreams.
Together with his wife Dianne, the Ryans’ generosity led to the naming of the H. Allen Ryan Baseball Field, the H. Allen and Dianne Ryan Field House inside the Harold Alfond Athletic Center, and the H. Allen Ryan School of Business. Through their endowed scholarship fund, they have helped students attend and graduate from Thomas more affordably – and will continue to support them in perpetuity.
Honorary Degree Recipients
Charlie and Nancy Shuman
Charlie Shuman will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science in Business Administration degree and Nancy Shuman will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at this year’s Commencement ceremonies, in recognition of their work and dedication to growing and supporting the Central Maine business and philanthropic communities.
Former Thomas College trustee Charlie Shuman began his career at Henley-Kimball Company, a Portland auto dealer, where he rose to the position of Parts Manager. He then moved to American Motors Corporation, where he worked for 17 years before going into business for himself. He developed a passion for auto sales while gathering insights about running a dealership. This knowledge, combined with his penchant for mechanics, helped him launch his own venture when the opportunity presented itself in 1986. What started out as a modest dealership with 17 staff members is now Charlie’s Family of Dealerships, based in Augusta, ME, with nine stores, three corporations, and 250 employees.
Charlie and his wife Nancy have a simple philosophy about giving back to the central Maine community: “If the community is good to us, we will be good to the community.” Together, they have volunteered and contributed to numerous charities throughout central Maine, including MaineGeneral, the Kennebec Valley Humane Society, the Kennebec Valley United Way, and many more. Nancy is known throughout the region for her kind and generous spirit, as well as her hands-on approach to helping people who are less fortunate and animals in need.
Charlie served as a Thomas College trustee from 2001 to 2009.
Honorary Degree Recipient
John Fallona will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science in Business Administration degree in recognition of his leadership in growing the Central Maine business environment and economy.
Fallona gained his strong work ethic while working at a sandwich shop and balancing work, school, and sports. With degrees in Industrial Electricity and Business, Fallona advanced in his career from a Dispatcher at Central Maine Power in 1964 to managing the ice storm of 1998 as Vice President of Operations to his retirement after 40 years in 2004. Upon his retirement, Fallona purchased On Target Utility Services and grew the business from 30 to 300 employees, selling the business in 2018.
Fallona is a community leader in Maine’s Kennebec Valley region, having volunteered and supported organizations including Augusta youth sports and the Capitol Area Recreation Association, the Kennebec Valley YMCA, St. Mary’s School, the Boys and Girls Club, the Augusta Food Bank, and the United Way of Kennebec Valley. Currently a resident of Scarborough, ME, he previously lived in Augusta.
Honorary Degree Recipient
Peter Prescott will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science in Business Administration degree, in recognition of his commitment to growing and supporting the business environment in Central Maine and beyond.
Prescott is the owner of E.J. Prescott in Gardiner, ME, which has provided products and services to the water industry for more than 60 years. The company has locations in nine states and employs 300 people nationwide – 100 of those in Maine. In addition, he has started or acquired additional companies, including Team P.E.P. Transportation and Team Red Hed Manufacturing and Supply.
Peter and his wife Sandra have called the Gardiner, ME, area home for most of their lives. They have provided ongoing leadership support for the United Way of Kennebec Valley, the Gardiner Boys and Girls Club, the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, the Maine Community College System, the Kennebec Valley YMCA, and many other organizations. The family’s love of skating and hockey was instrumental in their rebuilding the Kennebec Ice Arena.