Pulitzer-winning Maine author Elizabeth Strout was the keynote speaker and received an honorary degree at the University of Maine at Farmington’s 2019 Commencement ceremony. Graduating senior Jonas Maines from Portland, Maine, a Performing Arts major, gave the student address.

Born in Portland, Maine, and raised in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire, Elizabeth Strout was drawn to writing at a young age. Her early experiences provided a rich backdrop for her love of natural surroundings and her insight into the people who lived there.

Elizabeth Strout

Her work has garnered critical acclaim for its “distinctly New England” stories and powerful characterizations. “Olive Kitteridge,” winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, was lauded by the judges for packing, “a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating.”

In addition to the Pulitzer, Strout is the author of “Anything Is Possible,” her most recent book and winner of The Story Prize; “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; “The Burgess Boys,” named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and NPR; “Abide with Me,” a national bestseller; and “Amy and Isabelle,” winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize.

Strout has also been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the International Dublin Literary Award, and the Orange Prize. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. Elizabeth Strout lives in New York City.

Student speaker Jonas Maines of Portland, Maine

Graduating senior Jonas Maines from Portland, Maine gave the student address. A Performing Arts major, Maines has taken advantage of numerous opportunities to perform, direct and write during his four years at UMF.

Jonas Maines

He has performed in five of the University’s main stage productions, including the leading role in a production of Hamlet. Maines has also participated in the Theater department’s student directed One-Act Plays Festival and the Festival of New Plays that features original works written, produced, directed and performed by UMF Theatre students.

Jonas Maines is the president of the UMF chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, a national theater honor society, and is a member of Theatre UMF, the on-campus student theater organization. He has also been a long-time member of the Lawn Chair Pirates, the UMF student improvisation group, which he credits with helping him to become a more confident performer.

Maines received the Spirit of Matthew Shepherd Award in 2015. After graduation, he plans to move to Austin, Texas, where he will be involved with Hyde Park Theatre and pursuing a career in theater.


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