May 07, 2021

UMM’s Donna Martin has taken the non-traditional route to success

By most measures, Donna Martin is a typical successful student.

At the University of Maine at Machias, she has a 3.75 grade point average, numerous extra-curricular interests, the energy to pursue a double major, a prestigious scholarship in her portfolio, and a law school in her future.

There the “typical” description ends. Martin is also 38 years old, a mother and wife, a businesswoman, and a runner and horseback rider when time permits.

A junior at UMM, Martin has been named one of two 1994 winners of the Maine Prize Scholarship, a prestigious honor. The Maine Prize is a $2,500 award for two years given to an exemplary student in the University of Maine System when a Maine Prize recipient is selected by the UMS Board of Trustees.

That happens every three to five years. The first Maine Prize went to Victor and Vincent McCusick, twin brothers who are, respectively, a renowned geneticist and the former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Martin grew up in coastal Massachusetts and spent two years in music school before succumbing to youthful wanderlust. She became a tour guide in Europe before coming home to run a fish market in Marblehead for nine years. “I cut fish,” she says with a smile, “many, many pounds of fish.”

A resident of Jonesboro for six years, Martin has started a successful wreath business, raised blueberries, and served as a state humane agent investigating cases of cruelty to animals in Washington County.

Three years ago, she decided to go back to school. She chose UMM because it was close by and selected Environmental Studies as her major. Dr. Alvin Bowker, a Professor of English who encouraged her to add English as a second major, nominated her for the Maine Prize award. He says, “Donna is scholarly, creative, really very talented, and contributes to the whole UMM experience.”

Martin has expanded her horizons beyond earning a bachelor’s degree. She aspires to a career as an environmental lawyer and plans to attend the University of Maine Law School after graduation.

She says of her years at UMM, “I can’t believe I’m so fortunate. This college is a gem. There are truly talented, extraordinary professors here.”

Martin’s success is noteworthy, but her status as a non-traditional student is almost the norm.

In the 1994-95 student body at UMM, 43 percent of all students are 25 or older, a measure for judging the non-traditional. These students range up to 76 years old, and some live in residence halls with their traditionally aged peers.

Martin, whose grades in college outstrip her marks in high school, says that makes sense: “I’m much more focused now,” she says.

The University of Maine System trustees presented Martin with her award this fall at a special ceremony in Orono.

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