Peter Hoff

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The University of Maine entered its second century of existence in February 1965, in the midst of a period known as “the sixties,” characterized by a cultural revolution, a robust civil rights movement, and a long war in Vietnam. These elements profoundly affected the nation, its people, and the University of Maine. So did the arrival of a large wave of students, the “baby boomers,” plus many for whom higher education had heretofore been out of reach. Three University of Maine presidents, Lloyd Elliott, H. Edwin Young, and Winthrop Libby, led the university through the sixties, addressing significant challenges and changes, which included student movements aimed at greater freedom in their campus life, participation in the civil rights movement, and controversy over the Vietnam War. Equally as important for the university as the changes wrought by these national movements was the effort in Maine to reorganize higher education through the creation of a university system. The university entered the decade as a stand-alone public land-grant university with its own governing board, plus statewide responsibilities in undergraduate and graduate education, basic and applied research, and extension and outreach to citizens, agriculturalists, and businesses. By the end of the decade, the University of Maine was still the state’s land-grant university with comprehensive statewide responsibilities. However, it had become “The University of Maine at Orono” (UMO), one of several units in a new statewide university system, named “The University of Maine,” and operated out of an office in Portland under the executive authority of a chancellor and a newly established board of trustees. Altogether, the impact of societal change, a new concept of the role and place of the student, and a new governance structure made the sixties not only a transitional decade for the university, but a genuinely transformational one, bringing new stature and advantages as well as difficult new circumstances to navigate. Peter S. Hoff, seventeenth president of the University of Maine (1997-2004) holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a masters and a PhD in English and Humanities from Stanford University. In addition to his many articles on British literature, teaching excellence, and higher education administration, he and colleague Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz co-authored Learning Matters: The Transformation of U.S. Higher Education (2013). He lives in Carrollton, Georgia, his native state, where his wife Dianne is Dean of the College of Education at the University of West Georgia.