USM Community Remembers Two Remarkable Graduates

On Friday, April 19th, the University of Southern Maine (USM) community marked the twentieth anniversary of the death of Sgt. Christopher Gelineau ’04. The day began with a “Husky Ruck,” a four-mile walk around Portland’s Back Cove hosted by USM’s Military-Affiliated Student Hub (M.A.S.H.) and Wellness Committee to honor the community’s fallen heroes. 

Chris Gelineau was a student at USM and a soldier in the Maine Army National Guard. He was just 23 when he was killed on April 20, 2004, while serving in Iraq with the 133rd Engineering Battalion.

Chris had nearly completed his degree at USM when his unit was called up to serve in Iraq. His wife, Lavinia Gelineau ’04, accepted both his diploma and her own at USM’s 2004 Commencement, two weeks after Chris’s death. 

Lavinia, an international student from Romania, was fluent in four languages and graduated Magna Cum Laude in English and Business. In 2005, the final year of her life, Lavinia was thrilled to become a citizen of the United States and was focused on a career as a French teacher. Her loss, and that of her husband, Chris, deprived the Maine community of two promising and principled young people. 

A Scholarship in Memory of Chris and Lavinia Gelineau

Friday’s Husky Ruck was followed by a luncheon, where the USM Foundation announced the establishment of the Christopher ’04 and Lavinia ’04 Gelineau Memorial Scholarship at the University of Southern Maine.

In the words of USM Foundation President and CEO Ainsley Wallace, “With this scholarship, we are recognizing the contributions of two remarkable people, whose brief but meaningful lives were guided by academic excellence and unselfish commitment to country and community.” 

Each year, two undergraduate scholarships will be awarded. One will go to a student majoring in Cyber Security or Information Technology, the areas Chris focused on during his years at USM. The second scholarship will be awarded to a student majoring in English or a foreign language, recognizing Lavinia’s academic interests. 

Wallace noted the efforts of Neal Allen, a long-time friend of USM and the former Executive Director of Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG). Neal met the couple when Lavinia was hired as a USM intern at CPOG. Allen later worked with John Gelineau, Chris’s father, and the USM Foundation to establish the scholarship. To date, three students have been awarded scholarships through the University’s scholarship selection process. 

Allen is the author of a newly published book about the couple titled,  If You Love Someone, You Must Tell Them. The title reflects a guiding principle that Lavinia often espoused. Allen said that in writing the book, he “was motivated by a desire that their legacy of love and service be always remembered.” He added, “My intention is that book sales will help to increase and sustain the Gelineau Memorial Scholarship Fund to benefit future generations of deserving students.”

What is a “Memorial Husky Ruck”?

Explaining the tradition of a Husky Ruck, Katherine Reynolds of USM M.A.S.H. said, “A ruck has two meanings. It’s both a backpack or rucksack filled with however much weight you are comfortable with, and it’s the act of strapping on that weighted ruck and walking, hiking, or running.”

This year, USM’s M.A.S.H. partnered with The Summit Project (TSP) to carry a stone memorializing Chris Gelineau ’04. He is remembered as a kind and steady presence on campus, with a quiet style of leadership that set an example for his fellow orientation leaders. 

Direct contributions to the Gelineau Memorial Scholarship can be made here.If You Love Someone, You Must Tell Them, by Neal Allen, is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

On Friday, April 19, the community gathered in front of the McGoldrick Center on USM’s Portland campus before setting out on a Memorial Ruck around Back Cove, to honor a fallen hero, Sgt. Chris Gelineau ’04, who died while serving in Iraq 20 years ago.