The University of Southern Maine will celebrate its 143rd Commencement on Saturday, May 6th with nearly 1,000 graduates scheduled to participate.
The event, scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, will feature comments from University President Jacqueline Edmondson, student speaker Nadine Bravo, and featured speaker Neil Genzlinger ‘77, a New York Times journalist and USM alumnus.
This will be the first USM commencement for Edmondson, who joined the University in July 2022.
“I extend my sincere congratulations to our students and their families and friends,” Edmondson said. “Earning a college degree is a significant accomplishment, one that has a lasting impact. I am proud of all of you, and I am sincerely impressed by the vision, talent, and hope you bring to the world. Please know the University of Southern Maine is always here for you, and we will be proud of your accomplishments well into the future.”
Neil Genzlinger will be honored with the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. This award recognizes an outstanding graduate of the University of Southern Maine, whose exceptional professional accomplishments bring honor to the University.
“It is quite special to me that Neil Genzlinger is our commencement speaker, and also that we are honoring him for his professional accomplishments,” Edmondson said. “I had the pleasure of meeting Neil in New York City in June of 2022, just after I was announced as USM’s next president. He has such an illustrious career with the New York Times, and yet he remains quite humble and committed to many things that mean a great deal to our students, including family, friends, and public education.”
Genzlinger, who moved to Cape Elizabeth as a middle schooler, enrolled at USM as a student in the mid-1970s and served on the school newspaper, The Free Press. After earning his bachelor’s degree in History in 1977, he worked for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel as its Franklin County bureau chief. He left four years later to earn a master’s degree in Journalism at Penn State. Following graduation, he went to the Hartford Courant and then the Washington Post before joining the New York Times in 1994. There, he worked as an editor on the National Desk, the Op-Ed Page, and the Culture Desk. An author and playwright, he now works as a feature obituary writer.
Nadine Bravo will give the student address. She is a mother of three, who has earned her Master of Education degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages while also pursuing a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning World Language (German and Spanish).
2023 Student Speaker Nadine Bravo has thrived while pushing herself an extraordinary pace. The single mother of three has earned her Master of Education degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages while also pursuing a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning World Language (German and Spanish). She has spent her recent semester student teaching at Saco’s Thornton Academy while also pursuing an online Native American Studies certificate program from Montana State University.
Prior to attending USM, Bravo worked at a local grocery store for nine years. She dreamed of going to graduate school but was too afraid to lose her children’s benefits and end up in debt. When she suffered a work injury that prevented her from working for two years, she knew it was her time. Her comeback also includes overcoming intergenerational trauma (having grown up in East Germany in the 1980s), suffering an additional life threatening injury and earning credit for previous schooling at Moscow State University and Martin Luther University in Halle, Germany.
She was named the 2022 Graduate Assistant of the Year at the University of Southern Maine.
Neil Genzlinger ’77 will be the commencement speaker and honored with the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. This award recognizes an outstanding graduate of the University of Southern Maine, whose exceptional professional accomplishments bring honor to the University. As Commencement speaker, Genzlinger will draw on his long and distinguished career in journalism and the arts, a journey that began while he was an undergraduate at USM.
Genzlinger is a former theater and television critic and current feature obituary writer at The New York Times. With thousands of bylines to his credit, his writing has appeared in Down East Magazine, Harper’s, Food & Wine, Smithsonian Magazine, and many other publications, in addition to The Times. In 2017, Genzlinger came to campus to lead an interactive discussion with students about his journalism career and the shifts that have occurred over four decades in the newspaper business.
Genzlinger is also a book author and a playwright with a fondness for offbeat humor. His plays have been performed at the New York International Fringe Festival and he is a three-time Moth Storytelling Champion.
As a student, Genzlinger gained his first newspaper experience editing the Free Press, the University’s college newspaper, which he considered great preparation for his future career. In 1977, he graduated with a degree in history from USM’s predecessor school, University of Maine Portland-Gorham, after being named Outstanding Senior Man, the University’s highest honor along with Outstanding Senior Woman. Genzlinger began his career at the Central Maine Morning Sentinel in Farmington. He later earned a master’s in journalism from Penn State University and went on to positions with the Hartford Courant and Washington Post, before joining The New York Times in 1994.
In 2000, while still a copy editor, Genzlinger began reviewing for The Times and later became a full-time television and culture critic, noted for discovering worthy TV shows, plays, and movies that were off the beaten track. He and his wife, Donna Genzlinger, are the proud parents of two daughters. Emily is a public defender in Louisiana and his frequent marathon running partner. His other daughter, Abby, has Rett Syndrome, which has led to his special interest in the world of disabilities.
In recent years, he has offered invaluable support to USM’s Great University Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in the University’s history. In fact, Genzlinger was the very first USM alum that Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson met as the new President of USM. Working with his longtime friend and classmate, alumnus and actor, Tony Shalhoub ’77, he has advanced efforts to build a new Center for the Arts on USM’s Portland campus. We are grateful for Neil’s contributions to this long-awaited signature project, and proud to call him our 2023 Commencement speaker and Distinguished Alumni Achievement Honoree.