UNE celebrates outstanding Maine women of achievement at Deborah Morton Awards Convocation

September 05, 2012

The University of New England celebrated a long-held tradition of honoring outstanding Maine women of achievement at the 51st Annual Deborah Morton Convocation and Awards Ceremony held Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at the Eleanor DeWolfe Ludcke '26 Auditorium on the Portland Campus.

The Deborah Morton award, first presented in 1961, was the first annual award in Maine to honor women's achievements, specifically those who have achieved high distinction in their careers and public service or whose leadership in civic, cultural or social causes has been exceptional. 

This year's event paid tribute to four new inductees: Susan A. Carlisle, Donna Lee Litchfield Cheney, Chief Brenda Commander and Wendy J. Wolf, M.D., MPH.

The event has honored more than 180 Maine women in the past 51 years including Margaret Chase Smith, May Sarton, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Dahlov Ipcar and former Maine First Lady Mary Herman.

Scholarship Recipients

This year's Deborah Morton Scholarship recipients are UNE students Jennifer E. Goodell and Nicole M. Herrick of UNE's Dental Hygiene Class of 2013.

Award History

The award was named in memory of Deborah Morton of Round Pond, Maine, valedictorian of the 1879 class of the Westbrook Seminary - the forerunner of Westbrook College which merged with the University of New England in 1996. Morton was a teacher, dean, linguist, historian and prominent Portland civic leader whose service to Westbrook College spanned more than 60 years.

The Deborah Morton Society's support of the Deborah Morton Scholarship is one of the most important aspects of the society. The committee strives to serve as role models to young women, and recognizes its ability to encourage aspirations through scholarships which recognize achievements and provide essential financial aid.

For more information about the Deborah Morton Society, view the website.

2012 recipients

Susan A. Carlisle

For more than 35 years, Susan A. Carlisle has been actively involved in many nonprofit organizations in the Bangor area. Soon after her arrival in Maine's Queen City, she began volunteering with organizations including the Junior League, Cub Scouts, Odyssey of the Mind and Children's International Summer Villages. Professionally, she once served as a fundraising coordinator for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra Annual Fund Drive; and, after graduation from Brown University, she worked as an editor for a small educational publishing company in Cambridge, Massachusetts and for a small independent advertising firm outside of Boston.

Most of her volunteer work has focused on children and education. As a founding board member of the Maine Discovery Museum - a hands-on children's museum in downtown Bangor - she chaired the successful $4.5 million capital campaign from 1998-2001 that led to its establishment. She has continued her service to the museum, chairing their annual benefit auctions since 2003, raising funds for scholarships and crucial operating support. Among her other community volunteer efforts, she served for 15 years as a member of the Bangor School Committee and the United Technologies Center, and for more than 20 years in the Bangor Junior League in various capacities, including the eventual dissolution process which resulted in the transfer of its $100,000 endowment to the Maine Community Foundation as seed money for the startup of the Foundation's Penobscot County Fund.  She remains involved with the Maine Community Foundation as a volunteer grant reader for the Maine Charity Fund and for the Penobscot County Fund.

For the past six years, she has been a member of the City of Bangor‚ Äôs Commission on Cultural Development. She currently serves as a trustee of Husson University, and as a corporator at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.

In 2006, she was recognized with WLBZ-TV's "2 Those Who Care" Award, and in 2001 received the International Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow Award.

Donna Lee Litchfield Cheney '62

Donna Lee Litchfield Cheney is the former chair and vice chair of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. During her tenure from 1992-2008, she served three terms as chair from 2001-2005 and again from 2006-2008. Her visionary leadership was key in providing the foundation for the laboratory to build its new 60,000 square foot, world class facility in East Boothbay.

She was instrumental in the purchase of 64 acres in East Boothbay as well as the establishment of the zoning contract with the town. The end result is a substantial growth in its economic impact to the region and the state of Maine. By 2015, once the laboratory is fully up and running, it will provide an economic impact of $17.5 million per year equating to 223 full and part-time jobs.

Prior to Bigelow Laboratories, she worked for a number of Boston-based companies and corporations in the computer industry, including Wang Laboratories and the Patricia Seybold Group, where she retired as President/Chief Operating Officer in 1998. She is past president of the Boothbay Shores Association and is a former member of the Falmouth Workforce Association Committee and Falmouth Shellfish Committee.

She is a 1962 graduate of Westbrook Junior College (which later merged with UNE in 1996). Since that time, she has been actively involved with the college, having served as a member and former president of the Westbrook College Alumni Association, as well as a trustee of Westbrook College and UNE. In 1997, she received UNE's Tower Award for Alumni Achievement.

She lives in Falmouth where she enjoys boating, traveling and photography, and is an avid fly fisherwoman, holding a record for the largest Atlantic salmon caught by a woman in the St. Paul River, Quebec.

Chief Brenda Commander

Elected in 1997 as the first women chief in the history of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Brenda Commander continues to serve as Tribal Chief, now in her second term. In her role, she is responsible for overseeing the entire operations and functions of the Maliseet Tribal government.

Along with the support of the Tribal Council, she has testified before the Maine legislature on a multitude of issues. Among her highest priority is advocating for the rights of Native children and their families within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, including resolving differences with DHHS regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Prior to 1997, she served for 10 years as the Band‚ Äôs finance director, ensuring that Tribal funds were fairly and equitably distributed. In total, she has worked for the Tribe for the past 30 years.

She has also been active in promoting prevention related to domestic violence and sexual assault within her community. Under her leadership, the Tribe received funding in 1998 to develop the Maliseet Domestic Violence Program, which led to the opening of an emergency shelter in 2009. Another major accomplishment is the Tribal State Indian Child Welfare Agreement, which mandates greater Tribal authority in cases regarding child welfare.

She has been recognized by the American Association of University Women of Maine with the "Women in Government" Award, and with the International Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow Award. Earlier this year, Maine Governor Paul LePage appointed her to the "Permanent Commission of the Status of Women." A graduate of Husson College (now Husson University), she is also a member of Maine Development Foundation's Leadership Maine Sigma Class.

Wendy J. Wolf, MD, MPH

Dr. Wendy Wolf is the founding president and CEO of the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) - Maine's largest health philanthropy dedicated to promoting access to quality health care.

Since its formation in 2000, the leadership and vision provided by Dr. Wolf and the foundation's Board and staff have guided MeHAF's development into a highly respected, nonpartisan, mission-driven strategic philanthropic leader. In its first decade, the foundation awarded $44 million to advance public policy and programs such as expanding Maine's community health centers, transforming care delivery through the improved integration of primary and behavioral health care, and spearheading the development of the nation's most comprehensive statewide health information exchange. 

Dr. Wolf has worked at the federal Department of Health and Human Services as a Senior Advisor to the Administrators of the Health Resources and Services Administration as well as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Her policy work was recognized with the Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala's Award for Distinguished Service.

Dr. Wolf earned her M.D. degree from the Ohio State College of Medicine, and then pursued her general pediatric and pediatric cardiology subspecialty training at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. She served for 20 years as a professor of pediatrics and division director of Pediatric Cardiology in the University of Texas health center system. In 1998, she received a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. Over the course of her academic career, she has championed professional development for women faculty and served as a faculty member for the Association of American Medical Colleges national Women in Medicine Leadership Program.