UNE honors four prominent Maine women with Deborah Morton Awards

September 08, 2010

The University of New England honored four prominent Maine women on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at the 2010 Deborah Morton Awards Ceremony at the Eleanor DeWolfe Ludcke '26 Auditorium on the Portland Campus at 716 Stevens Ave.

This year's event recognized: Ruth Foster, former legislator and mayor of Ellsworth; Deborah Carey Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Eastern Maine Medical Center; Katherine Pope, M.D., anesthesiologist and champion  of hospice care; and Jean Wilkinson, a retired finance industry executive who in 1989 served as the first woman chair of UNE's Board of Trustees.

Award History

The Deborah Morton Awards are presented each year by the trustees of UNE to outstanding women who have achieved high distinction in their careers and public service or whose leadership in civic, cultural or social causes has been exceptional.

The Deborah Morton award, first presented in 1961 was the first annual award in Maine to honor women's achievements.  It 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.  Since 1961, more than 150 distinguished women have been honored with the award.

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.

Ruth Foster

Ruth Foster's strong ties to Maine date back to the 1700s, when her mother's family received an original land grant from the King of England.  The family's Burnham Tavern in Machias was a popular gathering place during the Revolutionary War and briefly was converted to a hospital where American and English casualties of the country's first naval battle were treated.

Following in the family tradition, her life has been devoted to family, public service, philanthropy and volunteerism.  She served as mayor of Ellsworth before being elected a member of both the State House of Representatives and Maine Senate. 

During her years in the legislature she was recognized for her efforts on behalf of families by the Family Planning Association of Maine and the Adolescent Pregnancy Coalition, and for her outstanding contribution to the founding and success of mediation in the courts by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.  She was named Legislator of the Year in 1988 by the Maine State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Conference.

As president of Ruth Foster Corporation, she operates a children's shop on Main Street in Ellsworth where she is active in community and downtown activities.  The Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce named her "Top Drawer" in recognition of her substantial contribution to the growth, development and improvement of her city, county and state.

Deborah Carey Johnson

Deborah Carey Johnson is president & chief executive officer of Eastern Maine Medical Center and also serves as senior vice president of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, the parent organization. 

As president, Johnson has overseen the transformation of care at EMMC with the widespread implementation of information technology and the development of centers of excellence for several specialty clinical services. 

With more than 30 years of progressive experience in hospital administration, she has a proven record of clinical, operational and financial success in a complex health care organization.   She began her career in health care as a staff nurse in critical care and went on to assume progressive administrative roles, becoming president in 2004.  She graduated from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, received a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of the State of New York, a master's degree in business from Husson College, and an honorary doctorate degree from Husson University. 

Johnson has been active in church, professional and civic organizations.  She has served on the Boards of Maine Network for Health, Public Health Advisory Board for the Greater Bangor Area, Maine Hospital Association, American Heart Association Penobscot Division, Bangor Rotary Club and the United Way of Eastern Maine.

She and her husband Steve have two children. 

Dr. Katherine Pope

Dr. Katherine Pope is an anesthesiologist with Spectrum Medical Group, a large multi-specialty private practice physician group serving several hospitals and health care facilities in Maine.  Dr. Pope currently practices primarily at Maine Medical Center.  She received her undergraduate degree in 1971 from Colby College with a major in English, her medical degree in 1985 from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, and her residency training in anesthesiology at Maine Medical Center. 

Although her professional training is in the field of anesthesiology, over her years of clinical practice she developed a realization of the pressing need for improved hospice and palliative care and increased access to end of life resources in Maine, and became committed to that cause 10 years ago.   She was a co-founder of Hospice of Southern Maine, now recognized as a leading hospice organization in the state and the largest nonprofit hospice program in southern Maine.

She has had a strong and long-standing interest in international medical service, and over the past 15 years has volunteered on a number of international medical mission trips to serve the indigent in developing countries, including Ecuador, China, Haiti, Vietnam and Mali.

Dr. Pope and her husband Chris Harte have three children.

Jean Wilkinson

Jean Wilkinson is a retired finance industry executive who presently serves on the boards of the Chewonki Foundation, North Yarmouth Academy, Maine Historical Society, Portland Conservatory of Music, Maine College of Art National Council, St. Mary's Episcopal Church Vestry and the Episcopal Diocese of Maine Funds.  She is a past board member of the Maine Humanities Council, Maine State Board of Environmental Protection, Portland Symphony Orchestra, Community Health Services, Portland Savings Bank (now TD Bank) and the AIDS Project. 

She also holds the distinction of being the first woman chairman of the University of New England Board of Trustees (1989-1995) and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (1991-1994). 

She received her bachelor's degree in economics from Wellesley College, and her master's degree in education from USM. She is also a graduate of the New England Trust School of Banking at Williams College and the Institute for Civic Leadership. 

She has four daughters and four grandchildren.  Her hobbies include art, reading, music, theater, antiques, finance and travel.  Her love of travel has taken her around the world and her favorite destinations have included Italy, Ireland and the "breath-taking beauty" of Nepal.

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