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Updated: July 8, 2024

USM dedicates courtyard to former president Cummings

At USM, a group of people stand in a courtyard. COURTESY / USM The courtyard is a half-acre, semi-enclosed space adjacent to the McGoldrick Center and the new Portland Commons Residence Hall. 

On June 21, hundreds of people — including University of Southern Maine staff and faculty, former students, friends and neighbors, USM colleagues from the Maine Legislature, and guests such as U.S. Sen. Angus King — gathered to cut the ribbon and dedicate the new Dr. Glenn A. Cummings Courtyard, named after USM’s 13th president.

Glenn Cummings shakes hands with a person in a seated crowd.
Glenn Cummings, the namesake of a USM courtyard, greets well-wishers during the courtyard’s dedication.

The courtyard is a half-acre, semi-enclosed space accessible from the Bean Green in front of the McGoldrick Center for Career & Student Success. Adjacent to the McGoldrick Center and the new Portland Commons Residence Hall, the courtyard can serve as a gathering spot for the nearly 600 students who live in the residence hall, USM’s first on the Portland campus. 

“It is one of the greatest professional honors of my life to be recognized by the university that means so much to my family and that plays such a powerful role in our state,” said Cummings. “My grandmother graduated from what is now USM in 1928 and my son in 2018.  I thank the USM community for the honor of serving as a professor and leader in a place that will forever sit at the center of my heart.”

Cummings took the helm at USM in 2015. He stepped down in June 2022, leaving a legacy of campus transformation and environmental sustainability, according to a news release.

The courtyard sits at the heart of a number of projects that Cummings initiated: the new McGoldrick Center for Career & Student Success; the Portland Commons Residence Hall; the Bean Green campus quad; and Crewe Center for the Arts, slated to open in fall 2025.

“Glenn understood that great communities like ours are anchored by great universities,” said his successor, Jacqueline Edmondson. “He set that vision for USM in motion, and it is still unfolding before our eyes. This courtyard represents one piece of the largest campus development project in USM’s history.”

Cummings began his academic career in Gorham as a high school history teacher and department head. He served as a faculty member at Southern Maine Community College and was a long-serving member of the USM faculty. 

In 2010, he took over as president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley, a 121-year-old school for high school youth located on a 2,400-acre campus in Hinckley. During his tenure, the organization used a $10.5 million philanthropic contribution from the Harold Alfond Foundation to create the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, the first charter school in Maine history. 

Before becoming USM’s 13th president in 2015, Cummings served as interim president of the University of Maine at Augusta. 

His career in public service includes serving in the Maine House of Representatives, where he was Speaker of the House and Majority Leader, among other leadership roles.

He later served President Barack Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary within the U.S. Department of Education. 

“The dedication of the Dr. Glenn A. Cummings Courtyard marks a significant milestone in the evolution of the University of Southern Maine’s campus, and makes a clear statement: USM is a community and place for ideas and people to come together,” said King. 

Other speakers included recent USM graduate, Joshua Mutshaila ’24, who shared his experience as a Promise Scholar. Cummings was instrumental in creating USM’s Promise Scholarship program, which aims to widen access to higher education for disadvantaged, first-generation Maine students and enable them to graduate with little or no debt. 

The event included remarks by George Smith, founder and president emeritus of the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, and Cummings’ daughter and son, Skylar and Kiernan ‘22, who introduced their father.

The ceremony included a performance by USM’s Osher School of Music students, followed by a speaking program.

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