Some know him as a professor at University of Maine at Machias, but Rick Scribner is much more than an educator. Rick came to Machias looking to gain experience and further his professional career. To say he has stories is an understatement, for Rick has surely taken advantage of the concept of living life to the fullest. Now with nearly forty years under his belt at UMM, Rick Scribner is looking forward as always.
Rick grew up in Lee. “Scrib” or “Scribby” as he is affectionately known to students says that is where he got his true education. His father taught him to hunt, fish, and most importantly, a work ethic. His mother taught him about social skills and philanthropy. He can’t stress enough the opportunities and he received from his upbringing and nurturing his connection to nature.
When still young, he helped to survey, cut trails, and work on the first ski patrol at what is now Mt. Jefferson in Lee. Being at the beginning of projects like this became a theme in Rick’s life. In Lee, he was allowed to roam the woods with friends. He was taught responsibility through tending family horses, and he learned that helping neighbors was important and to never expect payment from someone in need. At one time he considered himself the best ditch digger in Lee.
These strong ethics and skills carried him into college where he met and married his wife Annalee. Upon graduating from Orono in 1971, Rick decided to buy a saw and go back to work in the woods. He worked hard days and lived in a trailer with his wife in Milford.
“Then one day I was in the middle of a cut and had a moment, a life altering moment where I thought to myself ‘What am I doing? I just spent all this time in school and I’m out here cutting wood.’ So I told the foreman I just couldn’t do this anymore, it was nothing to do with him or the company, I just couldn’t risk getting hurt out there. So I sold my saw on the spot, and I was done.”
“Next I got a job at Old Town Canoe, I was working in the shop sanding the fiberglass boats, and I loved it, but after the first week the fiberglass was tearing my skin up; my complexion could not handle it. So I went to Lou Gillman and explained to him what was going on and he told me not to worry, to take a week and heal up then come back.”
This is Scrib’s next opportunity to work on something at the ground level. Gillman moved Scrib to a new department.
“He sent me up to the floor where they were just beginning to build boats out of royalex material. I absolutely loved it, and over the years made great friends with Lou Gillman and others.”
During this time, Rick’s first son Rob was born. Rick also worked for the Veazie recreation department where he set up several outdoor recreation programs. It was also during this time that Rick developed his passion for canoeing.
“I had severely bruised my collar bone skiing, so I was doing lift duties and during this time I really got into reading. I read Thoreau in the Maine woods and was looking out over the area where thoreau lived the experience. Not long after I got really into canoeing, learned the techniques of the Jalbert family-using setting poles and different paddle strokes, then we went uup and did the Allagash...I would later base the whole St. John trip at UMM on this experience.”
After a few years in Greenville, Scribner moved his wife and two boys to Machias to work as a recreation instructor and basketball coach at UMM. He adds that he never ended up coaching ball, because there were too many other things to do when he got here.
“I didn’t think we would stay, we had come to just gain experience professionally. But Machias grew on us. It was never dull here, there is always something to do. So I took some time, got my masters and my family and I settled down here.”
Rick has created 20-25 classes in his time at UMM, the longest running being a ten day Canoe Trip on the St. John River that save few occasions has run every year since 1978. As a professor here, his contribution is clearly immense. Scrib talks about the sense of community and family that the university and town that were major in his decision to say. In this time he has raised his family, lost his first wife to illness, shaped many young minds to the ideals of the recreation movement, and became somewhat of an authority on the battle of the Margaretta.
“I liked the schools, I like small town living, the fact that it’s a sportsman’s paradise, and the tight knit UMM community, so we stayed.”
His son Rob also stayed in Machias after graduating college, opening a guide service: Sunrise Canoe and Kayak. Rick muses that he is hired by Rob when they need an old storyteller on the trip. They live next door to one another.
Coming up on 40 years at the University, Rick doesn’t show many signs of slowing down. In 2012 he began making his house energy efficient with the Efficiency Maine program. The idea being that he will get his house off grid. In January he takes a sabbatical from UMM to write the history of the recreation management program.
He also remarried to Jo-Ellen (Harvey) Scribner. Of this he says:
“I’ve been really fortunate to have found her and to have had two women in my life who I truly love.”