Steve Legge, communications director at St. Johnsbury Academy, was photographing a student signing a letter of intent to run cross country at the University of Maine when a revelation hit him.
Legge attended UMaine between 1982 and 1985, graduating after his junior year with a GPA “just under 2”. He loved UMaine but admits he “didn’t have any real goals when he was [he] arrived and no real reason to stay.”
Almost four decades had passed since he left UMaine, and yet upon seeing this future black bear and his family in UMaine gear, he said he felt something like “homesickness” or “nostalgia.”
“Whatever it was, I went back to my office and emailed Maine to ask about reapplying,” Legge said.
Now, at nearly 58, Legge is back in UMaine — albeit remotely — and will graduate almost 40 years after he first started.
After leaving UMaine in the mid ’80s, Legge took on various odd jobs. He cut Christmas trees, drove trucks, worked as a bartender and ran a convenience store. In 1991 he devoted himself to photography for the weekly Lyndon Independent.
Legge’s photographic work gained momentum and he soon began shooting for better known news outlets, including the Associated Press. He started his own photo lab and freelanced wedding photos and portraits for high school seniors. In August 2016, he finally landed at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont, an independent high school with day and boarding students, where he still serves as communications director. Coincidentally, three of his colleagues there are UMaine grads, one of whom was on campus at the same time as Legge in the ’80s.
Legge said that even before that fateful day, when he photographed the UMaine cross-country recruit, he had a nagging sense of unfinished business when it came to his education, even after earning an associate’s degree in graphic design. He considered completing his bachelor’s degree at Northern Vermont University-Lyndon, next door to where he lives, or at Southern New Hampshire University, but decided against it because his UMaine credits were non-transferrable and the cost became prohibitive.
Turns out he had to go back to the source. When Legge reached out to the UMaine Division of Lifelong Learning (DLL), they set up a Zoom call with Bachelor of University Studies director Barbara Howard, who worked with him to ensure he got as many of his past credits as possible could use .
“Most of the courses I took so long ago now have new numbers, and she had to go through and convert everything to make sure I had everything I needed,” says Legge. “Everyone was super helpful. It just made it so much better to come back to Maine.”
DLL also helped Legge figure out how to complete his UMaine degree from his home in Vermont. Legge says he misses being in a classroom, but as a working adult, the online option is perfect for him — although it’s a big change from his experiences in the ’80s before personal computers, not to mention by the Internet .
After re-enrolling, Legge required four courses to earn a degree in University Studies, a program that allowed him to utilize his wide range of credits, from his associate in graphic design to his various courses at UMaine. He is currently taking his core course in University Studies and looks forward to completing the capstone of his major in the spring.
“For the capstone of university studies, we need to identify eight classes that will form the basis of our theme,” says Legge. “For me, that includes courses from my associate degree in graphic design and the ones I took at UMaine in the ’80s — some social studies, military science (believe it or not), and English. I look forward to the challenge.”
This time, too, Legge gets much better grades – “so far straight A’s”.
“The perspective of old age is enormous,” says Legge. “My study habits are much better. I don’t have the radio on, I don’t watch TV. It’s a lot easier the second time. You have to manage your time better, but I still enjoyed it.”
Contact: Sam Schipani, email@example.com