Countless studies quantify the dollar value of a university degree to individuals and to the communities and states in which they live.

There are no more compelling advocates for the value of a university degree, however, than those people who have received a diploma and are making a difference in their businesses and in their communities.

This point was driven home for me just last week when I viewed the final versions of new TV and Internet ads that showcase alumni of the University of Southern Maine.

In one spot, Kevin McCarthy, CEO of Unum US, notes that he “got his start in business right here at USM.” McCarthy graduated from the USM School of Business in 1978.

In another spot, Kate Cheney Chappell, an artist and cofounder of Tom’s of Maine, tells us that she decided to complete her degree at USM in 1983, a decision that helped her in business and in her work as an artist.

At the 2011 USM Husky Hall of Fame induction ceremony this fall, Athletic Director Al Bean, a USM graduate in 1977 and 1992, presented a special award to Hannaford for its support of the university.

Heather Paquette, vice president of retail operations for Hannaford Supermarkets, was there to accept the award. She proudly identified herself as a 1999 graduate of the USM School of Business, noting that Hannaford “will continue to invest in USM, because USM has provided Hannaford with some of the best talent in our organization.”

Last spring, Sgt. Jonathan Shapiro, class of 2010, of the Maine State Police was recognized at an awards ceremony at the Blaine House for his “extraordinary efforts and impressive leadership” in development of more effective police responses to incidents involving juveniles in crisis. Shapiro has been recognized nationally for his work, which began as a capstone project as part of his master’s in leadership and organizational studies at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College.

John Chandler, CPA and 1983 graduate of the School of Business, will be elected chair of the USM Foundation in November. He began his public accounting career in 1987 with BerryDunn, northern New England’s largest independent certified public accounting and management consulting firm. Chandler now serves as its president and managing principal.

Katherine Lee Freund, a 1992 Muskie School of Public Service graduate, made a difference in the lives of thousands of senior citizens when she founded the Independent Transportation Network, which provides safe, affordable personal transportation to seniors and the visually impaired. She currently serves as president and executive director of ITN America.

How many of us follow the career of Pat Gallant-Charette, a 1993 School of Nursing graduate and native of Westbrook, who in August became the oldest American woman to successfully swim the English Channel?

A grandmother of two, and marathon swimmer, Gallant-Charette also holds the record for the fastest swim of the Strait of Gibraltar for a woman over 50 – 3 hours and 28 minutes.

Alec Sabina, a 2006 School of Business graduate, is co-founder and owner (along with his brother, Moses) of a popular Portland restaurant, Hot Suppa! For six months, Sabina juggled the responsibilities of a business owner and student. All of his hard work has paid off. Hot Suppa! is now a Portland favorite, serving up to 100 people every day.

David Shaw, a 1976 School of Business graduate, founded and retired as CEO of Idexx Laboratories, and currently serves as managing general partner of Black Point Group.

Shaw has recently served on the faculty of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, leading programs in corporate governance and business social responsibility, while also serving on the advisory board of the Center for Public Leadership.

Rick Vail, class of 1977, has served as president and CEO of Mechanics Savings Bank in Auburn since 2006. He serves on the USM Foundation Board, assuming the role of vice chair in November, and on the Community Advisory Board of USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College.

Vail’s wife, Phyllis, a Maine educator, is another USM graduate, class of 1976.

I have often said that it is USM’s obligation as a public, comprehensive university to deliver on the promise of equipping students with the knowledge and skills to cultivate productive and fulfilling lives after graduation.

The alumni I have highlighted and thousands of other Maine citizens with degrees from USM attest that we are doing our job.

With your support and advocacy, this university will continue to look for new, more effective and relevant ways to deliver on that promise.

Selma Botman is president of the University of Southern Maine. She can be reached at: [email protected]