It’s a Small World
You never know when or where you’ll run into an MMA alum. For Dr. Paul Wlodkowski, MMA Professor of Engineering, it was Commencement Day in the emergency room at Maine General Medical Center in Augusta.
Wlodkowski was on his way to campus when he got a text from his sister reporting that their father, John, had been hospitalized. She assured him things were okay. She told Wlodkowski to stay at commencement since he was part of the awards ceremony and to head to Augusta afterward.
Dr. Paul Wlodkowski and Dr. Stephen Clark
“My thoughts were all over the place,” recalled Wlodkowski. “I was worried about my dad but tried to stay in the moment.”
As faculty were lining up in their regalia, Wlodkowski saw Dr. Alaina (Hanlon) Adams ’03, a student from twenty years ago who is now an MMA trustee. “Seeing her reminded me how time has flown by. Her classmate, Stephen Clark ’04, came to mind, and I wished I knew where he ended up, though I recalled he went into medicine.”
As soon as commencement concluded, Wlodkowski headed to the hospital. Soon after he arrived in his father’s room, a surgeon walked in. He checked John over, asking a lot of questions. As Wlodkowski watched the doctor, he kept thinking he looked familiar. Then he saw his nametag: Stephen Clark, MD.
“Could it be,” he wondered, “my engineering student from twenty years ago?”
Wlodkowski asked, “Excuse me, Dr. Clark. Would you by chance have graduated from Maine Maritime Academy?” Dr. Clark looked at Wlodkowski and gave him a big bear hug. “Professor Wlodkowski!” he exclaimed. “When I saw ‘Wlodkowski,’ on the chart, I wondered if it could be the same family.” It was a happy reunion, made better by John not needing surgery.
For Wlodkowski, the serendipity of meeting his former engineering student on the same day he wondered about his whereabouts leaves him shaking his head. But he sees this engineer-turned-surgeon story as an example of what is special about MMA.
“We talk about our campus, our laboratories, the ship, not just as classrooms,” said Wlodkowski, “but as platforms that prepare students for absolutely anything. Dr. Clark is a perfect example. Students come here and they can go and do absolutely anything. This is a specialized place, but that doesn’t mean a graduate can’t become an orthopedic surgeon, or a professor of engineering, or an admiralty attorney, or anything else. That’s truly what makes this a wonderful institution place.”