Virginia Nees-Hatlen, a beloved member of the University of Maine community, died from illnesses on Oct. 11, 2020. She worked at UMaine from 1979 until she retired in 2014.
Before her time at UMaine Nees-Hatlen grew up right outside of Chicago with her parents and siblings. When she was older she chose to major in history at Denison University in Ohio, but changed her course and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at Webster College in Missouri. She earned her doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1980 and decided to move to Maine shortly thereafter.
Professor Nees-Hatlen held many positions at UMaine and enjoyed connecting with both students and faculty. She served two terms as associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, where she got to know Jeffery Hecker, who was the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences while she was the associate dean.
“Virginia was the consummate professional — soft spoken, polite and tough. She was passionate in her support of students and at the same time held them accountable for their decisions,” colleague Hecker said. “Given her quiet manner, people would sometimes underestimate her resolve and were caught off guard by her wicked sense of humor. One time she was chairing a college committee meeting and asked for a volunteer to take on a specific task. When no one responded, she quietly stood up, walked to the door, spread her arms and legs so that her small frame blocked the exit, smiled at the group and politely stated: ‘no one leaves until I have a volunteer.’ Everyone laughed and she got her volunteer.”
While working at UMaine, Nees-Hatlen was the coordinator for college composition and was a course coordinator for undergraduates in the English Department. After this she worked as the director of the center for teaching excellence, and in the division of lifelong learning both as the director of the advising center and as the associate dean. She also devoted time to the Maine Council of English and Language Arts, which is a statewide organization that supports English teachers from the kindergarten to college level. Not only did she serve as president of this organization, but she wrote and edited a newsletter and journal while chairing committees.
Nees-Hatlen met her husband, Burton Hatlen, while working at UMaine in the English department. The two shared a passion for teaching, poetry and music and were in love for many years until his death in 2008. The UMaine and the Orono community were lucky to have had such a wonderful faculty member dedicated to enriching the lives of everyone she met.