REM Award Honorees (2005) — Phil Gonyar (Kotlas Connection)

The Kotlas - Waterville Area Sister City Connection honors Philip Gonyar as its volunteer of the year. Phil has been involved with the Connection since 1990 when he was asked by Waterville Mayor Judy Kany to chair the committee preparing the welcome of the first official delegation from our sister city, Kotlas, Russia. At the end of that visit a sister city declaration was signed and the mayor of Kotlas invited a delegation from the Waterville area to Kotlas. Phil was a member of the delegation, which was led by Judy Kany’s successor, David Bernier.

Since then Phil has visited Kotlas four more times, including this past summer as a part of this year’s official delegation lead by the current mayor, Paul LePage. These visits have led to many lasting friendships.

One of Phil’s visits was as a chaperone for the Waterville area students who had participated in the Rivers Project. The Project was a yearlong study of the local rivers by Kotlas and Waterville area students. Then the students visited each others’ community to share their research. Michael Waters, a Messalonskee science teacher, directed the study as a part of the gifted and talented program of the area schools. Kotlas Connection funded the project through a series of grants and donations.

Phil has served several terms as chair or co-chair of the Connection and has been involved in most of its activities including the Russian Sampler and the Voices of the Kennebec Festival. He continues to serve on the Connection Executive Committee.

Phil is a retired teacher. He taught at Waterville High School from 1978 until his retirement. He had previously taught at Bangor and Bucksport High Schools. His university degrees are from the University of Maine. A native of Orono, he has lived in Waterville since 1978.

He has always been interested in and active in teacher associations having served as president of both the Maine Education Association and the Maine Retired Teachers Association. He is currently serving as president of the Kennebec Retired Teachers Association. In connection with his interest in history, he is a past president of the Joshua L. Chamberlain Civil War Round Table, a former member of the Board of Directors of Fort Western Museum and of the Mid-Maine Global Forum. His civic experiences include serving seven years on the Waterville Board of Education and twice as chair of the board of Catholic Charities Maine.

For more information about the Kotlas - Waterville Area Sister City Connection, please visit its website.

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