PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The University of Maine at Presque Isle and the surrounding community are mourning the loss of Caroline Gentile, associate professor emeritus of education for the university and its longest serving faculty member. She died Friday, Sept. 19, at age 84.

Gentile was a nationally known educator in the field of health, physical education and recreation and began teaching physical education at UMPI in 1946.

She was the largest individual donor and the namesake of UMPI’s newest building, The Caroline D. Gentile Health & Physical Education Complex. The $9 million complex opened its doors in January 2006.

“She was such a remarkable presence on this campus for such a long period of time,” UMPI President Dr. Don Zillman said Tuesday. “Most of the students who passed through this campus during her tenure had her as a teacher, and most certainly if they didn’t, they remember her. Her gift of Gentile Hall has been remarkable for this campus, for its students and the community.”

Gentile received a bachelor’s degree from Sargent College in 1946, a master’s degree from New York University in 1949, and did further graduate work at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University. She was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from UMPI in 1996.

In 2000, Gentile received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Maine Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. That year, she also was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame.

She was an active participant in the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, in the American Association of University Women, and in Delta Kappa Gamma. She was a community advocate for women and was a gubernatorial appointee to the Maine Commission for Women. In 1999, Gentile was selected by the Maine Sunday Telegram to serve on a committee to identify the top 20 Maine athletes of the century.

Gentile served on and chaired many university committees and for 20 years was the chair of the Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. She also served on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on HPER.

Erin Benson, UMPI director of admissions, recalled Tuesday that even after Gentile stopped teaching, she was still a visible presence on campus and oversaw several special projects.

“She was always here, always a part of life at this university,” she said. “She attended every commencement, and the university and the students always came first for her. I have never seen such incredible dedication in an individual.”

Gentile officially retired on July 1, 2005.

Benson added that Gentile was a steady presence as the university grew and changed.

“She was its center,” Benson said Tuesday.

Zillman said Gentile requested no formal funeral, but the university will hold a memorial service and celebration of Gentile’s life at noon Wednesday, Oct. 8, in Gentile Hall.