The University of New England's Premier Student News Publication

Nor'easter News

The University of New England's Premier Student News Publication

Nor'easter News

The University of New England's Premier Student News Publication

Nor'easter News

Making Waves: UNE’s Polar Plunge Tradition Continues with Fourth Year of Frigid Fun

Jonathan Millen, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and 18 others plunge into the Saco River in support of UNE Giving Day

The 19 participants — a mixture of students, faculty, and staff — jump into the Saco River for the fourth annual Giving Day Polar Plunge.


Despite the windy 30-degree temperature and an active flood warning, a crowd of over fifty students, faculty, and staff gathered on Freddy Beach at 3 p.m. on March 22nd. While the majority of the group shivered in their winter jackets and hats, 19 people excitedly stood in shorts and tee-shirts. 

The polar plunge, a UNE tradition that started as a “goof,” is now an annual event “to get students and the UNE community aware of Giving Day,” explained Jonathan Millen, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and one of the 19 participants.

Dean Millen expressed with pride and enthusiasm how awesome it was to see the turnout grow with each year. He was the first and only person to make the plunge in 2021, and “I wouldn’t have done it again without the couple of people who said they would [do it] with me,” he said. 

Photo of Professor Jeff Parmelee before jumping. (Emily Hedegard)

Giving Day, an annual celebration of the UNE’s donors and their contributions, took place on March 19th. This year’s slogan, “Because you did your part, UNE students get to do theirs,” was boldly printed on the commemorative shirts given to those who braved the whipping winds and the dark, rushing river. 

Shortly after three p.m., the 19 participants lined up with their Giving Day shirts and peppy attitudes on—some jumping in place, yelling cheers for UNE, both out of excitement and to keep warm. “Our professor convinced us to do this earlier today, and we’re crazy enough to, ” said Jayden Hamann and Shannon McLaughlin, Sophmore participants who were bracing for the cold water. 

On a count of three, Dean Millen was the first to take the plunge, running into the water and throwing himself backward with a GoPro. Once Millen situated himself, he beckoned for the other participants to join him. The group sprinted into the water without hesitation, cheering along the way.

Minutes later, all of the participants had waddled back upshore to quickly re-layer for warmth. The chattering of teeth was audible even over the commotion and excitement. “I am pleased that my heart survived the threshold of temperature,” said Sean Ramey, a professor in the College of Arts and Humanities. “And I’d do it again right now!” 

One of this year’s first-time participants, freshman Addyson Babcock, said that despite the cold, making the plunge was worth it. Babcock confessed, though, that making this a yearly habit is conditional: “So long as the winds aren’t like yesterday,” referring to the near 35 mph winds of Thursday, March 21, “I would definitely jump in again.”

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