FARMINGTON – Three straight days of rain ended Saturday morning, just before the University of Maine at Farmington’s 153rd commencement ceremony began inside the spacious Health and Fitness Center.
Outside in the parking lot behind the UMF Olsen Student Center, a crew dried off, folded and stacked hundreds of brown chairs. Of the 463-member graduating class, the chairs were for the 403 who marched in the ceremony, and their entourage of friends and family, professors and officials.
The huge class of graduates was the largest in 15 years, spokeswoman Jennifer Eriksen said on Wednesday in Farmington.
During Saturday’s welcome speech and presidential address, university President Theodora Kalikow said, “It is exciting to be unleashing so many well-prepared UMF graduates on the world, all at once.”
Before the event, students clothed in black caps and gowns lined the walls talking, watching or posing for photographs. Hundreds of people of all ages took their seats, while many more stood outside or went to the university’s Dearborn Gym to watch the proceedings live on closed-circuit television.
Kalikow first recognized 2006 graduate Erica Emery, a Farmington native and Mt. Blue High School graduate, calling her a symbol of student success.
Emery, who graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in secondary education-English, was recently awarded a prestigious one-year international teaching fellowship.
Selected as one of six Hellenic American Educational Foundation Teaching Fellows from a nationwide pool of high-caliber applicants, Emery will teach middle and secondary education students at Psychico College in Athens, Greece, while serving as a cross-cultural ambassador, Kalikow said.
Kalikow then asked Emery to stand and be recognized, which she did, to resounding applause.
Senior class speaker Jeanine M. Alberto, of Walpole, Mass., urged her fellow graduates to, “Taste the sweetness of the world, because today is the first day of the rest of our lives.”
Graduates responded with a standing ovation.
University professor emeritus Peter C. Doran was then awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
Doran began teaching at UMF in 1971, and within six years, founded the university’s community health education program, the only one of its kind in Maine, Kalikow said.
In his acceptance speech, Doran called the honor, “the highest form of recognition that I can imagine.”
Before the awarding of diplomas, former Maine Gov. Angus King gave the commencement address.
Reading a speech he labeled, “Ten Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me,” King rattled off his lively, laughter-invoking list, which was spiced with personal stories. It was a big hit with students and the crowd.
“Take more risks,” he said, “Always be honest, even when it hurts,” and, “Always round off the amount in your checkbook to the nearest dollar.”
“I have just saved you a lifetime of aggravation,” he said of the third item.
Additional insight included, “There is no such thing as the geographic or material cure,” “Treat your first job as the most important one you will ever have,” and “Always carry a $20 bill hidden somewhere on your person.”
King said he added the seventh tip this morning – “Don’t type anything into cyberspace that you don’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times. You’re not going to be 22 forever.”
The remaining three, he said, were, “Attitude makes all the difference,” “When in doubt, don’t get married,” and, “Value your friends and your family, because in tough times, they’re all you have.”
“Godspeed to the Class of 2006,” King concluded, receiving a booming, standing ovation, which he acknowledged with hand waves.
Then, at about noon, the sun lit up the outside as individual graduates walked to the podium, where they received their diplomas and a single carnation.