ORONO (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci returned to his alma mater Saturday to deliver the University of Maine commencement address.

Degrees were awarded to 1,803 graduates during the university’s 201st commencement ceremony, which was attended by about 11,500 guests.

Citing the examples of Sen. Olympia Snowe and former Sen. William Cohen, Baldacci urged graduates to set their sights high.

“Take your diploma, this light of learning, this lantern of reasoning and carry it with you, so that people from other states and other regions can continue to see the leadership that comes from Maine,” he said.

Baldacci is the first UMaine graduate to serve as Maine’s governor since John Reed, a 1941 graduate who was in office from 1959-66.

Honorary degrees were awarded Saturday to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo and Julia Watkins, the president of American University in Bulgaria since 1993.

Russo, who lives in Camden and formerly taught at Colby College, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for his book, “Empire Falls.”

Watkins served UMaine for more than two decades as a faculty member and administrator. Effective July 1, she will become executive director of the Council on Social Work Education.

About 3,200 guests celebrated the graduation of a 420-member class at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Educators Lincoln Filene Ladd and Verne A. Byers received honorary degrees at the university’s 150th commencement ceremony.

“I’ve found that reflection helps us understand other people, the world around us and ourselves. … We are wiser for having taken the time and made the effort to make use of it,” Ladd said in the ceremony’s keynote address.

AP-ES-05-17-03 1512EDT

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