LEWISTON – Members of the largest graduating class in Central Maine Community College’s history received diplomas Friday night.

About 350 graduates and their families and friends filled the Androscoggin Bank Colisee for the school’s 44th commencement exercises. The keynote speaker was Edward A. Cormier, who is principal of Harriman Architects and Engineers in Auburn, and chairman of the Central Maine Community College Education Foundation.

“The responsibility of alumni is to contribute back to the community,” Cormier told the audience, later adding, “We all face challenges, and with these challenges comes opportunity.”

He told the graduates about his life-long desire and respect for education, saying, “May you always celebrate your stories.”

Cormier also recognized the accomplishment of graduate Thuan T. Ha of Auburn. She came to the United States as a 9-year-old, is now a mother of three, and on Friday morning became a naturalized U.S. citizen, Cormier said.

She graduated from the CMCC program in architectural and civil engineering technology and is an employee of Harriman Architects. Cormier also expressed pride in the graduation Friday night of his daughter-in-law, Jill Cormier of Sumner, from the nursing program.

In her class message, Lisa J. Patton of Livermore Falls, member of the All-Maine Academic Team and the college’s 2007 student of the year, said there was “a clear destination” in the CMCC journey for some students, but for others it was “an exploration of self.”

Noting that the graduates are embarking on a new journey, Patton urged her classmates to ask themselves, “What makes me truly happy?” She said finding the answer to that question is the most important objective in their journey. “Settle for nothing less,” she said.

Patton is an early childhood education major. Kyle Oliver of Bangor, a liberal studies major, also was recognized as an All-Maine Academic Team member.

Debra A. Lyons of Oxford, a human services major, was introduced as this year’s CMCC student of the year.

CMCC President Scott E. Knapp said there were only six students – all men – in the first graduation class in 1965, at what was then Androscoggin State Vocational Institute. He said 55 percent of the 350 students in the Class of 2008 are female.

Assisting Knapp in presenting the diplomas were Judy Wilder, dean of academic affairs, and Diane Dostie, dean of corporate and community services, as well as chairs of the CMCC departments.

The national anthem was sung by CMCC student Katelyne St. Pierre.

Randell E. Lee, dean of student services, recognized numerous student accomplishments, and words of congratulations were presented by Dennis King, chairman of the CMCC board of trustees, and by John Fitzsimmons, president of the Maine Community College System.

Among the courses taken by members of the graduating class were accounting, applied technical studies, automotive technology, building construction technique, business administration and management, business and computer applications, clinical laboratory science, computer technology, culinary arts, education, electromechanical technology, graphic arts and printing, machine tool technology, medical assistant, medical coding, medical transcription, occupational health and safety, radiologic technology, telecommunication technology, and trade and technical occupations.

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