LEWISTON — Brian Richardson wasn’t actively weeping, but you could tell he kind of wanted to. His daughter was graduating from Central Maine Community College and like so many other students, her road had been less than traditional.

“She’s been bringing up her two boys. She’s been working and she’s been going to college,” said Richardson, of Winthrop. “She’s done great.”

His advice for the new graduate?

“She’s worked really hard and I’m proud of her,” Richardson said. “Now it’s welcome to the real world.”

More than 500 graduated from the Auburn college Thursday night in a ceremony at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. They graduated with degrees in everything from nursing to culinary studies. Richardson’s daughter, Briana Katie Filip, was graduating with a degree in business administration, but only after serving in the U.S. Army and spending time in Texas.

When she got back to Maine and enrolled in the school, it wasn’t just to kill time, her father said. She buckled down and committed herself, graduating with honors, her grade-point average a crisp 3.9.

“Obviously,” Richardson said, “she didn’t get her brains from me.”

Variations of Filip’s story echoed through the vast space of the Colisee: women graduating after years of juggling parenthood with the demands of college. Young men who had been wandering aimlessly for years before finding their way to the school.

The graduating class wasn’t the biggest in the school’s history. Last year, 600 students graduated. But for school officials, the number was significant. The 515 graduates, Roger G. Philippon said, is “an impressive number when you consider that 50 years ago our first graduating class (in 1965) consisted of six people.”

The commencement ceremony introduced the past to the present in other ways.

The class greeting was offered by two people. One was Shelby Neuschwanger, a 2014 graduate, and state Rep. Michel Lajoie, who graduated from the school in 1966 before going on to become fire chief and a state lawmaker.

“Together,” Lajoie said, “Shelby and I represent the bookends for 50 years of successful graduates and I could not be prouder of all of you or more honored to be among you.”

The history — and the future — of the school was not lost on Neuschwanger, who graduated with high honors in general studies.

“For 50 years, these graduates have been paving the way with their hard work and accomplishments for me and all of us who sit now tonight as soon to be graduates, to be here and to be successful,” Neuschwanger said in her address. “The road before us is lined with a history of CM alum who are CEOs, community leaders, leaders in the fields of health care and technology, teachers, heroes and those committed to service and humankind such as our alum, Mr. Lajoie.

Richardson’s eyes remained reasonably dry, but that wasn’t the case for everyone. As they watched their loved ones graduate, a few in the stands wept openly. One woman, there to watch her daughter graduate, took photo after photo as the students prepared to make the solemn walk up the aisle.

“I’m so proud of her,” she said more than once. “So, so proud.”

When she pulled the camera away from her face, it was soaked with tears.

David M. MacMahon of the Maine Community College System board of trustees was proud as well, not just of the students or the school, but of Mainers at large.

“Commencements are a reminder that you are celebrating an accomplishment of great significance to you and your family,” MacMahon said. “Equally important, however, is that commencements reaffirm the belief that Maine people are willing to work hard to achieve their dreams.”

A short time after that, the graduates were advised to turn their tassels from right to left. Their new lives had begun.

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