FARMINGTON — As monsoon-like rain swept the traditional University of Maine at Farmington commencement venue parking lot Saturday morning, 416 graduates received diplomas inside the Fitness & Recreation Center.

UMF President Kathryn A. Foster, faculty, administrators and dignitaries led the procession of graduates marching to traditional bagpipe and drum music.

Foster said that overall, 448 students were awarded bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but 416 chose to participate in Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

“We are so proud of this year’s graduates and all they have accomplished, especially in this historic year,” Foster said, referring to the university’s sesquicentennial celebration.

“For 150 years, UMF has helped students meet their educational goals and grow as individuals,” she said. “Just like the very first graduating class, today’s graduates are prepared with the knowledge, skills and confidence to be successful and make a difference in their communities and the world.”

After several hundred people of all ages and the Class of 2014 were seated, UMF seniors Sierra Deroche, Spencer Hodge, Michael Keim, Joseph Leaver, Kellsey Metzger, Hillary Morrison, Frank Parsons and Alexander Robinson performed the national anthem, as arranged by Hodge and Parsons.

In her “Graduating Class Profile” speech, Foster recognized 21 members of the 50th reunion Class of 1964, asking them to stand.

“It would be over-exuberant to invite you for 50 years hence, but we surely welcome you back, dear alumni, and thank you for showing today’s current class where they’re expected to be 50 years from now,” she said to laughter.

Foster said that 150 years ago, UMF graduated 11 students, all from Maine, all training to be elementary school teachers. Ten were women.

Of Saturday’s seniors, Foster said 167, just under 40 percent, graduated with overall grade point averages at 3.5 or better on a 4.0 scale. Of these, 21 had GPAs of 3.9 or better and two earned straight As with GPAs of 4.0.

Roughly 33 percent of the graduating class majored in early childhood, elementary, secondary or special education, she said. And, just over 80 percent came from Maine.

“We hope that your faculty and staff have been fine guides, that your peers have been inspirational, that your classes and clubs and extracurricular pursuits have brought you opportunity, confidence and joy,” Foster said. “We hope that you feel you have grown and that UMF has been there for you.”

Sean Skillern of Naples, vice president of the senior class, gave the student address. An elementary education major and president of the local Rotaract organization, Skillern reminded graduates of the memories they’ve made in their time at UMF, and the friends that will last a lifetime.

“I speak to you today for remembrance,” Skillern said. “To key us into the memories that will tag along shotgun with us as we drive through our lives in the real world.”

Among these several reflections, he said he remembered “the sense of camaraderie held within our community, a tightknit web of individuals who stand for a greater good.”

“I remember the day I promised myself to better the lives of the youth of the world,” Skillern said. “I remember walking out of this door today a walking, talking, world-saving teacher superhero. Talk about a degree!”

Richard Ford, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and short-story writer, delivered a humor-laced commencement speech after receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

“I was kind of afraid I might be sharing my honorary degree with Gov. (Paul) LePage,” Ford said. “He, of course, would be getting an honorary degree in economics, possibly in art appreciation. That could have provoked an act of civil disobedience, at least in me. I am a child of the ’60s. We protested guys like that: Spiro Agnew reincarnated.”

Ford acknowledged that UMF is 150 years old this spring. He then said to rollicking laughter, “But from a purely financial perspective from whoever’s been paying your fees, it seems like you’ve been here the whole time.

“I do want to say, however, I have the utmost admiration for you today,” he said. “Whatever debts you’ve incurred, you’ve done it to improve yourself and to give yourself a chance to improve the world around you.

“I also want you to know that when you get your diploma later on this morning, like a magic wand waves, you’re going to be worth $17,500 more a year than somebody with only a high school diploma,” Ford said.

“We also have something to share, you and I, at my age, which is 70,” he said. “It is a quickening time for me just as it is a quickening time for you. It’s not a time for kicking back.”

“A proper education, after all, requires you to be able to see what’s obvious, what’s right in front of you,” Ford said. “And that you not consider the world to be a secret, unlockable only by a select few. The world that you are entering is not a secret if you’re paying attention.”

Nearing the end of his speech, Ford said, “(William Butler) Yeats once wrote, ‘Life’s a long preparation for something that never happens.’ Don’t let that be true for you.”

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