BANGOR, Maine — Thomas Jeffrey Larson towered Saturday over the podium set up on a platform in the Bangor Auditorium.
“My job,” the Milo native told the nearly full house, “is to welcome everyone and to put some fun and excitement into this graduation. So, everyone put a hand over their heads and give a big air high five to the [Eastern Maine Community College] graduating class of 2009.”
Thousands of hands simultaneously rose and smacked air, and an enthusiastic roar swept through the crowd as it saluted EMCC’s 400 graduates.
Larson was awarded his associate in arts degree in liberal studies. He will attend the University of Maine at Farmington this fall and plans to major in political science and journalism. While at EMCC, he was editor of the school newspaper, Eagle Eye, and served as vice president of the Student Senate.
“This college has given me the ability and confidence to be myself,” he said, “even if I didn’t know what that meant.”
Michael Stephen Handzel Jr. of Orland, who earned his associate in applied science degree in business management, urged his fellow graduates to be unconventional in the paths they choose in life and the perspectives from which they view every situation. Handzel also urged his classmates to seek out contentment rather than happiness.
The president of the Student Senate, Handzel was named the All Maine Academic Scholar from EMCC at a ceremony last month in Augusta.
President Joyce B. Hedlund described EMCC as a “dynamic community and economic resource that provides an educated work force for the entire state.”
She said that Saturday’s graduates wanted to give back to the community, so they raised $10,000, which was donated to the Good Shepherd Food-Bank during the ceremony. EMCC also achieved its goal of collecting 10,000 pounds of nonperishable food, some of which was stacked at one end of the stage, Hedlund said.
The college awarded diplomas in 21 departments including culinary arts, fire science technology, early childhood education, electrical and automation technology, surgical technology, medical radiography and welding technology.
EMCC was one of four two-year colleges in the Maine Community College System that held commencements on Saturday. Graduation ceremonies also were held at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle, Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield and York County Community College in Wells.
Commencement was held at Washington County Community College in Calais on Friday and at Central Maine Community College in Auburn on Thursday. Southern Maine Community College held its graduation Sunday in South Portland.
This month, more than 2,400 students were awarded degrees from the state’s seven two-year colleges.