PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In a ceremony filled with cheers and tears of joy, 230 graduates at Northern Maine Community College accepted degrees and certificates during a two-hour ceremony Saturday morning.
State Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, encouraged the graduates to use their college education to better the community and the world around them, while Robert Gagnon, a fellow graduate and NMCC’s student of the year, urged his classmates never to abandon their dreams, no matter how massive the obstacles they encounter along the way.
Gov. John Baldacci was originally slated to address the 47th graduating class but had to cancel at the last moment to attend a funeral. Martin, a longtime state leader and advocate of higher education, stepped in to take his place.
Martin told the graduates to look around them when they left the Presque Isle campus after commencement exercises.
“With a world of opportunity and options before you,” he said, “what will you do for the country starting tomorrow?”
He urged the students to take steps to change the world around them for the better, stressing that “one person can make a difference.”
Gagnon, 57, of Madawaska, was awarded his associate of applied science degree in plumbing and heating during the ceremony. Gagnon worked at Fraser Papers for 36 years but left the mill in 2007 after the company shut down two machines and offered him a buyout. He decided to accept the offer and abandon a job where he was making nearly $80,000 a year to achieve his dream of earning a college degree.
He commended his classmates for their hard work and sacrifice and lauded NMCC faculty and staff for helping him make his dream possible.
“I have followed my heart, and I have no regrets,” Gagnon told students. “So my final words of advice to my fellow graduates is to do the same. Follow your heart and have no regrets.”
NMCC President Tim Crowley gave 192 associate degrees and 51 certificates to graduates during Saturday’s ceremony.