BANGOR, Maine — Unsettled weather Saturday morning failed to dampen spirits at the graduation exercises of Husson University.
About 360 students from 180 Maine communities, 17 states and at least 10 foreign countries were awarded degrees.
Drizzle gave way to a few minutes of serious rain at 10 a.m., just as the long procession of gowned students and faculty left the campus center to walk to the sports stadium, led by seven pipers piping and two drummers drumming from the Anah Highlanders bagpipe band.
One of the students was Mayya Vysokikh of Novosibirsk, Russia, who earned both a Bachelor of Science in business administration and a Master of Science in business. On hand to honor her accomplishments were about 20 members of her “American family,” including Tracy Sanborn of Machias, who hosted Vysokikh when she was a student at Washington Academy.
“She never left me,” Sanborn said, wiping damp stadium seats dry for other family members to sit in. “She graduated from Washington Academy and said she wanted to go to Husson, and I told her I’d help.”
Sanborn said Vysokikh fit right into the large Down East family.
“She’s just one of us now,” she said. “We’re all hoping she’s going to stay here and enjoy life.”
Vysokikh has a job lined up with the Varney Insurance Co. in Bangor. Her boyfriend was at the graduation with a massive bouquet of flowers.
Also in the bleachers were brothers John Abore, David Alana and Charles Okonga, originally of Sudan and now living in Portland. They brought their 60-year-old grandmother, Regina Joseph, with them to watch another brother, Ben Charles, graduate with a master’s degree in criminal justice. Ben is the first member of the family to go to college in the U.S., they said.
As the sky cleared and the wind died down, a lineup of speakers addressed the students and their families, including Husson board chair Arthur Fuller, class president Maurice Thayer and commencement speaker Deborah Carey Johnson. Johnson, a 1987 Husson graduate who grew up in Milo, serves as the president and CEO of Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. She told the students that their Husson education will equip them to compete effectively in a tight job market, but that they must remain flexible and open to new opportunities that arise.
“Continue to embrace curiosity, learn from your mistakes, be self-reflective, and if you don’t know something, ask,” Johnson advised in her address.
Johnson and longtime Husson professor Phillip Grant were awarded honorary doctoral degrees.
Husson University will hold a second graduation service for another 72 students on Saturday, May 22, at Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland.