PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Amid a bittersweet ceremony in which honorees said goodbye to their classmates, friends and the president who has been with the majority of them throughout their time at the college, 161 graduates at the University of Maine at Presque Isle received degrees during UMPI’s 103rd Commencement ceremony on Saturday morning.
Similar ceremonies took place at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and Unity College on Saturday afternoon.
Laurie Lachance, president and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation, delivered the commencement address in Wieden Hall at UMPI. During the event, she was presented with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Lachance has led the Maine Development Foundation, a nonprofit membership organization established in 1978, for eight years. Through its programs, the foundation aims to stimulate new ideas, develop Maine’s leaders and provide a common ground for solving problems and advancing important issues.
She recently was named the new president of Thomas College.
During her speech, Lachance urged graduates to think about the fact that their communities and families had invested in them because they saw their value and potential. She also reminded them that they had invested in themselves, “something we do far too infrequently,” she said Saturday.
Lachance pointed out that although the economy is turbulent and global competition is increasing, the graduates now have the tools to succeed in a technology-, knowledge- and innovation-driven world because they had armed themselves with an education. She encouraged them to keep their skills sharp, be honest with themselves and others, take their job seriously but not themselves too seriously, always find something to be thankful for and to value their friends and family and “never let them down.”
It was also the last UMPI commencement for outgoing President Don Zillman. Zillman, who has served as UMPI’s president since 2006, will step down in early June as president and return to his position as a tenured professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland. Linda Schott, dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., will officially begin her presidency on July 1.
Schott, who has served as dean at Fort Lewis College since 2008, attended Saturday’s commencement.
“As I look back on the last half dozen years, I am delighted with the ever-growing campus connectedness of the University of Maine at Presque Isle with its community,” Zillman told students. He recounted successful partnerships the university has forged with area businesses, schools and community groups, and also touched on projects students have embarked on to better their communities.
“We are proud of our graduates for the work they’ve been able to accomplish in their time here, and excited for them as they build on their successes and prepare to follow the thousands of University of Maine at Presque Isle students before them in making their own unique mark on the world,” he said.
The 130th Commencement at UMFK began at 1 p.m. Saturday, and was available through a webcast on the university’s website. Former University of Maine System Chancellor Dr. Terry MacTaggart served as the keynote speaker. He received an honorary doctorate degree during the ceremony in the University’s Sports Center.
Approximately 170 graduates from seven countries received degrees. President Wilson G. Hess continued a tradition he began last year by giving each graduate a tree to symbolize the seed that their education represents for the future. The graduates received balsam fir seedlings this year.
Dr. Peter Toussaint, a physician, humanitarian, health care advocate and volunteer, was presented with the Distinguished Service Award.
At Unity College, the school’s largest graduating class ever — 146 students — marched at 2 p.m. Saturday in Tozier Gymnasium.
Journalist and author Cynthia Barnett served as commencement speaker. She has reported on freshwater issues from the Deep South to Singapore and is the author of the new book “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis.” Barnett was awarded an honorary doctorate of sustainability science.
She encouraged graduates to do “the essential work to fix our broken world,” including healing human fractures and bridging divides.
“Whether you land in agriculture or aquaculture, ecology or ecotourism, your challenge is to build unity among people,” she told them.
Maine poet and author Lewis Turco received an honorary doctorate of arts and humanities.