ORONO, Maine — University of Maine new media graduate Jeff Spaulding walked up on stage at UMaine’s 211th graduation ceremony traveling the same path that his mother, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather took years before.
“My grandfather, his great-great-grandfather, was in the Class of 1915,” said Spaulding’s grandfather, Calvin Luther, a forestry graduate from 1978, who started his life in Connecticut and now lives in Bucksport. “I can tell you the whole history.”
The Spaulding-Luther UMaine legacy was one of several at the annual commencement ceremonies for the state’s flagship university. Another alum who watched a loved one graduate on Saturday said the campus has changed since he took classes and another said he’s just happy his daughter is graduating from his alma mater, even though he didn’t.
A total of 1,665 students — 1,333 undergraduate and 332 graduate students — earned degrees from UMaine and more than 12,000 people attended Saturday’s two graduation ceremonies, according to a press release from university spokeswoman Margaret Nagle.
A 10 a.m. ceremony was held for graduates in the College of Business, Public Policy and Health; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the College of Education and Human Development; and the Division of Lifelong Learning. Graduates in the College of Engineering and the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture were recognized at a 2:30 p.m. ceremony.
UMaine President Paul Ferguson, who presided over both ceremonies, encouraged the students to invest their talent, success and great achievements in enriching the world and improving the quality of life of those around them. His hope, he said, is that they use their UMaine experiences to “achieve greatly.”
“You can be confident that your UMaine education represents the very best of Maine and that you, in turn, represent the very best of Maine,” Ferguson said. “It is with great pride that I remind you that UMaine is now forever a part of your identity, just as you are the legacy of the University of Maine.”
The morning ceremony featured student speaker Emma Burgess Roy, an international affairs student with a concentration in women’s studies, and salutatorian Lindsay LaJoie of Van Buren, who earned a degree in food service and human nutrition.
This year’s valedictorian is Spencer Hathaway of Turner, who received two degrees, in economics and business administration in accounting.
UMaine graduate Lawrence Bender, an activist and producer of six Academy Award-winning films, gave the keynote address and received an honorary degree.
In his remarks, which received a standing ovation, Bender said he would not have the life he lives today if not for his UMaine experience, and he urged the students to find success through consistent hard work and persistence.
“How can you achieve greatness? I would say three basic things,” Bender told the graduates. “One, you must find your passion. Two, failure must be a possibility. And three, never give up, especially when you are failing.”
He also said, “The ability to allow yourself to fail is the ability to allow yourself to go full on and to break boundaries,” the press release said. “Many times it’s only by failing that you find the real truth. And this is not esoteric, this is basic to the heart of all entrepreneurism.”
Leigh Peters of York, who graduated from UMaine in 1969, returned in 2006 to watch his daughter, Kisch Peters, graduate with a civil engineering degree, and was on campus Saturday to watch his nephew, Tyler Corbly of Eliot, get his English diploma.
Peters, wearing a blue University of Maine shirt, has returned again and again to UMaine for football and hockey games but was surprised to find things have changed, which is something he discovered when he decided to give his family a tour before the graduation ceremony.
“There are a few more buildings,” he said smiling, surrounded by laughing family members.
Augusta resident William Rocque took classes at the University of Maine at Augusta and dropped out after two years. He said he’s extremely proud of his daughter, Allison Victoria Rocque, who earned a psychology degree in speech pathology.
“They all look like children,” he said of his daughter and her graduating class.
The Luther-Spaulding families said there never was any pressure to attend the University of Maine, but somehow it always seems to be the right fit.
A century ago, Calvin Luther said, his grandfather Harris Luther was living in Connecticut and wanted to study mechanical engineering and “the University of Maine was the only college in New England that had mechanical engineering.”
Harris Luther graduated in 1915, and “his brother, my great uncle, graduated in 1930 because he came, left, and came back again,” Calvin Luther explained.
In fact, “the first four Luther graduates from the University of Maine got degrees in mechanical engineering,” he said. “Our family has a history of going to the University of Maine.”
“It’s a great heritage,” Jeff Spaulding’s mother, Heather, a 2004 nursing graduate, said.
She said her other son, Patrick, has also been accepted at UMaine.