ORONO – Inside a packed Alfond Arena Saturday, Maine Gov. Angus King urged the more than 1,600 University of Maine graduates to take more risks and ignore those who would dissuade them.
“What holds us back is the little man on our shoulder who says, ‘You can’t do that,’” King said in his first commencement address at the state’s flagship university since he was first elected in 1994. “Nonsense. You can.”
King, now in his final term in office, spoke twice before a total of nearly 10,000 people at the university’s 200th commencement, which because of a persistent rain, was held in two separate ceremonies inside the Harold Alfond Sports Stadium.
Of the 1,675 graduates, 409 received graduate degrees, including 25 doctorates.
Among those to earn her bachelor’s degree Saturday was Rebecca Krupke of Bangor, who took some of the governor’s advice to heart.
“Especially in my field, we have to take chances and put ourselves on the line all the time,” said the studio art and art history major who plans to move this fall to Prince Edward Island, Canada, where she has been offered studio space.
With a painter’s palette affixed to her graduation cap, Krupke, 23, said that while taking risks was good advice, she also found useful some of King’s more practical counsel.
“Keep $20 in your shoe was my favorite, I think,” she said.
Maine’s independent governor also urged graduates to forsake popularity for that which makes them happy.
“Don’t follow a path laid out for you by other people,” said King. Other bits of advice included, “When in doubt, don’t get married,” and “Treat every job as if it’s the most important job you’ve ever had.”
University of Maine President Peter Hoff presided over the Saturday ceremonies and Prof. James Warhola of the UMaine political science faculty delivered the traditional celebration of academia address.
“Your professors have doubtless required much of you,” said Warhola, who on Friday was named 2002 Distinguished Maine Professor. “To that we add this: Use the education you have received to better yourself, your community and the world. Do not forget the education you have received from the University of Maine and help others, to the extent that you can, to get the same opportunity.”
The valedictorian of the UMaine Class of 2002 is James Leonard, a Rockland native and former Army paratrooper who served as a Rockland firefighter for 14 years before enrolling at UMaine three years ago. He graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average in journalism and plans to begin studies at the University of Maine School of Law in the fall.
The class salutatorian is Benjamin Herzog of Bath, who graduated with a forestry major and a forest products minor. Herzog plans to stay at UMaine and will begin graduate studies in wood sciences in the fall.
Receiving honorary degrees Saturday were D. Allan Butterfield, a 1968 alumnus and a leader in research into the causes and treatments of Alzheimer’s disease; H. Allen Fernald, a 1954 graduate who is a former vice chair of the Maine Tourism Commission and has been publisher of Down East magazine for more than 30 years; and Clarine Coffin Grenfell, a 1932 graduate and ordained minister, teacher, writer, editor and publisher.
For the first time ever, the graduation ceremonies were streamed live on the Internet.
When asked if she had any closing thoughts on her graduation, a smiling Krupke kept it short and sweet.
“Yay!” she said.