U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins told University of Southern Maine graduates that, “A combination of joy, gratitude, hard work and resilience is more than a formula for personal success. It also is the best antidote I know to the rampant incivility that invades and poisons our society.”
Collins was the keynote speaker at USM’s morning ceremony, held Saturday, May 11, in the USM Field House, Gorham before more than 500 graduates and more than 4,000 guests.
“As we develop these positive qualities in ourselves,” said Collins, “let us recognize and encourage them in others, including those with whom we disagree. We all must do our part to elevate the tone, and respect one another as part of our greater community.”
She concluded by encouraging graduates to, “Please stay here and help to build an even better Maine.
President of the Bernard Osher Foundation Mary G.F. Bitterman told graduates in the afternoon ceremony that “… all of us need to commit to lifelong learning.”
For the first time, USM held two ceremonies on campus because of renovations at the Cumberland County Civic Center, longtime site of USM commencements.
The San Francisco-based Osher Foundation, established by Maine native Bernard Osher and his wife, Barbro Osher, has funded nearly 120 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at campuses across the country, including the network’s National Resource Center at USM. Seventeen USM graduates from the class of 2013 benefitted from the Osher Reentry Scholars Fund, a scholarship program that supports undergraduates who have experienced a gap of five or more years in their educations.
Bitterman said, “You will be able to move Maine forward with your talent, energy and subject-matter expertise. To ensure the perpetuation of our democratic institutions,” she concluded, “we must find ways to invest in all of our citizens, opening avenues of opportunity so that all may lead meaningful and productive lives that benefit the public good.”
Bitterman received a USM Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of her public service and for her work in higher education and public broadcasting.
The morning’s student speaker, Noah Hurowitz of Portland, quit high school at 17 to hitchhike across the country. He earned his high school diploma thanks to a community college dual enrollment program, and “found my path” at USM as a journalist with the student newspaper, The Free Press, and as a sociology major. The Arlington, Mass. native, who now works with The Forecaster, told fellow grads, “USM helped launch me toward my goals. And whatever your passions, being here today means this university has set you on the path to pursue them.”
Roya Hejabian, the afternoon student speaker, told graduates, “I lived through a difficult refugee experience and made it to America, the land of opportunities, where I did not see even one street paved with gold, but saw you could have golden dreams and achieve them.”
Hejabian of Cape Elizabeth earned her master’s degree in social work and formerly was awarded an undergraduate degree in psychology from USM. She is originally from Tabreez, Iran. “I will be leaving this university strongly believing that, thanks to the education I received and degree I earned, today is the beginning of a new day and career for me. I am a woman from the Middle East,” she said, “who wants to say to all of the women gathered here that it is right to reach your goals.”
USM President Theo Kalikow awarded two honorary degrees. Ashley Bryan of Islesford, Maine, a Dartmouth Emeritus Professor of Art and Design, and an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, received and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, as did Everett J. “Vic” Firth, former principal timpanist with the Boston Symphony and the owner of Vic Firth Inc., the world’s largest producer of drum sticks, located in Newport, Maine.
USM’s 133rd Commencement also was a special day for the Wise family of Cape Elizabeth. Sandra Wise earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology, a University of Maine degree offered in collaboration with USM. Her husband, USM Professor of Toxicology and Molecular Epidemiology John Wise, presented her doctoral hood. Their sons, James and Johnny, received their USM bachelor’s degrees and will pursue graduate degrees in environmental toxicology and neurotoxicology, respectively.