STANDISH — Commencements are always an emotional time.

For Sarah Fox, graduation from Saint Joseph’s College on the eve of Mother’s Day was even more so.

Fox, 46, of Westford, Mass., is a mother herself, but she also lost her mother to breast cancer a little more than a year ago. With her graduation and Mother’s Day almost coinciding, Saturday was a day for pride and reminiscing about both school and family.

“She was my supporter,” Fox said of her mother on the day she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Fox made sure others knew of her mother, too, decorating her mortarboard with a couple of pink ribbons and emblazoning it with “In memory of my mother.”

“It’s, like, finally here,” Fox said, choking back tears. “It’s been a long journey and my family has supported me through tough times.”

Saint Joseph’s is the first college in the area to hold its commencement, marking the end of long journeys for Fox and others.

Janet Wallach, one of the co-founders of the Seeds of Peace camp in Otisfield, was the commencement speaker.

She noted that her late husband, John Wallach, founded the camp 17 years ago at a dinner party in Washington, D.C., attended by Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian officials.

At the dinner, in making a toast, Wallach said, her husband challenged the three officials to send a group of teens to a camp he would set up in America where they could relate as individuals, not as people locked in a nearly perpetual war.

A few hours later, Wallach said, she asked her husband, “You’re going to start a camp? You didn’t even like camp when you were a kid.”

But, Wallach said, the couple went ahead with the plans and brought the first group of teens in 1993 to a spot alongside Pleasant Lake in Otisfield, where the tired kids went to bed their first night alongside camp-mates who were virtually sworn enemies.

“They were the most amazed people when the morning light came and they were still alive,” she said. Then, Wallach said, they began to bond over their shared dislike of the breakfast.

Wallach said the alumni of those first camps are now in their early 30s and most are continuing to build on what they learned by the lake in Maine.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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