PORTLAND — The Cumberland County Civic Center hallway along Spring Street was abuzz Saturday morning, but not because of a hockey game or famous band taking the stage.

Associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students stood in line, donning caps and gowns draped with the cords and hoods that signify degrees and academic merit. Turning to one another with excited chatter, they waited patiently to march in and become the newest alumni of the University of New England.

Near the back of the line, Tiffany Foster of Gray stood with the other psychology majors. After receiving her degree, she plans to work for a year and then attend graduate school.

“I’m happy to graduate, but I’m going to miss the professors,” she said. 

Jeff Champagne, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in occupational sciences, also offered bittersweet sentiments.

“I’m going to miss the sense of community,” said Champagne of Newfields, N.H. “The sense of togetherness and being in the same boat with everybody. I got really close to my classmates.”

Minutes before they started marching, friends snapped quick pictures with Champagne.

As the sound of bagpipes echoed through the arena, family and friends stood to watch the graduates enter. Throughout the processional, members of the audience shouted out names of graduates, while the graduates looked up into the stadium seating to find their loved ones.

Saturday was the 175th commencement ceremony for the University of New England.

During her opening remarks, UNE President Danielle Ripich noted that Saturday marked the first commence ment to include all the university’s colleges — the College of Arts and Sciences, Westbrook College of Health Professions, the College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Graduate Studies. The university awared 1,172 degrees in all Saturday.

“Sail forth — steer for the deep waters only,” Ripich said, quoting Walt Whitman. “I hope each of you will do that in your careers and lives.”

She then introduced commencement speaker Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, awarding him an honorary doctor of science degree. 

As Fineberg took the podium to address the graduating class, he joked with students, recalling his own graduation ceremony.
 “I know we heard a speech that day, but I do not remember anything said that day,” he said, adding they probably would not either.

Fineberg said most speeches are littered with contradictory advice, such as travel abroad and remember your responsibility to your family at home and community. For generations, he said, commencement speakers have been telling graduates “your generation is great enough to solve all the social problems.”

“If we’re so good, so great and so wise,” Fineberg asked, then why are there still problems to solve? 

He focused on the idea that solutions to one problem often only lead to the next. 

“Your generation’s victories, however sweet, will be incomplete,” he said.  

Before degrees were conferred, he offered graduates a “nugget of good advice.”

“Don’t be afraid to take chances,” he said. “Give yourself and others a chance.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]