PORTLAND — Nearly 1,000 of University of Southern Maine’s Class of 2011 graduates marched this morning during the 131st commencement ceremonies.

As family and friends packed the Cumberland County Civic Center, the graduates lined up in the halls and behind the stage waiting to file into the center. Loud applause from both the graduates and those in the stands welcomed University President Selma Botman as she declared the beginning of the ceremonies.

Swordfishing boat captain Linda Greenlaw, who has written four books of her own about commercial fishing, addressed the graduates after she received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Greenlaw, who received her bachelor’s degree from Colby College, said when she “took her degree offshore,” her mother gave her the worst advice.

“She told me I was wasting my education,” Greenlaw said. “Your education can never be wasted. It’s impossible. … It’s the greatest thing you can ever achieve and it cannot be taken away.”