PORTLAND – Briana Chu’s family started waving madly from the bleachers when she came into view.

Chu, 21, an education major from Winthrop, was one of 1,183 University of New England graduates marching into the Cumberland County Civic Center to collect their diplomas Saturday at the university’s commencement.

“She got the top senior award, had a 4.0 average and has a job already,” said her mother, Alison Chu.

Today, the Chus get to do it all over again at the graduation of Briana’s twin sister, Alexa, at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

Hundreds of family members, clutching cameras and extravagant bouquets, filled the civic center to watch graduates from the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, Westbrook College of Health Professions, College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Graduate Studies walk across the stage.

“We are really excited. It is kind of surreal,” said Sarah Watras, who came to watch her husband, Christopher Watras, one of 131 physicians receiving degrees from the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The Watrases, who spent several years in Maine before they moved to Reading, Pa., for his medical training, were accompanied by their month-old son, Caleb, and their extended family.

Across town, 88 students received degrees from the University of Maine School of Law, where Judge Kermit Lipez of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals told graduates not to allow the current harsh business climate to cloud their outlook for the future.

“In our country, good times always follow bad,” Lipez said.

At the UNE ceremony, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, received an honorary doctor of laws degree and shared lessons she learned while living on North Haven, a small island an hour’s ferry ride from the mainland.

She urged graduates to never pass up the chance for a good conversation, never leave a conflict unresolved, provide everyone with universal health care and remember that business success and environmentalism are not mutually exclusive. Finally, she advised graduates to seek out their own North Havens.

“If you can’t live and work in a community where we are all in this together, life has little meaning,” Pingree said.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

UNE President Danielle Ripich advised graduates to be risk takers.

“As you leave this place you’ve called home, I challenge you to be a disruptive innovator,” Ripich said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]