STANDISH – Clutching a bouquet of flowers for her daughter at the Saint Joseph’s College graduation Saturday, Meschelle Seavey of Old Orchard Beach said it was hard not to get teary.

“I am just so proud of her,” Seavey said.

She and her husband, Robert Seavey, were waiting to watch their daughter, Rebecca Seavey, receive her bachelor’s degree at the Sebago Lake-side institution. Their daughter, a business major, was among 605 graduates from 42 states and the District of Columbia, the largest class ever, receiving degrees from the college, which is celebrating its 100th year.

With bright blue skies and mild temperatures, college graduation season cranked into high gear Saturday across the state. Other commencements were held by the University of Southern Maine, the Maine College of Art, Thomas College, the University of Maine at Farmington and Unity College.

Commencements at the University of Maine in Orono, Husson University in Bangor and Maine Maritime Academy in Castine took place last weekend.

Saturday’s commencements featured speeches by politicians and academic leaders who urged graduates to work together, seize life and continue to learn.

At the USM commencement at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, who cited political polarization in Congress for her decision not to seek re-election after 18 years in the Senate, called on the more than 1,000 graduates to promote a spirit of bipartisanship and collaboration to solve problems rather than perpetuate political agendas.

“I urge you to champion those who chart that course in public life and indeed to follow that path in your own life. Because forging real solutions whether in our government or our communities or even within our own families can only happen when we are willing to take the risk of working with each other, instead of against each other,” Snowe said.

A small group of protesters from Occupy USM gathered outside the civic center, saying they opposed the honorary degree for Snowe because of the role of her husband, former Gov. John McKernan, as head of Educational Management Corp.’s board.

The company, which runs for-profit colleges, has been accused of improper student recruiting techniques and fraudulently obtaining students’ federal education loans. One protester briefly unveiled a small banner inside the arena, but it was quickly removed and police escorted the protester outside. Snowe did not react to the incident.

The University of Maine at Farmington awarded an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters to Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate and a UMF professor emeritus, in recognition of his dedication to expressing through his poetry the deepest experiences of rural people and extending the reach of poetry to all readers.

Seth Wescott, a Farmington native and two-time Olympic snowboarding gold medalist, was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters in recognition of his passion and tenacity in pursuing his athletic accomplishments at the highest level and being a proud advocate for Maine.

Back at Saint Joseph’s College, Biddeford native Robert Caret, president of the University of Massachusetts System, urged graduates to prepare for a changing world and avoid becoming bystanders in their own lives.

“We all need to be prepared for change. It’s grow or die,” Caret said.

He said today’s graduates face a future of explosive and accelerating technological change.

“Those who learn and adapt will prosper and those who initiate the change will become the leaders” Caret said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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