WATERVILLE — Gov. Paul LePage encouraged members of the Class of 2012 at Thomas College to make Maine their lifelong home and help the state become as prosperous as the college has become.

“You’re on your way to a very successful career,” LePage said during his commencement address Saturday. “My hope is that you stay in Maine and use your business and law enforcement and technology skills to help us propel Maine forward. We need leaders.”

LePage said Thomas College graduates historically have proven they’re prepared for the work force, with 94 percent securing a job in their field within 90 days of graduation.

LePage spoke of his early upbringing in a large dysfunctional family and of his life on the streets.

He told the 2,000 attendees that his gift to the Class of 2012 was 10 two-letter words that a wise man had shared with him decades ago: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

College President George Spann presented LePage with an honorary doctorate of business administration and said the governor “is living proof that anything is possible.”

LePage, Spann said, is a savvy businessman with passion and commitment who has parlayed his business acumen into an impressive political career.

Saturday’s commencement was the college’s 188th; it was the last for Spann as president. He is retiring in June after leading the institution for 23 years.

Laurie Lachance was chosen to be his successor. She will be the first female president of the college, which was established in 1894.