AUGUSTA — The men and women graduating Saturday from Kennebec Valley Community College were urged to make the most of their opportunities through hard work, integrity and discipline.

“Being above average is simple, but it isn’t easy,” said Lawrence Wold, president of TD Bank Maine, during his keynote address. “Everyone here today is totally capable of being honest, fair, dependable, hard-working, thoughtful and disciplined. They require effort early and often and when others aren’t making the effort.”

More than 500 students earned associate degrees or certificates of achievement during the Fairfield school’s 43rd annual commencement at the Augusta Civic Center. The graduates, cheered on by hundreds of family and friends who filled the bleachers and floor, marched into the auditorium to the traditional Pomp and Circumstance performed by the Blue Hill Brass Quintet.

Many of the graduates, who proceeded through an ornamental white arbor, decorated the mortarboards atop their heads with messages, pictures and even a bouncing bird. Several graduates from the Electrical Lineworker Technology program wore bright-yellow hard hats.

Tammy Jones, graduate of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program and the college’s student of the year, described the diversity of family background and personal experience represented by her classmates. She issued a series of challenges designed to help the men and women succeed in their futures. The challenges included doing at least one thing every day that is scary, being the person whom each admires and spending time with people with whom they disagree.

“If you are committed to learning, as I have to assume you are because you are here today, then you must have fertile soil to grow in,” Jones said. “We may disagree on any number of topics, but it’s being challenged by someone else’s ideas that make us discover our own.”

Jones urged her classmates to practice kindness and forgive easily and to believe in their ability to change the world and strive for perfection.

“But be content not to reach it,” Jones said. “Find satisfaction in being able to honestly say that you did the very best you are capable of.”

Wold, providing a quick overview on the law of supply and demand, said the attributes most in demand by employers, and in shortest supply, are not for workers who are the fastest or best educated, but those who are morally superior.

“Once you start your career I want you to remember that there is a very high demand and a very low supply of people who are honest, dependable, thoughtful, disciplined and fair so they create above average value,” Wold said. “Every one of you has the capacity to create value. Being below average, average or above average is entirely up to you. It’s not up to your parents. It’s not up to your spouse. It’s not up to your employer. It’s up to you.”

For an increasing number of people the effort to increase their value to prospective employers begins at the state’s community colleges. Richard Hopper, who took over as Kennebec Valley Community College president last month, said Maine’s community college system has grown 83 percent since 2003. There are currently 18,500 students enrolled in the system statewide and another 12,000 taking classes. Approximately 3,000 people will graduate from the system before the end of the month.

John Fitzsimmons, president of the Maine Community College System, said he expects growth at the Kennebec Valley Community College to continue under Hopper’s leadership.

“He’s the right person to take this college on to the next level, which we expect to double over the next 5 to 10 years,” Fitzsimmons said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
ccrosby@centralmaine.com