WATERVILLE — Minutes after getting a degree in criminal justice from Thomas College, Skowhegan native John Little was called back up to the stage by college president Laurie Lachance.
Little took the microphone and called his girlfriend of three years, Concord, N.H. native Sarah Card, who was receiving an early childhood education degree, up to the stage.
Little got down on one knee and proposed.
Card said yes.
“I wanted to keep it special, and I knew her whole family would be here and my whole family would be here. I figured, what better day to do it?” Little said. “We met here at Thomas and spent three years here together. What better day than today to start the rest of our life?”
The proposal came as a shock to Card, although the answer was never in doubt.
“When he got on the stage and started talking, I said, âNo, he’s not; no, he’s not,'” Card said. “I was shaking. It was amazing. He’s Prince Charming.”
It was an unexpected and ceremonial way to cap off Thomas College’s 120th commencement, which featured its largest graduating class — 198 students — in the school’s history.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the commencement speaker, addressing the new graduates and urging them to listen, learn and lead.
“Your Thomas College education will deliver real value for your entire life,” Collins said, urging the graduates to stay and work in Maine. “Whether you grew up in Maine or came here from another state or internationally, Maine needs what you have to offer. The values of Maine are hard work, determination and community, and those are also the values of Thomas College and of this class.”
Bradford native and criminal justice student Scarlett Stevens delivered the undergraduate speech, looking back at the relationships and friendships she fostered.
“It’s tempting to try and sum up the last four years,” Stevens said, “but it’s important to look at college not as one big picture, but as a mosaic.
“When I look back at this day, I won’t remember just all the classes I took or the soccer games I attended,” Stevens continued. “It will be the everyday moments.”
Following Stevens, graduate speaker Javier Abascal Carrasco from Seville, Spain, spoke on behalf of the graduate class. With charisma and zeal, Carrasco charmed his classmates and audiences before asking everyone, by a show of hands, whether they think Thomas College is the best college in the world. Scattered hands shot up as Carrasco explained to them what he thought being the best meant.
“It depends on how we define the concept of being the best college in the world,” he said. “Think about Thomas. We have our library, cafeteria, dorms, and some may need improvement. Think of our professors. Are they Harvard or Stanford professors? I don’t know. How about you, the students; do you feel like you’re the best students in the world?
“Let me tell you about Thomas. It’s growing,” Carrasco continued. “In just one year, we are constructing two new buildings for us, to improve our facilities, because they care for us. What about our professors? I don’t care if they are not from Stanford or Harvard. They are great people who care and worry about our professional and personal life. Last fall I was in the cafeteria with a friend having lunch when President Lachance came and asked us if she could sit with us for lunch. Do you think you can have lunch with the president of Harvard?”
After forgiving his friends and classmates for not knowing the difference between Mexican and Spanish food when they first met him, Carrasco thanked them their generosity.
“All of you have given me one of the best years in my life, and I will never forget it,” he said. “You are the soul of Thomas.”
Nearly 2,500 people attended the commencement, which took place at the Harold Alfond Athletic Center on the college’s campus in Waterville.