AUGUSTA — Working with his hands lifted Shawn Moody from poverty to prosperity but, he told almost 430 graduates of Kennebec Valley Community College, working only with your hands, or only with your head, both have limitations.

Limitations, he said Saturday, the new graduates don’t have.

“I didn’t go to college, you guys have something I don’t have — a degree,” said Moody, of Gorham, who started a body shop at the age of 17 and grew that shop into the state’s largest auto body repair business, Moody’s Collision Centers, and who ran, unsuccessfully, as an independent candidate for governor in 2010.

“You’ve worked hard and sacrificed and paid for that degree, you’ve earned it. If you think about it, just working with your hands, there are certain limitations. Working with just your head, there are certain limitations. You folks have got the advantage of everything. There are no limitations.

“When you get up Monday morning, remember — I really believe this and I started like a lot of you — there is nobody holding you back, except you. So get out there and get after it.”

Keith Sullivan, of Fairfield, Kennebec Community College’s Student of the Year, already has been out there, getting after it, it was apparent from his biographical information shared by Richard Hopper, college president.

Hopper said Sullivan, a graduate of the medical assisting program, maintained a 3.9 grade point average and made the dean’s list each semester, is a student leader in many ways, including leading orientations of new students, and helped launch a veterans club on campus, all following a career in the United States Navy, as a jet mechanic, and serving in the first Gulf War.

Sullivan told his fellow graduates he was more afraid of starting college than he was serving in the war.

“We’ve all had moments we felt ready to give up, yet not one of us, today, gave up on this dream,” he said of graduates pursuing their passion to get an education. “I’m very proud to be part of this graduating class. Look around you right now, soak it all in. Look at the pride on the faces of your fellow graduates. The joy on the faces of your family. I urge you to take the world by storm and leave your mark on society. We represent the future and it is our responsibility to help make the world a better place.”

Pausing to hold back tears, the burly Sullivan said he knew his late mother was looking down on him, smiling.

Quoting George Addair, Sullivan concluded, to a standing ovation, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. Never be afraid. Never give up, and always chase your dreams.”

Some 429 graduates received degrees at the Fairfield college’s 45th commencement, held at the Augusta Civic Center Saturday.

They earned degrees in areas including advanced emergency care, biological sciences, business administration, electrical lineworker technology, nursing, computer information systems, physical therapy and, in the first such program in Maine, according to Donald Borman, treasurer of the Kennebec Valley Community College Foundation Board of Trustees, sustainable agriculture.

About two dozen graduating electrical lineworkers wore bright yellow hard hats, with tassels attached, instead of the mortar boards worn by other graduates.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, delivering the commencement address, cited 10 things he wished somebody had told him when he was leaving school.

Prime among them, he said, is to take risks.

“You can do things you don’t think you can do,” King said, noting the best advice he got in life was while he was in his 20s and an older man warned him he would regret things. “See that you regret the things you did in your life, not the things you didn’t do.”

King said in 2012 he and his wife, Mary Herman, were planning on taking a cross-country camping trip in an RV, when Sen. Olympia Snowe announced she was leaving the office he now occupies.

“I thought about that old man’s advice,” King said. “How will I feel when I’m 75 or 80 and look back and I say, ‘you didn’t try’? You either have a chance to do something maybe important for the country, or go RVing. Once I framed the question that way, the answer was fairly obvious. And here I am.”

Numerous friends and family of graduates attended the ceremony, their cars nearly filling all the Augusta Civic Center’s parking lots.

One sport utility vehicle parked outside was decorated with a simple message: “Go Dad!”

Paula Beach, an accountant and longtime employee at the college which she graduated from in 2003, who won the Distinguished Alumni Award Saturday, urged graduates to become mentors and “pay it forward,” in the community.

“That’s not just paying for the cup of coffee for the person behind you, but really going out in the community and volunteering,” she said. “Volunteering is the rent you pay to be on this earth. You don’t do it for accolades, but for the feeling you develop in your heart.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj