WATERVILLE — With bagpipes blaring as the 209 graduates proceeded through the Alfond Athletic Center on a bright, sunny day, a packed house stood to see sons and daughters, friends and family members graduate on Saturday from Thomas College.

Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, the commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient, addressed the crowd before the students received their degrees. Libby, who served 44 years in the armed services, including service in Vietnam, leading Maine’s National Guard through eight years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and working as commissioner of the Department of Defense and Veterans Services, told the graduates-to-be that the ceremony was not the end, but the beginning.

“You graduate every day,” Libby said.

Libby, who graduated in 1966 from the University of Maine, in Orono, has received several major awards and decorations, including the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Service Medal. Before retiring, he was the leader of the Maine National Guard.

Libby recalled how his father, who owned a radio station in Lewiston, had only a high school diploma, but that did not stop him from succeeding. Libby said his father’s obituary read that he served his community, his state and his nation in that capacity.

“How profound a summary of his life,” Libby said, adding that all the Thomas graduates should strive to do the same.

Maj. Gen. John W. Libby delivers his commencement speech Saturday during graduation at Thomas College in Waterville. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Scott Boies, of Baileyville, was the Thomas scholar for 2018. Boies, speaking to the graduates, said he never thought the day would come. He recalled fondly how being at Thomas allowed him to have professors who knew his name and have a sense of camaraderie with his fellow students.

“I knew I was in fact home,” Boies said. “In my 22 years, choosing to attend Thomas was one of my best decisions. Thomas students can compete with any students in the world.”

Bois said while Thomas didn’t have “world-renowned facilities,” the college offered students opportunities to hone and craft their ambitions. While joking that he grew up wanting to play for the Boston Red Sox, Bois said at college he was able to find what he excelled at.

“I’m thankful for all the oppositeness provided,” he said. “Don’t become discouraged. Dreams can change.”

Lindsey Allen, who graduated with a master’s degree in business administration, said while she doesn’t have a job lined up and doesn’t know where she’ll be in a month, she was grateful for the opportunities that Thomas had provided.

“I’m so happy I get to be here today with you,” she told the crowd.

Allen, a Jay native who works in Maine’s Bureau of Real Estate Management, said while she had doubts about life after graduation, she always knew she could complete her degree at Thomas.

“By getting an education, maybe I could get more out of life,” she said.

In addition to Libby receiving an honorary degree, Maine’s first lady Ann LePage also received an honorary degree during the ceremonies.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

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Twitter: @colinoellis