AUGUSTA — About 350 University of Maine at Augusta students and their families will gather for commencement Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

More than 500 students are eligible to graduate this spring, but not all of them are expected to participate in graduation ceremonies, according to university spokesperson Domna Giatis.

Lian Oyerbides, of Augusta, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in justice studies, will be the student speaker. Oyerbides, who is of Korean descent and was raised in China, arrived in Maine nearly 20 years ago with a teaching degree from China. A correctional officer with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, she plans to continue her education in Texas and pursue a law degree with a concentration in assisting domestic violence victims.

Giatis said Oyerbides’s journey with UMA began when difficult circumstances, including an abusive relationship, which threatened her ability to support herself and her son. While attending work and class, she started a language interpretation and instruction business and taught adult education courses in Chinese and culinary arts.

Oyerbides also will receive the Kathleen Dexter Distinguished Student Award, named for former a UMA dean of students who retired in 2016 after 29 years with the university. The award is for a student who demonstrates scholarship, participation and leadership in co-curricular activities, and service to the wider community.

Judith Meyer

This year’s academic theme was Freedom of Speech. At a convocation earlier this year, journalist and author Ben Bradlee Jr. — who was best known as the editor of The Boston Globe when it exposed the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in 2002 — delivered the keynote address.  Along the same theme, Judith Meyer, executive editor of the Sun Journal, the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel and seven Maine weeklies, will be the commencement speaker.


“UMA is pleased to have Judith Meyer participate in our Commencement activities,” university president Rebecca Wyke said in a news release.  “Given her background with the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition and a career in journalism, she will provide a unique perspective on our year-long academic theme of ‘Freedom of Speech.’”

Randall Liberty, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections and a 1998 UMA graduate, will be awarded an honorary degree in humane letters.

After fighting relentlessly for sportsmen as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine for 18 years, George Smith has spent much of his time in recent years writing about the outdoors.

Mount Vernon resident George Smith, author and former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, will receive the Distinguished Achievement Award, recognizing outstanding achievements in the alumnus’ profession or service to his or her community, state or country. Smith has advocated to maintain Maine’s environment and served on Mount Vernon’s Planning Board and Selectboard.

He has written a weekly editorial column published in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel for 28 years, and columns for The Maine Sportsman magazine since 1977. Smith has published three books, “A Life Lived Outdoors,” “Maine Sporting Camps” and “Take It From ME,” written with his wife, Linda.

Wyke will preside over the commencement ceremony. Last month, the University of Maine System board of trustees waived a presidential search in favor of appointing Wyke for a second two-year term. University system Chancellor James Page, who is retiring at the end of his term, said it was the second time a search was waived in the system’s history.

Commencement is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

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