WATERVILLE — Donning the traditional black caps and gowns, Thomas College’s largest-ever class — 230 undergraduate and graduate students — marched across the stage to receive their diplomas Saturday afternoon.

The day also marked the conclusion of the school’s 125th anniversary year, for which it was honored by the Legislature.

“Today we celebrate 125 years of lives changed, relationships formed, spouses met and businesses and organizations strengthened,” President Laurie Lachance said as she opened the ceremony and recounted its origins on Main Street. “While the (school) has changed dramatically, one thing that has remained constant is the quality, dedication and impressiveness of our faculty.”

Todd Smith, a classmate of Lachance’s in the Thomas College class of 1992 and co-chairman of the board of trustees, delivered this year’s commencement address. He urged the graduates to embrace empathy and to use their knowledge to better the world.

“It’s easy to be divided and put people in a box in the corner,” he said. “Look beyond those divisions and support the notion that we are more alike than not.”

Smith, who said he was among the first in his family to graduate from college and now serves as president of an Oakland-based TSSD Services, Inc., championed the narrative of defining one’s own success. His company helps manage commercial projects in the nuclear industry.

“Leverage skills and tools (you’ve learned at Thomas) to create the life and community that you want,” he told the audience of a packed-to-capacity Harold Alfond Athletic Center.

Laurie Lachamnce, president of Thomas College, begins the school’s commencement ceremony Saturday at the Alfond Athletic Center the college in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Smith also emphasized the importance of introspection.

“There’s no one definition of success. It is something you must define from within,” he noted. “But do take time to think about it, and give careful consideration to the role personal happiness plays in your definition of success. Is success you creating your own company? Is it securing a meaningful job that helps you support others? Is it through volunteerism, leadership and service? Do you want to help to grow a happy and healthy family? Whatever your definition of success is, consider how you can positively impact others through your own success and give back to those who supported your journey. Make your company solve a problem that society’s facing or provide much-needed jobs in a much-needed region.”

Smith was given an honorary doctorate of business administration Saturday. Doug Sukeforth received the same honor, while Laura Benedict was granted an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Also on Saturday, six students from Maranacook Community High School earned Associate in Arts degrees after completing an accelerated program at Thomas College.

Graduate student speaker Darren Forkey thanked a handful of community members who helped him reach the milestone of earning his Master of Business Administration degree. Undergraduate student speaker Katie Taylor said she’s “seen the determination” of her classmates and is “excited to see where life takes each of us.” In the fall, she will head to law school at the University of New Hampshire.

“Though today is a day of celebration, … it’s truly bittersweet,” said Taylor, a tutor and captain of the softball and field hockey teams. “The rooms that we once occupied will be cleared and reassigned to new students. The favorite seats in our classrooms, the ones that we claim the first week of classes, are going to be claimed by new students. The numbers we’ve worn with pride will be chosen, worn by new athletes, and our positions will be filled as well. These are sad thoughts to think, but these things are not what we’re going to take with us. What is permanent, what we will take with us in our journeys past Thomas College are the relationships we’ve made with our peers, … the memories … and the lessons we’ve learned from our professors.”

 

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