The Portland Press Herald
BY DENNIS HOEYSTAFF WRITER
Tuesday May 10, 2022
The University of Southern Maine handed out more than 900
degrees on Saturday morning during its first in-person commencement exercise in
three years. USM’s 142nd commencement exercise was held at the Cross Insurance
Arena in Portland.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease
Control and Prevention, gave USM’s commencement address after receiving an
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. University officials praised his
leadership and ability to connect with people while helping Maine get through
the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shah lamented the students’ pandemic-impacted college
experience, which he said was punctuated with virtual classes and having to
live segments of their college years in isolation. But he praised USM students
for their resilience – something he said many Mainers learned from experience
during the pandemic. Shah predicted that resilience would serve students well
as they head in different career directions.
“One-half, perhaps two-thirds of your college years were
spent in the shadow of COVID. That sucks,” said Shah.
At one point during his speech, Shah asked everyone to stand
and take a selfie with their phones. Shah did the same, posting his selfie on
Twitter where he urged graduates to make Maine proud.
USM was just one of several University of Maine System
campuses that held commencements Saturday. Commencements were also held at the
University of Maine in Orono and campuses in Farmington, Presque Isle and Fort
Kent. The University of Maine at Machias held its commencement Friday and the
University of Maine at Augusta will hold its ceremony on May 14. The University
of Maine Law School’s commencement is May 21.
South Portland Mayor Deqa Dhalac, the first Somali-born
female mayor in the United States, gave the keynote speech at the University of
Maine at Farmington’s commencement. Dhalac was elected unanimously in December
2021. In 1990 she left her native homeland of Somalia, which was on the brink
of war, and in 2005 moved to Maine, which she had never heard of, she said.
Prior to becoming mayor she was elected twice to the South
Portland City Council, in 2018 and 2020. Dhalac is considered a leader and
community activist. She currently serves at the Somali Community Center of
Maine and is board president of the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition and a
board member of the Maine Women’s Fund, according to a UMF press release. She
also has two master’s degrees.
She told graduate candidates that seeking higher education
is a privilege that not everyone takes advantage of.
In Orono on Saturday, the University of Maine gave out
nearly 1,700 degrees during the 220th commencement exercise at the Alfond
Sports Arena. The building was packed with thousands of friends and family
members, and it was the first in-person graduation ceremony held on the campus
More than 4,500 University of Maine System students received
degrees on Saturday, including more than 3,700 undergraduates and more than 800
Husson University’s Class of 2022 held a commencement
ceremony Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. More than 1,000
degrees and certificates were awarded to almost 900 graduates – the largest
graduating class in Husson’s history, according to News Center Maine.