BANGOR, Maine — Astronaut Christopher J. Cassidy looked decidedly out of place Sunday at the Cross Insurance Center in his blue jumpsuit amidst a sea of mostly black academic regalia.
The York High School graduate and U.S. Navy SEAL urged more than 800 Husson University graduates to hug their moms after the ceremony because Sunday was Mother’s Day.
“You’ve been given the tools you need to succeed and are fully equipped, so be ready to be leaders,” he told graduates as he paced behind and around the podium.
During his NASA career, Cassidy completed six spacewalks and spent a total of 182 days in space.
“We look for keynote speakers who can inspire students to go on from Husson University to achieve greatness,” President Robert A. Clark said. “Commander Cassidy certainly fits the bill. He is living proof that anyone, even a local youngster from Maine, can grow up and reach for the stars.”
Cassidy, who received an honorary degree Sunday, has participated in educational events at Husson. In 2013, he shared his thoughts on the importance of education with about 1,000 students from 14 schools in the Greater Bangor area. Last month, he was a featured guest on the student-produced television news program, NESCom Connections.
“Go forth, be leaders, make your decisions, live for the moment that’s right now and hug your mom today after you get your diploma,” Cassidy concluded his address Sunday.
In addition to Cassidy, Husson awarded honorary degrees to Robert E. Cort, president of Maine Energy, and Yousif Abdulla Taqi, director and chief executive officer of the Al Salam Bank in Bahrain. Both men previously earned degrees from Husson.
Taqi urged students to follow three “pillars” he said have served him well.
“Think big,” he said. “Start small and always be trustworthy, honest and ethical. It takes a long time to earn trust but just a minute to lose it.”
Husson’s 2015 graduating class and the school’s 116th commencement was the largest in the school’s history, the president said Sunday.
The graduation ceremony recognized individuals who completed their degrees from Husson University’s College of Business, College of Health and Education, New England School of Communications, School of Pharmacy and the School of Science and Humanities.