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Stephen King exhorts UMaine grads to stay

ORONO, Maine -- Delivering the commencement speech at his alma mater, the best-selling author Stephen King counseled University of Maine graduates yesterday to be voracious readers, to donate a tenth of their earnings to worthy causes, and to carve out their careers in Maine.

King, a member of the class of 1970, spoke twice, because rain forced officials to move the 203d commencement to Alfond Arena. No indoor facility could accommodate all the graduates, friends and family members, and staff, so two ceremonies were held.

After he was introduced by Robert Kennedy, the university president, King joked that if he faltered on the first speech, he would be the one introducing Kennedy in the afternoon ceremony.

King said he remembered speaking to the same class in the fall of 2001, when they were ''freshpeople." He had told them he would be back when it was time for them to graduate.

''I never thought you would make good on your word -- I guess Kid Rock and Donald Rumsfeld were busy," he said.

When the time came for King to impart advice, he rattled off a ''top 10" list, urging students to hug and kiss whoever had helped them get to this point, to read as much as they could, and to give away a dime for every dollar they make.

''If you don't, the government is just going to take it for you," said King, who is known for his own generosity to the university. ''You go out broke. . . . You're not an owner in this life, you're just a steward."

The last four points of his list were the same: Stay in Maine.

Despite his celebrity, King has chosen to live in his native state for most of his life. He makes his home in nearby Bangor.

''This can be home if you want it to be," he said. ''If you leave, you will miss it, so you might as well skip the going away part."

The university awarded honorary doctorates to journalist Douglas Kneeland, a Lincoln native and University of Maine graduate whose career included work at The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and Andrew Shepard, president and CEO of the Maine Winter Sports Center.

King and his wife, Tabitha, received honorary doctorates when he addressed Maine graduates in 1987.

This year's commencement was the university's largest, with 1,923 graduates, including 33 at the doctoral level.

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